XOXO 2013

What do you make? Where do you live? These were the questions that I asked and was asked a lot this past weekend at XOXO Festival. The questions were asked in that order - because the assumption was that everyone there made something (even if it was digital somethings), and that was of more interest than where you lived.

The conference was delightful. If it happens again - no promises have been made on that front - XOXO Festival is definitely worth attending. I didn’t even get to see any of the speakers, as Freya (my wife) and I just purchased Festival-only passes so we could attend all the nighttime events and enjoy the peripheral activities. I’m still buzzing from all the fascinating conversations I had.

I talked to Chloe, a developer who has this incredible project where she tracks her music listening to find the emotional metadata hidden in it. Freya and I met Helen, a wonderful illustrator in San Francisco. I met Leslie who is so close to being able to reveal a SUPER AWESOME project based in Chattanooga. Freya and I talked with Jacob and his wife about their plans to travel abroad for awhile with their son, similar to what Freya and I are doing now. I met so many other fascinating people.

And yet, I didn’t meet any of the people I wanted to meet. Well ok, I met a couple and had some great conversations with them, but if I had taken the list of attendees, written down the names of people I wanted to meet (the people who are “internet-famous”) and checked off the names of those I actually talked to, it was maybe 2 out of 20 people.

And I’m so glad that happened. I had been thinking about this conference all wrong.

I think I can explain better with this story that happened over the weekend:

On Saturday night, Freya and I skipped out on the Festival to go see Frightened Rabbit and The National play at an amphitheater outside of Portland. It was an outdoor concert, in 60 degree, rainy weather. I love Frightened Rabbit so much, so as soon as it stopped raining enough for us to get out from under our ponchos, I ran down in to the mob of people in front of the stage and rocked out like I was 16 again. When their set finished, we went to find food, and that’s when we found a roaring campfire up by the food tents. So, we decided that we’d wait for The National to go on and then eat around the fire while everyone else crowded onto the amphitheater’s now incredibly muddy lawn.

While we waited for The National to go on, we cowered under umbrellas and ponchos near the fire as it continued to sprinkle. It was chilly, and slightly miserable, but I was busy relaying to Freya what I imagined was going to happen. I already could see it:

The National would go on, we would get some food, eat it around the campfire, then get some whiskey cocktails to drink around the fire, and while we were drinking, the members of Frightened Rabbit would decide they wanted to hang out around a fire and would come out to join us. Then we’d get to drink cocktails around a campfire, talking with the members of one of my favorite bands, while The National played live in the background.

This of course, did not happen. But in my head, it wasn’t just a possibility, it was probable. There was a good chance it would happen.

But it didn’t. Instead, Freya and I had this wonderful time standing around the fire - listening to The National and laughing about whatever it was that we were talking about. It was one of the best moments we’ve had in a year of some pretty awesome moments. The story that I imagined and described to Freya as the “ideal scenario”, was just a fairy tale. Maybe it would have been awesome, but I bet if, for some strange reason my fairy tale had come true, it would have been awkward and weird and Freya and I wouldn’t have the wonderful date that we did have. As all too often happens, the story I imagined paled in comparison to real life.

Prior to XOXO, I imagined this fairy tale where I would come away from the fest and be a “cool kid.” I was sure I would meet all these internet cool kids and we would have great conversations about interesting topics and I would have new awesome friends when I left. I don’t know why I thought that was the purpose of XOXO. On this side of the event, I don’t really care about this coolness because XOXO did a wonderful job at reawakening my love of other people’s passions. Rather than connecting me to internet-famous people, the festival connected me with people who had passions and were pursuing them. That was immensely more valuable than awkward conversations with people whom everyone else was trying to talk to as well.

It seems to be a natural part of human nature to hero-worship and idolize people. I try to avoid it, but I can’t help it - there are people who make things that I respect and I want to meet them and talk to them in case they have magic awesome dust they can share with me. XOXO was a nice big reminder that the magic awesome dust is just passion, and everyone can have it, and it does rub off on you when you encounter it - regardless of the bearer’s fame.

  1. snickr said: Well said! Hear hear!
  2. wnstn posted this