FROM AUSTIN, TEXAS For confirmation that Austin’s yearly indie-music fest is officially a hotbed of mainstream branding, one had to look no further than the stage at the 301 last night, where up-and-coming artists performed wide-eyed alongside dancing Playboy bunnies in velvet onesies.
Playboy and Austin-based event marketing firm C3 once again teamed up for their annual late-night party at South by Southwest on Thursday, this year dubbed “Rock the Rabbit,” and 1,000 guests—including Elijah Wood, Lance Armstrong, and Carson Daly—showed up for the five hours of live music provided by Justice, Moby, MGMT, the Heavy, and the Rub.
The 301, the large, central Austin warehouse that housed the party, was left more or less in its natural state. A small sitting area accented the entry room, but most of the decor and furnishings could be seen on the walls. Psychedelic-inspired lights pulsated in every room, and a 3-D display showcased music videos and slide shows of vintage pinups. Guests could view the show thanks to Playboy-logoed 3-D glasses doled out throughout the night.
Music, not surprisingly, was the big draw of the party, and the talent came thanks to C3 founder Charles Attal—the man responsible for producing such massive music events as Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. Attal got his start booking for local BBQ spot Stubbs (which, not coincidentally, was the event's caterer). Securing Moby was a smart move, as his presence on the roster made the event one of the week's most sought-after tickets.
Besides the riotous dance floor, Rock the Rabbit had a few other interactive components. The trunk of a Toyota Prius featured a Guitar Hero station, and guests could peruse some of the 20 Rock the Rabbit T-shirts designed by artists such as Duran Duran and Iggy Pop (though they couldn’t buy the tees, which are only available at Rocktherabbit.com or Bloomingdale’s). A Rock the Vote booth was also on site, helping to register voters.
These stations were conveniently adjacent to the bathroom, though the bathrooms were slightly unconventional. The 301 does not have restrooms to accommodate an at-capacity party, so for the 1,000 guests who’d been plied with whiskey, Playboy had a dozen portable toilets lined up in one of the rooms. This isn’t a familiar site for the SXSW crowd, which is used to seeing acts in classic venues (complete with plumbing), but as one of the few music festivals in the world where performances aren’t in fields, the Port-a-Potties gave the party a healthy dose of rock 'n' roll authenticity.