Back to The Future With Rolling Stone and Levi’s – SXSW 2017

The best part of life is creating a moment that is worth remembering, and if we are fortunate to create enough of those quality moments, our lives are woven with a very rich fabric. The best times are those when we share something very special with that inner circle of people who we take with us our entire lives. It’s that backyard party we had when mom and dad went away, or that song we heard, that wine we drank and the fashion we wore that bind us to one another in a way that no amount of turmoil seems capable of breaking.

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Rolling Stone cover with Star Wars cast. 1977

I can still remember being excited to see the latest issue of Rolling Stone on the shelf at 7-11 and kicking back in my Levi’s 501’s to read every word. For my friends and I, it became a ritual that was almost spiritual in nature. Usually we threw the latest vinyl down on a Marantz turntable, or if Rolling Stone was featuring an artist we were into, we spun a classic like “Dark Side of The Moon” or “Eat a Peach”.

Rolling Stone, Levi’s and my friends – all in my back yard. It was awesome.

When ATX Event Systems was asked by MKTG to provide technical support for the Levi’s & Rolling Stone event at SXSW 2017, I had no idea I was going to have a big dose of Déjà vu, but I was absolutely thrilled and had goose bumps when I walked into the event showcase at 606 E. 3rd street. It was like walking into my back yard as a 15 year old boy. Only this back yard had a sound system and light show that I could not have dreamed of back then. And God strike me dead if one of the ladies working there was not a doppelganger of my girlfriend from back in 1978.

For just a split second, I was left a little bit loopy.

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Levis Jacquard with cuff connector.

The “backyard event” was framed as a springboard for the new, wearable technology called Project Jacquard developed by Google’s ATAP division. Project Jacquard has created conductive fibers which are woven into the fabric of the classic Levi’s denim jacket. The fibers are washable and react to finger strokes in the same manner as a smart phone screen, although the actual link to your smartphone comes in the form of a removable cuff link. It really works and it’s incredible to use.

The event was both nostalgic and futuristic. MKTG could not have done a better job bringing to life the past, especially in such a cozy, casual atmosphere that captured the essence of Americana. More importantly, MKTG demonstrated how Levi’s has been a key thread in the fabric of American culture and will be here for the foreseeable future by incorporating wearable technology in a chic, yet utilitarian manner that is truly American to the bone.

Having Rolling Stone there wasn’t exactly chopped liver, either.

Watching legendary writer and Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke discuss monumental moments and interviews he experienced over the course of his career in that setting was surreal. It was like he walked into my backyard, sat down and started telling me the inside story on the story I was reading in the magazine. Awesomely weird.

But the best part of all was when Gary Clark, Jr. took the stage and gave us his modern interpretation of another iconic piece of the fabric of Americana – The Blues.

We had to do a lot to get the sound right in a tight space without it being overpowering. We rolled out state of the art technology and deployed one of the best audio engineers in the South to make sure Clark and the other musicians performing sounded their best. We weren’t going to leave anything to chance, so we assigned one of the best producers in Texas, Norm Lieder, and that turned out to be the best decision we made. Things got truly exciting when some of the light effects were damaged during one of the performances leading up to Clark. Norm took the initiative and quickly turned over one of his reliable resources who happens to be a light fabricator. In the end, there wasn’t any effect on the timeline or quality of the performances.

If you had told me in ’77 that I would have another backyard party 40 years later in 2017 with Levi’s and Rolling Stone, I would have said you were crazy, but somehow it just makes sense. Levi’s and Rolling Stone are like old friends for me and now we seem closer than ever. And because I had Gary Clark in my back yard, I am going to claim him as a friend, too.

Sure, that’s a stretch.

But just like there is a lot of give in a perfectly worn in pair of 501’s, there’s just enough flexibility in my mind to comfortably stretch the truth. Like I said, it’s the memories we create that make the fabric of our lives that much richer.