The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Friday, March 30, 2001

Kylie Gusset On Dakota Smith At SXSW

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: Kylie Gusset attended this year's interactive section of South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. I asked her to write about some of her experiences there, and she did:

If anyone is going to pen the tome "How to Be an Internet Rock Star — Your Ten-Point Program to Fame" it ought to be Dakota Smith. So many rabid fans have been downloading his rock-guitar ode "Squirrel Fight" over the last few weeks that he had to take the song down from his site due to bandwidth problems.

Enter alistapart (a site for designers, programmers, and other people who build the Web), who saved the day, making "Squirrel Fight" their corporate anthem — and making the MP3 available on their site.

Dakota's had the linkage; from über design folk k10k, Lance Arthur's glassdog, and Jeffrey Zeldman's daily report. How did he manage this? The only competition at SXSW to "Pretty Boys Doing Things," the unofficial event of spoken word and songs, are the official company-sponsored parties and some private get-togethers.

Of course the Internet-lovin' kids choose "Pretty Boys" over the others. They have no problem packing the back area of the Boulder Lodge Coffeehouse Café the boys have set up in — it's pretty much standing room only, so we're resorting to sitting on the wooden divider rails.

Early on, Dakota has a little acting to do. Ben Brown — the self-publicized fame-hogging guy who's normally the center of attention at such hometown events, is in New Zealand. Dakota does a fine job of hamming it and doing a read of Ben's story, wearing Ben's red feather boa from last year.

Dakota's partner in organizing the night, Andy Pressman, has a shot at storytelling, and you can't help feeling some empathy for the guy. He's kinda shy and goofy, and there's the feeling that he went through hell in school. Plenty of people listening relate to him and his unpolished delivery. He can't read his own writing aloud without cracking up, which either means that he's horribly arrogant, or that he knows what he likes.

Now we're feelin' awful sorry for Dakota's mother. It's a good ploy — your parents will no longer be hassling you about your sideline in performance art if they're part of it. Dakota's mother does a piece with him about not being adopted, finding out the "awful" truth. Mum, you did great. Really.

Then comes the clincher. Dakota's songs. They're simple, goofy songs that everyone there gets suckered into, and starts singing along with. There's "Canadian Girlfriend" (namedropping the Canadian flag, maple syrup and the Mounties), a tribute to the Beastie Boys, and of course the winner of the Most Basic, Inane Song Heard This Year award, "Squirrel Fight" — about, well, squirrels fighting. The song goes down so well that Dakota reprises it for the encore.

A piñata is smashed for candy, and that's it. It's a strange ending to a strange night. "We don't have any more songs!" Dakota tells us. "You can go now!" So we shuffle off to other madness.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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