Each year, I learn more about SXSW…what you can get away with, secret spots, best venues, parties to avoid, etc. The main goal being to be exposed to as much new music as possible while having a damn fine time. So far, I’m to be on the right track. Each year gets better than the last, which is difficult to believe since the previous was a fucking blast. The key is to be prepared. I spend months planning for my absolute favorite week of the year. I am giddy and the best feeling is walking down 6th Street on the first day with the warm sun on my skin and feeling the energy in the air. And I hate the sun, so this says a lot. Also, Mr Wackdelly will be joining me for his first SXSW so we have both been listening, planning together, scheduling and I’ve been filling his head with tips and tricks.
Check out my 2011 tips too, but you’ll notice that some tips are outdated (RIP Leslie).
1 :: Do not see the big acts (also on the 2011 list). Seriously, you spend all your time standing in line for hours to see a popular band that tours in your city multiple times a year, when you could be experiencing what SXSW is really about… fresh new music. The undiscovered gems are where it’s at! Over the years some of my favorite SXSW discoveries before they blew up were Baths, Cloud Nothings, Beirut, Warpaint, Of Monsters and Men and Grouplove.
2 :: Check out the free shows at night. My friend at Blue Sky + Hard Rock (along with Music Saves Lives) put on a fantastic showcase last year with free music all day AND night (including free delicious sushi). Be on the lookout for unofficial night parties for they do exist. I believe there will be even more free night stuff this year. (photo: Seryn at Firehouse Lounge & Hostel, 2013)
3 :: There is a new addition to the wrist bands you will be collecting during the week, the Guest Pass wristband. It is a free credential and allows you to get in certain venues/areas (that use to not require any credentials). More info here.
4 :: Be sure to check out Waterloo Records’ free shows from 3/12-3/15, but plan to get there hella early if you want to get in the door. Also, it’s a hike from the main 6th Street music festivities so plan for that and no RSVP necessary! Lineup here and more info here.
5 :: While the beers of the Pacific Northwest are pretty boss, I do miss old Texas favorites like Firemans #4 from Real Ale Brewing and the always refreshing Lone Star. I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it. Also, be sure to tip those great people slinging drinks behind the bar. They are working hard so you can enjoy yourself.
6 :: If you can find a rad band playing a tiny venue off the beaten path, pay the cab fare to check em out. The best shows are the smallest. This is easier said than done. I have skipped seeing some top picks due to location and later found out what I missed out on and that just plain sucks.
7 :: Don’t invest all your time and planning into one showcase or party… the venue will be at capacity, there was a schedule change, the distance is too far, gotta follow the friends, etc. Just have lots of backup music options. I usually plan 10-15 backup options, and that’s just for the day parties.
8 :: Twitter is one of the best on-the-go tools. Ask questions about line status, tweet a band to confirm times, or just see what’s blowing up at the moment in Austin (Prince, Bill Murray sighting, etc). Be sure to use the proper #sxsw or #sxsw2014 hashtags and someone is bound to respond to your inquiries. Secondary tools that work well are the SXSW app and a spreadsheet via the Google Drive app. I’m at @wackdelly if you have any questions.
9 :: Earplugs are a necessity. I wish someone (anyone) would have told me the importance of earplugs at a younger age. Anyhoo, I took 3 pairs of earplugs last year and managed to lose them all. My backpacked savior, Bruce, came to the rescue with a whole bag of earplugs. I might pay it forward and stock-up, then proceed to shove them in the ear holes of all the clueless youth.
10 :: Don’t be a stuck up asshole. Talk to people. If they are friendly and you are friendly, then keep talking. Buy them a Lone Star and chat about your favorites of the fest or suggest bands to check out. I was chatting and giving some suggestions to a lady and it turned out to be Ann Powers of NPR. I’ve met some really great people over the years at SXSW that I still keep in touch with.
All photos by Annie Cuce
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