Wednesday, March 13, 2013
10 tips for braving the musical madness of SXSW
Bring a bike, comfy shoes and a water bottle, at the very least.
AUSTIN We all know that SXSW is an annual soiree of musical madness that takes over Austin. But if you've never attended before, it can be slightly overwhelming. Here are 10 tips for getting the most out of your experience.
1. RSVP to all things
Yes, it’s a pain, but it’s become an annual SXSW music ritual – hitting up all the SXSW websites, finding the best parties, and adding your RSVP. There are sites which make this project less of a chore – WillCall (free) and RSVPster ($30), but neither are perfect and both don’t guarantee that you’ll be RSVP’d for every possible event. Your best bet, is to comb through scheduling sites like Showlist Austin, Sched.org, Oh My Rockness, and Do512 to find your favorite parties, then register.
2. Create a loose schedule, but prepare to deviate
The best part of SXSW music is the serendipity – those times where you bailed on the long line for the indie supergroup and discovered your next favorite band at the hole in the wall bar next door. Or when you stumbled on that secret performance by an all time great. Sure, you’ll want to try to see your current favorite or that up and coming buzz band, but don’t be worried if you wind up at an unplanned showcase. It’ll all work out in the end.
Goes almost without saying. Guzzle a free beer? Guzzle a bottle of water right after. SXSW music is a grueling affair, and it can’t be successfully completed with out plenty of that sweet sweet H2O. If you’re like me, you’ll carry around a Nalgene (or equivalent) all day long.
I’m reminded of my favorite Peelander-Z song with this tip. SXSW music is a freeloader’s dream: party after party with free food. Make sure you eat those three squares a day. Even with all the commotion of SXSW, you’ll still find plenty of opportunities to eat.
Your phone will die exactly when you least want it to. The sooner you accept that fact, the sooner you can start preparing. Personally, I like to carry around a few of these bad boys. Portable battery packs are a lifesaver. If you can’t fork over the coin for a battery pack, there are plenty of brands that will be out and about at SXSW offering free charging stations.
Until you see it for yourself, it’s hard to understand just how massive SXSW really is. Sure, most of the action takes place on 6th street and Red River, but there are shows all over town. SXSW dominates a large portion of the Texas music capital. And when you only have 10 minutes to get from the Waterloo records showcase to the next party on the other side of town, having a bike is key.
SXSW music is one of the only music festivals in the world that you could go to and only spend money on travel and lodging. Sure, the music badges are pricey, but there are many free shows and parties all around town, all day long. Many of these parties also have free booze and grub. So if you play your cards right you can eat, drink and listen to some great new bands all for the low low price of zero.
8. Stay connected
If you’re going with a group of friends, you will get separated. It’s just a part of the SXSW experience. If you’re smart (and I know you are) you’ll plan for this. Cell phones and texting are great, but if you want to step it up a level, use a group texting app like GroupMe. It’s a lifesaver.
9. Comfy Shoes
SXSW is an exercise in managing foot pain. Depending on how early you’re waking up each day, you could easily be walking and standing from 10am – 2am (and later!) each day. Personally, I love me some Toms. They’re comfy, lightweight, and easy to slip on and off. But use your own judgement.
10. Stay healthy
SXSW music is a marathon and a sprint. And unless you’ve been training by attending 5 day long music festivals every week, your body won’t be prepared. Keep it in tip top shape (and recover a bit faster in the mornings) with large and regular doses of Emergen-C (mix it up with that water your chugging) and Vitamin C pills. Plus, keep a bottle of antibacterial gel on hand, and use liberally. With any luck, you’ll make it out of SXSW with your immune system (and liver) fully intact.
Now it’s your turn! What are your SXSW music tips? Share them in the comments!
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