Bringing Down the House at SXSW

How an iconic Austin music venue sets its stage for the festival

Assessing the importance of a music venue can be hard to do on a first impression: a worn stage and small room may seem like the joint is just another hole in the wall. But one look at the endless posters featuring music greats that line the walls at Antone’s Nightclub and it’s clear that this spot has history. For more than 40 years, downtown Austin’s Antone’s has been bringing people together to experience some of the biggest names in music. From B. B. King to Stevie Ray Vaughan, a stream of legendary musicians have graced the intimate stage, making Antone’s one of the most iconic venues in Austin.

But each March, as hordes of techies, music fans, gaming nerds, small businesses and those looking for the next big thing descend on the city for the annual SXSW Festival, Antone’s opens its stage to more than musicians as it transforms into a showcase of innovation as the Capital One House.

For the third year, Capital One took the headline position on the historic marquee and presented more than 20 talks at the legendary venue over the course of four days featuring pioneers and innovators in technology and design. By day, projection posters went up on the walls, while a massive interactive mural of downtown Austin was installed to greet visitors. A second stage was erected opposite a massive data visualization wall in a room featuring everything from GIF makers to Snapchat printers. By night, the venue filled with music fans as a impressive lineups — including musicians such as Aloe Blacc, Whitney, and Smash Mouth — took over the stage for evening shows.

If you missed the action in person, a wide-array of attendees — from presenters and Capital One leaders to folks in attendance — brings you a first-person view of what it was like to be in the middle of it all at SXSW.

Now Trending at the Capital One House

Across the first four days of the festival, the Capital One House set the stage for panelists who spoke on an array of topics focused on technology and design. At the top of the trending list? Artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent design were in abundance. Panels around robo-advisors, intelligent design for AI, and the future state of our communities, all touched on the topics and captured the eye of those in the industry.

“I think for me, being a designer, I look at the new frontiers of design. AI is one of those things. There's AI, VR, AR—all of those things intrigue the heck out of me,” said Saejin Choi, Senior Design Manager at Capital One.

One of the most popular presentations around AI and its practical implementation came through a discussion on “chatbots,” — computer programs that allow people to have automated conversations with them via voice or text. Cue the reveal of Capital One’s Eno, the first natural language SMS chatbot from a U.S. bank.

“I'm really excited about the Eno launch, the bot that does the banking,” said Kendall Morris, Chief Strategy Officer at Authentic. “The thing I found most interesting was the human-centric perspective and the investment that Capital One made on really understanding how to bring something technical to life in a way that humans could interact and engage with.”

Another addition to the design discussion came when attendees got a sneak peek of a project that is reimagining what a credit card could be: the Project Elements experiment. These are credit cards made from bamboo, copper and hammered metal and other materials designed to let people choose a card that represents their individual personality and style.

“Elements is a card that you love to take out and show people and use,” says Steve Strauch, Vice President of Product Management at Capital One Labs.

Through the programs offered at the Capital One House, festival attendees from all walks of life were able to come together to learn more about the intersection of technology and design. As Don Busick, Senior Vice President of Digital at Capital One, described the House, it’s “a place to connect with others, exchange ideas, and, ultimately, to listen and get feedback from our customers and partners on new innovations we’re bringing to market, as well as new concepts we’re exploring and testing.”

It’s not SXSW without Music

While you might not necessarily connect technology to music, the thread between the two played out at the House in parallel to day and night: Just as the daylight shone bright on the innovating tech talks, once the sun went down, the spotlight came up on the music. The connection was not lost on the audience. SXSW attendee Emily Cook said, “There’s a lot that we can learn from the way that the music industry has embraced technology. The way they can customize and anticipate what you want to listen to — I think there’s a lot that other industries can take from that."

In true Antone’s form, a bill of both classic favorites and new acts had lines outside of the Capital One House wrapped around the block as festival-goers anxiously waited to see some top notch musical lineups at SXSW. With a capacity of only 700 people, Antone’s allowed its fans to have a front row experience with the performers.

“Whitney was amazing,” said SXSW attendee Brianne Boland. “I’ve seen them before, but never this close up. It was an incredible performance I will never forget.”

Another SXSW attendee, Andy Jasenak, was excited about being in a venue as iconic as Antone’s. "As a first-timer in Austin, I couldn’t wait to check out some of the city’s venues. Walls covered with concert posters, the crowd singing along to 90s tunes from Smash Mouth and Fastball — you could tell Antone’s has a special place in local music history.”

With a one-two punch of lineup, location and local appeal, Antone’s played the perfect host for concert-goers looking for a good show, sometimes twice in a row, according to SXSW attendee Stephanie Raddock who said, “I loved the different mix of artists, especially Saturday’s show with Aloe Blacc, Whitney and Durand Jones and the Indicators. It was so good that I went to the Sunday show too.”

To get a taste of the full lineup, check out the Capital One House featured artists on the DevExchange Spotify playlist.

That’s a Wrap

Antone’s has always been a place that’s brought people together to discover and share, and its history matches what Capital One loves most about SXSW: meeting people from all over the world with different backgrounds and new ideas.

“[SXSW] brings together a diverse group of people who are constantly challenging the status quo. It’s the perfect place for us to be because the banking industry is having a big moment and we’re on the cutting edge of that—designing experiences that our customers love while disrupting ‘traditional banking,’” says Jana Etheridge, Chief of Staff of Capital One Financial Services.

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