This year marked my 4th XOXO, and my 3rd at Revolution Hall. Last year was big, which meant it was even harder to wave at, or spend time with the other amazing attendees I knew. This year, it felt just right. I still waved at too many folks, and wished I had time to have a number of small dinners over the next year instead of so many “hey, I see you, sorry I’ve gotta run!” However, I got to spend time with a smallish group of friends, see all the talks I wanted, and even play some amazing new games. If you’ve never been to XOXO, and you make things on the internet, and enjoy building relationships, this is a great place for you.
As usually, the first day of the conference was a social one—with Glitch doing an Appy Hour, and Panic showing off the Playdate. It was super cool seeing all the strange community games and creations of Glitch users, along with a few presentations, and the Playdate is something I can’t wait to own. Topped-off with a dinner at Kachka, a lot of upcoming games, and one of the most hilarious videos I’ve seen in a while, wherein Brian Gilbert attempts to calculate his pet’s HP, Friday was a delight. The weather held, the toilets were uniquely chill, and the layout of the festival ensure I could wander and find neat things.
One of the first pieces of advice I’d give anyone going to a multi-day festival is “don’t drink too much on the first night”. I didn’t take my own advice. I wasn’t ill, but a combination of 3 glasses of wine and too little sleep meant 10am felt very early. Thankfully my hotel had Proud Mary coffee, and XOXO had Deadstock. A breakfast sandwich from Fried Egg I’m in Love completed my resurrection.
Day two felt a little longer, as I sat through every talk, alternately crying and laughing. A definite emotional rollercoaster. Helen and Hrishikesh were excellent hosts, and seeing their banter develop over the weekend makes me hope they host again next year. I missed the Andy’s camaraderie at times, but I hope only being responsible for the whole festival was a nice change from also MCing.
Lunch was Basilisk. Unbeatable fried chicken I eat every time I visit Portland. Yes, even when I’m there for hours.
Favorite talks from Saturday: Harry Brewis (very funny guy who I didn’t know anything about beforehand), Hundred Rabbits (delightful French Canadian vegan sailors), and Soleil Ho (what happens when you become the representation?!).
After a quick dinner, I sat down for a night of unforgettable podcasts. I watched a man interview a chainsaw, and was utterly destroyed by Demi and Miel with special guests Neil and Mike doing Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbuster song. The number of folks I heard singing “bustin’ makes me feel good” after this podcast taping tells me I wasn’t alone.
Coffee. Sandwich. Almost there. I was wiped at this point, but the talks were delightful. Mikki Kendall, Jenny Odell, and Rhea Butcher were my favorites from Sunday. A great mix of comedy and art. Food highlights were Navarre (another favorite), and dinner at Sardine Head. OMG Sardine Head. Oxidated white wine. Salt-cured anchovy. Dang.
The karaoke list was full by the time my friends and I got back from dinner, and a cab ride that included an episode of King of the Hill. It was fun watching various speakers and friends sing Pavement, Lizzo, and of course, the Ghostbuster’s theme. I ended my night with my friends Jenny and Joe, drinking on the balcony at my hotel. Our friend André’s room was right by the balcony, and he wandered out mid-way through. That moment of kismet was generally how the whole conference felt—friends wandering by, saying hi, and going on adventures.
XOXO at its best feels like what I imagine a community should feel like. It’s full of new people, old people, dear friends, and acquaintances. If XOXO was every day, I would lose my mind, but once a year, it feels incredible to be surrounded by so many people I care about, as we’re inspired together by talks, art, and each other. I’m so glad I got to go to Portland, for the first time as a non-resident, for XOXO. I can’t wait for another year of this magical festival, and hope many of the same folks will get to attend. My only regret is that I can’t somehow bring Snorri with me too. He’d hate it.