Suzette Smith

Last night little-known, much-loved technology and art festival XOXO kicked off its sixth year at its new home: Veterans Memorial Coliseum. I wrote about the fest back in June, when tickets were still on sale.

This year Mercury Food Editor Andrea Damewood and I will attend XOXO and report back on interesting happenings, our general impressions, and things which might prove cool outside the confines of the four-day weekend. Click through for DAY ONE!

There were a small army of e-scooters parked in front of Veterans Memorial Coliseum. When I ran into former Mercury news reporter Sarah Mirk (who said she's attended all six years of the fest, but has never mentioned it to me), she related that the house she’s staying at is beyond the Biketown area limit. She was about to wait a half hour for the bus, but then saw a cute-looking e-scooter propped up nearby. “They’re really fun!” Mirk relates in typically positive Sarah Mirk fashion. She’s right, of course.

Pronoun pins
Pronoun pins Suzette Smith

Asymmetrical haircuts were prevalent at registration. I saw a lot of colorful balayage. Don't @ me that this is seapunk. I know about seapunk. (Is there something new now? PLEASE DM) At registration, I was invited to choose a chic enamel pin that best described my preferred gender pronouns. I have never used the word "chic" on the blog before because this is the first time I've seen anything chic while reporting.

While waiting for the opening remarks, Candian pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Run Away With Me” played over the stadium's low din. Jepsen's “Emotion” followed. When “I Really Really Really Really Like You” started, it was evident that we were just listening to the album Emotion straight through.

Courtesy of the XOXO blog

Another Jepsen-related perk: There's free Carly Rae Jepsen-themed soda and shrubs for attendees. I didn’t want to drink booze (I’m on assignment, y’all) and the Cut To The Feeling (strawberry, shubarb, and citrus) was like a not-too-sweet firework in my mouth. Very excited about this soda situation. Will report on it exhaustively.

Andy Baio and Andy McMillan are the founders of XOXO
Andy Baio and Andy McMillan are the founders of XOXO Suzette Smith

It was nice to be inside the Memorial Coliseum's big glass achievement of Modernist architecture. Many people I talked to said they hadn't been in there before. The sunset view was terrific. Past years of XOXO were in more intimate venues (Yale Union, Revolution Hall), but volunteers set up conversation spaces along the conference center hallways, breaking up that big center feeling. On the map, I saw there's a CHILL ROOM. I will try to find it.

Courtesy of Hennebery Eddy Architects, Inc.

During the opening comments, co-founders Andy Baio and Andy McMillan told the story of how, during their research into the Memorial Coliseum's history, they learned that the Moda Center area once held a thriving neighborhood, which Portland bulldozed to build its various convention spaces. They then welcomed Rukaiyah Adams to the stage. Adams is a descendent of a family that lived in that neighborhood and is a leader on the Albina Vision project, which seeks to revitalize the Moda Center area and reclaim it as a mixed-use neighborhood. It looks fucking cool. This was my favorite talk of the night. Adams pitched the vision as a ten-year possibility and that seems unbelievably soon.

Comedian Cameron Esposito delivered the conference's opening keynote speech, relating her recent quest to make a comedy special, name it Rape Jokes, and supplant any and all articles about offending problematic comedians as the top browser search result for the phrase. Esposito explained that she started working on Rape Jokes directly following the election and once the #MeToo movement hit, her main goal became to release her special before the first accused offender made an attempt to return to business as usual. She noted that she accomplished this—referencing Louis CK’s recent, ill-advised Comedy Cellar appearance without explicitly naming him.

I was told that the main draw of XOXO is that most of the attendees are fun to talk to. I can report that so far everyone I've spoken to has been pretty fun to talk to—be it the man wearing safari gear that showed me his star-finding phone apps or the podcast creators who informed me that it is possible to register an emoji-only domain name. How many apps am I going to see this weekend seems like a tally worth keeping.

We'll be blogging about XOXO 2018 every day of the fest:

XOXO Fest, Day 1: FREE Carly Rae Jepsen Soda, the Albina Vision Project, Cameron Esposito's Rape Jokes

XOXO Fest, Day 2: Lisa Hanawalt, Demi Adejuyigbe, Is This Las Vegas For Nerds?