Culture / Entertainment

A Real Westworld Theme Park, Bernie Sanders Running Wild and Elon Musk’s Mars Bar

Inside SXSW’s Wild Start

BY // 03.13.18

AUSTIN — FOMO (fear of missing out) could be the nudgy undercurrent of this week’s SXSW, or more formally the South by Southwest Conference & Festivals, as there is so much packed into the 10-day calendar that it’s simply impossible to hit it all. Think 2,000 events including keynote speakers, film premiers, expos and concerts and 1,000-plus official parties.

There’s enough techie pie and entertainment cream on the SXSW menu to satisfy just about all of the 400,000 that are expected to hit the state’s capital this week.

With a major tease, this past weekend kicked off with a heads-up on it all. Herewith, we offer a roundup of the noteworthy happenings aimed at diminishing any FOMO. So many opportunities. So little time.

Sunday Surprises

In a surprise move, SXSW announced late Saturday that SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk would host  a noon session of ACL Live at the Moody Theatre the next day. All 2,750 tickets sold out in just hours. In the Q&A session, HBO’s Westworld co-creator Jonathan Nolan asked Musk a series of pre-submitted questions from the audience.

The South African-born engineer discussed his goals to get a base on the moon and a stronghold on Mars – even a bar on Mars, which he jokingly named “The Mars Bar.” Musk projected that all modes of vehicles will have self-driving components by the end of next year.

He also addressed the threat of AI technology declaring it “much more dangerous than nukes.” The billionaire concluded the program with a surprise visit  from his brother Kimbal Musk. The duo, both donning cowboy hats, performed their quirky, if not to mention off-key, version of  “My Little Buttercup” from The Three Amigos.

Spielberg’s Latest

In another Sunday surprise, Steven Spielberg headlined the world premier of his movie, Ready Player One at Austin’s Paramount Theatre. The movie, based on the science fiction novel by Ernest Cline, is set in a dystopian world where a youngster (Tye Sheridan) searches for a magical Easter egg in a virtual reality game.

Spielberg brought along Cline as well as  stars Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, Win Morisaki and Philip Zhao. Quite the night for gaming geeks, fanboys and pop culture nerds.


The location-based dating app kicked off its two-day activation with an impressive set of star studded speakers, keynotes and performances. Broadway star and author Keke Palmer joined Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd in a discussion on gender equality and current social movements.

Fashion designer and stylist Rachel Zoe promoted the notion of empowerment through style. Musical guests including HAIM and Era Noble.


A first for SXSW is the Wellness Expo emphasizing fueling the mind, body and soul. In addition to the Tradeshow, Gaming Expo, SXSW Market place and countless other exhibitions happening at the conference, the Wellness Expo gives participants a chance to see the most innovative and up and coming companies that are focusing on health and wellness. Everything from herbs and supplements, clean eating strategies, spa and fitness products and more are on view.


Create & Cultivate and Fossil teamed up  to host a pop up Women To Watch. The impressive lineup of speakers included actress and activist Gina Rodriquez, Finery co-founder Brooklyn Decker, Bird Bakery CEO and founder Elizabeth Chambers Hammer, SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan and many more. Some of the career driven and stylish millennials among the audience waited over three hours in line to get a chance to see the A-list panelists.


Continuing its tradition of political input (past speakers have included Vice President Joe Biden and presidents Clinton and Obama), SXSW tapped former presidential nominee Bernie Sanders to chat with CNN’s Jake Tapper about the current political climate. In typical Sanders fashion, he stoked the crowd’s interest with bold statements on everything from fire arm possession to DACA.

He specifically brought up the current Texas Primary runoff race and his support for Houston congressional candidate Laura Moser and his disgust with the current political election process (referring to the attacks Moser received from her own party). He then directed his focus to his upcoming travels to ignite voter motivation.

Westworld Theme Park

HBO’s hit show Westworld hosted an activation like no other. Fans were able to experience a custom built mockup of the theme park where the show takes place. Visitors who gained a coveted time slot to attend the experience were greeted by “host” and played along in a two-hour experience as if it was an episode of the actual show.

The pop-up, held a few miles outside of Austin, garnered major buzz just in time for the Season Two premier on April 22.


Rapper Ludacris performed at his highly anticipated concert at the Vivo House on Sunday night as part of the SXSW Music Festival. It isn’t a SXSW concert without the multi-block lines of fans waiting to get into a typically packed venue. He performed some 20 of his top hits to an excited and lively crowd, still rocking after the weekend’s packed festivities.

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