SXSWi: Obey the power of the flash-mob party

Waiting in line to get into parties was starting to wear thin on hundreds of SXSWi attendees. That's when one Web video personality decided to throw his own party and spread the word on Twitter.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
3 min read

AUSTIN, Texas--"Dude, this sucks."

You could hear a whole lot of people saying that on Saturday night as the first real evening of South by Southwest Interactive Festival's after-parties kicked into gear. So how come it sucked? Well, it was the crowds. The lines outside the Google party at Light Bar, the Avenue A-Razorfish party at Six Lounge, and the 16Bit party at Scoot Inn were so long that they instigated plenty of woeful conversations about whether SXSWi had gotten so big and so mainstream that it just wasn't any fun anymore.

Gary Vaynerchuk's wine-soaked 'undergound' SXSWi party. Caroline McCarthy/CNET News.com

I, for one, was about ready to call it a night after getting my toes stepped on one too many times at Scoot Inn. But then, while attempting to catch a cab back downtown, I ran into a couple of people, including WineLibrary.tv's Gary Vaynerchuk, who became locally famous for the liquor store he owns and Internet-famous for starting a video blog in conjunction with it. He and his buddies weren't about to stand around for a half hour just to get into the 16Bit party.

"I'm not dealing with this s***," Vaynerchuk called out in his Sopranos-worthy Jersey accent. "This isn't New York or L.A.; I'm not waiting in this line. Everybody come to the Marriott for free wine!"

So a few friends and I followed Vaynerchuk's instructions and headed to the hotel, where we were expecting to find a handful of dudes drinking cheap pinot noir for an hour or so before heading off to bed. Turns out that the eccentric sommelier, with the help of buddy Frank Gruber and the perpetually camera-toting Brian Solis, had set up a lively little shindig off the lobby of the hotel and had accompanied it with the seven--yes, seven--cases of wine that Vaynerchuk had shipped to Austin from the brick-and-mortar Wine Library.

It wasn't listed on Facebook or Upcoming. There was no badge check at the door. Heck, even the hotel didn't anticipate the hordes of geeks that would show up when Vaynerchuk and his guests Twittered the heck out of their fellow SXSWi attendees. (They kicked everyone out around 12:30 a.m.)

But it was one of those great, unexpected parties where nobody was getting turned away at the door, everybody seemed to know everybody, and everyone was having a fantastic time (apparently the game of choice among the Web 2.0 set is "Werewolf," which I knew as "Murder in the Dark" back in my junior high slumber party days) and there was no line at the bar because the "bar" consisted of Vaynerchuk standing on a chair and handing people bottles of wine with reckless abandon. One of the hottest conversation topics of the night was, understandably--why do SXSWi attendees bother with signing up to attend a zillion parties at the city's hottest nightclubs, when the highlight of the evening is an "underground" event in a hotel meeting room where everyone only knew about it because they'd heard on Twitter?

A word to the SXSWi-wise: don't get so obsessive-compulsive about making sure that guest list gets amassed from that online invitation. Sometimes the real fun doesn't get organized.

Not making plans is so totally Web 3.0.

See more stories in CNET News.com's coverage of SXSWi (click here).