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SXSW 2019: The weirdest sights from the world’s largest culture fest – CNET

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And a Merry Apocalypse to you, too. 

Amy E. Price/Getty

There I was, trying to scarf down a grilled cheese sandwich from a food truck outside the Austin Convention Center, when a pack of Satanic nuns rolled by to wish everyone a “Merry Apocalypse.”

In almost any other time or place, this would be an unusual occurrence. Weird, you might say. But at SXSW, an event that mostly defies thematic categorization, weird is always in bountiful supply.

Film, music, social issues, politics, business — SXSW packs a lot into 10 days. Sure, you get red carpet world premieres and blockbusting marquee names, but you also find the unexpected roaming around the streets that surround the convention center.

On Saturday, I looked up from my phone to catch a procession of kids with masks, beating a drum, promoting the adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, premiering March 16 at SXSW.

Or, there were the two young women walking around in silver alien costumes, with green-painted faces. For what reason? I couldn’t tell you.

And if angels and demons cruised by on the sidewalk, they were not just heralding the End Times (like the Chattering Order of St. Beryl), but herding people toward Amazon Prime Video’s Garden of Earthly Delights, an interactive experience for the upcoming show Good Omens. Granted, there’s a measure of this weirdness that’s manufactured. Guerilla marketing campaigns and SXSW go together like mac and cheese. I am, however, willing to opt-in for this over a billboard, any day.

It’s not just the marketing ploys that bring the weird to SXSW, though. It’s that sense that the festival could be a home for just about anything.

Lush Cosmetics brought an interactive bath bomb pop up built out of a cargo container to show off a new app. My colleagues and SXSW pals Chris Monroe and John Kim came across an apparatus dads can use to breast feed their babies when Mom’s not around. Meditation app Calm just happened to have a sloth at its booth. Meanwhile over at Sony’s WOW Studio, a small tribe of robots, part of the art installation Das Fremde, developed their own language and, no doubt, spent the entire time talking crap about everyone who stopped to gawk.

Elsewhere: There were 3,000 pounds of cheese ready for attendee consumption, and mysterious signs on telephone poles about a lost unicorn.

And you know what’s supremely weird? Sitting through a Q&A session with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and suddenly realizing Bill Nye the Science Guy is at the mic asking a question about climate change.

Somewhere between sliding into an avocado-shaped ball pit and banging on some bongo drums in the dark, I chalked it all up to a slogan that says it all.

As the bumper sticker goes, keep Austin weird.