January 26, 2011

The Next Cool Thing

Filed under: trade shows — Frederick Noble @ 1:56 pm Share RSS

Several facebook friends posted links to The Next Cool Thing, seemingly every day. Someone gushed that they heard there was going to be a replica of the cantina from Star Wars. Others spoke of people in steampunk attire or other costumes. The promotional materials were glossy and pretty and mentioned various performances that would be taking place and that the event would be bringing together designers and decorators to create something new.

All of this turned out to be true but I should’ve followed the adage as old as marketing itself – “Don’t believe the hype.” A friend had free passes to the VIP preview on Friday so I chauffeured everyone in the Thunderbird across town to the shoe/design district off Howell Mill.

She Who Will Not Be Named had warned me that any event titled “The Next Cool Thing” couldn’t possibly actually be cool, but I’d been suckered by the hype and lured in by the promise of free food and drink.

Parking lots were overflowing in every direction, so when we got in the door I was surprised to find it notintolerably crowded. I was more surprised to find the event was just a big trade show with booth after booth of tacky furniture and such, each around an individual theme. The “Star Wars cantina” turned out to be a bunch of duct work and a few Plexiglas-covered fluorescent lights. Star Wars cantina my assStar Wars cantina my ass

A few booths around the warehouse hosted bars, at which there were supposed to be “signature cocktails.” What makes a signature cocktail, you ask? We assumed they would match the theme oif the the booth – the James Bond themed booth would have vodka martinis, obviously. We asked at each bar for their signature cocktail, only to be told, ”We don’t have liquor, just beer and wine,” or, “We’ve got vodka…” and shitty well vodka at that. A couple of booths featured Jack Daniels but it was hard enough to find a bar without a long line.

We wandered around, looking at the tacky crap set up to showcase various design “skills,” from the hastily assembled fountains to massive booths full of modern minimalist furniture that didn’t quite go together. A few booths managed to create an interesting environment. There was a Dr. Who booth where the Tardis was coming up through the floor of an English study/bar.  

Dr. Who booth

What in the hell am I doing here?But at almost every turn our reactions ranged from “meh” to “ugh!” To make matters worse, the aforementioned “signature cocktails” that were supposed to be free were $5 a pop. Eventually we just asked each other, “What the hell are we doing here?”

But our guide had purchased a handful of drink tickets and there was free food, so we wandered around, finding a few booths with thrift store assemblages of antiques and junk to distract us from the bad new stuff littering the rest of the room.

cool?

We were treated to some short and light opera, ballet and burlesque performances and the food was pretty good, so all things considered it was worth the trip, if not paying for. Whether or not it was worth it to be a vendor at the show, however, is in doubt. From what I heard, it was expensive to participate and the booths were all collaborative efforts, meaning you didn’t get to show off your breadth of skills or individual style.

What is not in doubt is that She Who Will Not Be Named was right – this was not the next cool thing.

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