“I’ve never seen so many people on their phones,” one Austinite sneered as he walked by. A few dozen young and youngish partygoers in little black dresses and company T-shirts crushed around the entrance to the Cedar Street Courtyard bar in Austin, grabbing the arms of the red-shirted bouncers, pointing at the thick stack of lists and bracelets and flashing the names at the ends of their lanyards. Their eager faces were lit by bright white rectangles. It was 9:30 p.m. on Saturday in the middle of South By Southwest Interactive, and the Foursquare party was an oasis—or was it a mirage?–of New York at the West Coast-dominated conference. “Everything is bigger in Texas, especially the New York networks,” one investor said.
Many in line had just come from another oasis, Hashable’s “Oasis,” a blue-lit, power networking event that took place in an upstairs party room at the Driskell Hotel. (The Driskell was built in 1886. It features a vast colonnaded marble hall, bookshelves in the bar and a patio and is known among locals as the most expensive bar downtown. The Driskell was an easy favorite for New Yorkers choosing which of Austin’s infinite bars to swarm.) But security at the self-described V.I.P. Hashable event was forgiving. Greeters shuffled guests through a gantlet including a T-shirt pick-up, a photo shoot with one of the outsized signs featuring hashtags, and of course the line for the bar.
There was a velvet-roped V.I.P. lounge inside the V.I.P. party, though. Tech stars such as Naveen Selvadurai and Robert Scoble anchored low coffee tables around the periphery of the room. Jason Calacanis was contemplating popping his Heineken open on the side of the wooden coffee table when Betabeat introduced ourselves. What did he think of Engadget editor Josh Topolsky’s just-announced decision to quit? “What?!” Mr. Calacanis said, sitting up and diving into his phone to tweet. “Hey @joshuatopolsky,” he wrote. “I have a blank check here with your name on it. Let me know where to send it.” He sat back and took a smug swig–a waitress had opened the bottle. “I love making public offers,” he said. “It’s win-win. If they take it, I win. If they don’t take it, I win because it’s baller.”
By eight, guests had started miming the number four and a square at each other across the room. A desultory walk brought Betabeat and a small herd to the party line outside Cedar Street, a sunken courtyard between two indoor bar areas. It was difficult to get in. Eight people were checked into “Cedar Street Courtyard Line.” Tweets with the hashtag #foursquare were being projected on a large screen above the DJ. “I invented @GroupMe and I can’t even get into this party!” tweeted the fake Twitter feed for GroupMe co-founder Steve Martocci. Betabeat ran into a Gothamist writer. “The bouncers were telling people they could get in with a $50 donation,” she said. “And the girl in front of me paid!” Maybe she saw Ashton and Demi on the deck?
“I told them I was Chris Dixon,” said one self-satisfied Indian-American from San Francisco who was sitting on a couch near the bar. “At first I gave them the name of an Indian angel, but he wasn’t on the list.” Good choice; Mr. Dixon was not in town. But Actor Romany Malco was there, dancing by the stage. Zach Klein was popping up and down just like in the Harvey Danger lip synching video! Naveen Selvadurai was contentedly observing the scene when Betabeat ran into him at the entrance to the bar, but his co-founder was bouncing in a dance circle. “Everyone dances in the same tech style,” as one SXSWer put it on Bnter. The style is hard to describe. Jerky?
Not everyone could keep up. One unfortunate New York developer discovered his cell phone was dead. Had he checked in? we inquired, but he was too drunk to explain. He only moaned: “All my social networks. All my life is gone.”