For those arriving late to the party, the RVIP lounge is a mobile karaoke unit housed in a customized RV. It that serves as equal parts transportation & entertainment. Transportainment.
The RVIP Lounge is the latest thing. And we mean that literally: we're open later than any other party. It's always free, the top shelf liquor never runs out, and we have no closing time. You just have to find us.
Like most good things the RVIP lounge was a solution to a problem: we wanted to go to South by Southwest and have the best party of the year, but our budget would barely cover the cost of a hotel room. So we ditched the hotel, tricked out an RV with a karaoke rig and cases of top-shelf liquor, and parked outside other people's parties. It worked, and each year we make it bigger and ballerer.
We are the self-appointed renegade VIP lounge, complete with spotlight and red carpet, for all the fancy tech parties, film premiers, and rock concerts, and we often end up having more fun out on the street than the actual party attendees have inside. As people move from one party to the next, our lounge became a kind of late night drunken public transportation karaoke carpool, shuttling our friends and colleagues to the the official events, the unofficial afterparties, the late night city tours, the early morning breakfast stops, and finally back to their hotels when the sun got too bright to keep going.
Creativity in all forms slops around the RVIP lounge like so many spilled drinks. You never know if that guy singing "I Wanna Know What Love Is" is the founder of disruptive tech company, a visionary director, on an award-winning T.V. show, or a bartender heading home from work. The hot girl belting out show tunes might be a grammy-winning musician, a Rails engineer with some mobile experience and crazy mySQL skills, a V.C., or a random Canadian who rolled in off the sidewalk. We might be heading to the Facebook party or to a little barbecue place we know of that's only about 30 miles from here, but you won't care, because you are in a wonderful world, on a crowded RV that won’t necessarily take you right where you want to go, but will always end up where you want to be.
WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?
Kestrin Pantera (CEO)
Kestrin bridges the "entertainment & technology" gap. She is an actress and musician, her acting work has appeared at Sundance, Cannes, & SXSW International Festivals and won awards at Malibu Film Festival. She works on Nickelodeon's Emmy nominated "Ni Hao, Kai Lan" & appears in numerous critically acclaimed music videos, films, plays, & commercials. A force of nature on the L.A. music scene, she plays cello, percussion, and sings. She has worked with ground-breaking artists Adam Freeland, Brandi Carlile, Cary Brothers, Soko, Rob Dickinson (The Catherine Wheel), Weezer, and Beck. As official hostess of the lounge, she will talk to you in a soothing stewardess voice, cue up your karaoke tune, feed you delicious snacks, and will likely do a shot with you. She loves Freddie Mercury, Gn'R, and is surprisingly good at rapping to the Pharcyde.
Jonathan Grubb (Chairman & Driver)
Jonathan is a veteran of both internet booms and busts, and though he always makes more money in the booms he has way more fun in the busts. Jonathan co-founded web startups Get Satisfaction and Rubyred Labs, ran product for mobile security phenom Lookout, and most recently designed the forthcoming NFC payment system Isis. He designed many of the core mobile applications for Yahoo and Vodafone, and probably worked on the phone that is in your pocket right now. Jonathan is an Austin native and spent 10 years in San Francisco before finding his current hometown of Los Angeles. As the RV captain he can't drink a thing for all of SXSW, but that doesn't stop him from singing some David Bowie, some olde-timey country tunes, and maybe a little Slim Shady.
Scott Watson (CTO)
Scott is responsible for the technology on the RV, including the exterior light control system, the karaoke system, and the forthcoming iPad-based song picker. He did much of the hands-on building of the RVs.
Hear our recent interview with South African NPR.
BOARD OF ADVISORS
Mark Trammell, Nate Bolt, Jon Snoddy
So how does this thing make money? I don't get it.
You shouldn't think about money so much. Try to have more fun and relax a little. But if you must know, we sometimes accept event sponsorship from companies that want us to do exactly what we would do anyway, except with their logo on the banner. Everything we do is free to attendees, and we'll often drop by parties if they sound like fun. If you'd like to sponsor a future event or have us do something fun for with your company, just get in touch with Kestrin.
* Back in 2000something we had the idea of broadcasting our location on Twitter, which was just starting to gain traction, to coordinate pick-ups and drop-offs around town. Our friend and sponsor Mike Prasad, CEO of GirlGamer was inspired by this idea, and went on to create the marketing plan for Kogi BBQ, the Twitter-Powered Korean BBQ Taco Truck that is widely credited with kicking off the current growth of location-aware food trucks & carts.
*Many thanks to author and speaker Tara Hunt, who so loved RVIP 2009 that she gathered sponsors, bought her own karaoke RV, sang her way from San Francisco to Montreal, and GAVE THE RV TO US. Thank you, Tara!
*Twitter's Mark Trammell and Bolt/Peters' CEO Nate Bolt flew out to Montreal to pick up the new RV from Tara. They converted into Twitter's mobile user research lab as they drove cross-country, studying the way different people use twitter in different places, so they could make a better twitter for you. Thanks, guys! WALL OF FAME!
* Our own Karaoke obsession was inspired by our longtime friend and Burning Man campmate Paul de Jong, inventor of: the karaoke bicycle, a Schwinn laden with amps, laptops, microphones, and a fully functioning karaoke system; Porn-i-oke, which we'll let him describe; and Caraoke, a karaoke car with an FM transmitter which he intentionally gets stuck in traffic so a passenger can broadcast karaoke performances to nearby drivers. You can find Paul hosting Karaoke at a different San Francisco bar every night of the week.
* The lounge also pops up at other film festivals and tech conferences, and sometimes just wanders around our home city of Los Angeles crashing actual Hollywood red carpet events and stealing all the fun people. (We once picked up O'Dean, original lead singer of Motley Crue, and he belted out some fine songs as we watched the sun rise over Malibu Beach.)
* Kestrin and Jonathan got married 2 weeks after SXSW 2010.