SXSW 101- A Newbies Guide to SXSW February 11 2014, 0 Comments
A month from now I will be attending one of my most favorite festivals on earth, South by Southwest.
The anticipation generally sets in about the time I get on the plane to leave the previous years film & music festival based in Austin, TX, so you could say 'it's been a long time coming'. Last year's festival saw over 20,000 attendees and over 2,000 musical showcases. Although it's really too early to know exactly what to expect from this years festival, three rounds of musician (all I really care about) related announcements have already been released.
I've started to piece together my 'Must See' list and here's how it's shaping up so far...
Pujol!, Blondie, Gary Numan, The Strypes, BP Fallon & The Bandits, The Ghost Wolves, Low Cut Connie, Diarrhea Planet, Black Lips, Black Milk, Those Darlins, Sturgill Simpson, Shakey Graves, Kelly Stoltz, Moon Taxi, Luke Winslow King, Natural Child, Deap Valley, and Warm Soda.
Also the interview with Neil Young.
Wow. It's going to be amazing.
And that's just the first day!
So, how do you train for an event of this magnitude you might be asking yourself.
1) Lots of walking. Be prepared for a ton of foot work trekking across town unless you are OK with shelling out beau coup bucks to the pedi cab drivers. Also, if you are staying at a hotel in an outlying area, it's advantageous to purchase a Shuttle pass. Available in single, five and nine-day increments, it's well worth the investment and, in my opinion, is way better than having a rental car and getting a cab is next to impossible. So why try?
2) Study a map of the central downtown area where the festival occurs, especially if you haven't been there before.
Most events are centered between the Convention Center and 6th Avenue, west of I-35. However, in recent years, showcases have begun expanding further east of I-35 and south of the river (primarily on South Congress Avenue). Of course a smartphone is super-handy (and pretty essential) to have whilst down there- not only for checking last minute schedule updates, but for locating yourself and the venues you are trying to find. Showcases are added and schedules are changing until the fat lady is singing and if you're offline, you're probably missing out.
3) If you've purchased an official SXSW badge, create your SXSW social account and start flagging events you're interested in. Things move quickly while you're down there and it's helpful to have several options in mind in case you aren't where you thought you'd be when the time arrives. Also be sure to register online for ticket lotteries to the most exclusive showcases. Winners are generally announced 24 hours prior to events and both my husband & I have been fortunate to win in the past.
4) Register with DO512, and keep up with a ton of Official and Unofficial SXSW events. Unofficial SXSW is almost as extensive as the festival itself, and if you can't afford an official badge there's always music to be found. Often a cover charge and a wait in line can get you into some exclusive showcases (though certainly not all). Waterloo Records is a great place to catch live music and showcases free of charge (plus, cool vinyl, can't beat that!) They often times host autograph signings during the festival, too.
5) We've been to Austin a few times now and have a few favorite restaurants, but I always check restaurant guides (Diners, Drive In's and Dives is one of my fave's) to have an idea of good, accessible and relatively inexpensive places to try while we're there. I also pack snacks to have in our back pack and our hotel room because you can't be guaranteed a Taco Bell at three in the morning.
6) If you get completely burnt out and need to escape the fest for a bit, Austin is a super cool town with lots of fun things to do and see. Home to the State Capitol building, the University of Texas, a bridge full of bats and an abundance of art and culture, there's something for everyone.
7) Know that the Convention Center has restrooms open to the public (non-badge holders this means you).
8) If you're thinking about saving some airfare or beating the crowd by skipping town on Saturday- FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T DO IT! Some of the best things happen on the climactic Saturday nights. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but you'll regret it later.
9) Last but not least, as best you can, prepare to have your mind blown. If there's one thing I know it's that no SX is the same and there's no telling what could happen any given year.