It wouldn’t be SXSW without the unofficial advertising and production kick off party, SXKO, and this year’s 5th annual bash proved to be epic, featuring fire dancing, an LED light show, buzzed-about bands, a taco truck and more than 600 attendees ready to get the SXSW ball rolling. 

The 2017 edition of SXKO, which took place on Friday night at the start of the conference (March 10), was brought to you again by Synthetic Pictures (, the L.A., Austin and New York-based production house, and Yessian Music (, the Detroit, New York, L.A. and Hamburg, Germany-based original music and sound studio, which have been the par-ty’s anchor hosts since day one. On hand from Synthetic were Austin native and founding director Justin Corsbie and his partner and EP, Allison Smith. Representing Yessian were EP Michael Yessian, along with Andy Grush and Katie Overcash. 

Also co-hosting was Apache Color, (, the L.A.-based color grading boutique, which was represented by Stefanie Schaldenbrand and Caitlin Forrest; Ntropic (, the L.A. and New York-based visual effects, post production and design studio, which was represented by Michael Bennett; and the New York, L.A. and Austin offices of Union Editorial (, which were represented by Michael Raimondi and Rob McCool. 

To screen a video from the event, click here: 

Among the agency and production company guests who made the scene were creatives, producers and others from shops like GTB, Argonaut, BSSP, DDB, Deutsch, Grey London, MullenLowe, GSDM, RPA, Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam and many more.

The ’17 SXKO invitation featured a bizarre creature – picture a puffy cloud sporting a golden human skull, topped by a royal gold crown – riding an antique high-wheel bicycle. Designed by co-sponsor Ntropic, Yessian explained “everyone kept asking us what it was, and even though we weren’t quite sure, we knew we had to have it!”

Synthetic’s Corsbie jokes: “Andy Warhol phoned us in a dream, and told us the Golden-Skulled-Cloud-King represents what’s left of traditional advertising after the Napalm blast of change and disruption brought on by the current interactive marketing movement. Andy told us to celebrate the industry’s new model with a post-modern Dia de los Muertos mashup. And here we are.”

As usual, SXKO featured up and coming musical performances and a killer DJ to en-sure the joint got properly rocked. This year’s live music lineup included Flint Eastwood and Michigan Rattlers. The former group, widely regarded as one of the bands to watch at SXSW this year, brought its unique Power-Pop stylings to a raucous sea of dancing and screaming fans. For the crowd-demanded encore, leader Jax Anderson returned to the stage, untethered her long Willie Nelson-style braids, and proclaimed their last song “a headbanger.” 

“Everyone went nuts,” reports Yessian, “singing along to the bands’ fast-charging ‘Billy The Kid’ as Jax and the guys brought down the house.”

Michigan Rattlers, the acoustic-Americana duo, also performed. Described by Rolling Stone as playing “deceptively simplistic Midwestern country-folk channeled through an engaging push-pull duo dynamic,” the group consists of childhood friends Graham Young and Adam Reed. They’re currently touring in support of their self-titled EP. 

“Both groups are from Michigan, so it was nice to bring a little Midwest flavor to Texas for this one,” adds Yessian. “They gave us a great range of style and beats, and the crowd loved both bands.”

Also performing was DJ Dangit, a local Austin talent better known as Gabe Vaughn (a designer and photographer in his off hours), who spins old-school funk and soul from his collection of vintage vinyl 45s. “He likes to play old break-beats often sampled in popular hip-hop songs,” says Corsbie, “and that got everyone movin’ and groovin’.” During his first set a fire dance performance took place outside the party venue, and during his second the party organizers unleashed an interactive LED dance performance inside.

Speaking of the venue, each year SXKO takes over some cool haunt in Austin, and this year was no different. Held at The Craftsman, a newer venue on the city’s emerging east side, “It’s housed in a building formerly home to an infamous dive bar known as the favored hangout of a gang of drug smugglers and pimps,” says Corsbie. “It’s a perfect place to celebrate the advertising and commercial production industries,” he quips.

Photos and video clips from the event were fed live to social media during the run of the party, where they were immediately “funneled globally throughout the 'world-wide-web,’” jokes Corsbie. Check out the hashtag #SKXO for more.