Vinyl Mag’s Guide to SXSW

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South by Southwest.

Indescribable.  But here I am, about to try to describe it.

SXSW was intense, exhausting, physically painful at times, and overwhelming.  But it was also arguably the best week of my life.  I’ve never had so much productive (and thoroughly professional at all times, of course) fun in my entire life, and I’m already ready to go back.  Seriously…is it next year yet?

It is important to note that, more than being the X Games of music festivals, SXSW is also a conference and an incomparable networking opportunity.  Most of the day for me was spent attending parties and exchanging business cards American-Psycho-style, making connections and building mutually beneficial business relationships (such a hard life).

This was my first year at SXSW (and definitely not my last), so I had a lot to learn.  Like…a lot.  And fortunately, I had the presence of mind to take notes so that I could share my knowledge with you – and so I would be prepared the next time around.  So here it is.  My rundown of SXSW 2013:

Favorite venue: Mohawk.

Least favorite venue: The Belmont (too crowded; unless you get there four hours early and wait to be in the tiny pit, anywhere you stand provides a pretty unimpressive view of the stage).

Favorite discovery: Ginger & the Ghost.

Favorite day parties: Spotify, Yard Dog Gallery (both of which required some serious Frodo-and-Sam-style trekking, but were well worth it).

Favorite food: Taco N’ Madre food truck (I don’t know what the sauces are, but don’t ask questions and just put all of them on your tacos — you’re welcome).

Favorite live performance: Still is (and may always be) Diarrhea Planet.  They make me act stupid and get sweaty, and I appreciate that.

Favorite line-up: Sirah, Charli XCX, Icona Pop, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis all played at The Belmont on Night One.  Pretty epic.

Favorite app: Hail A Cab Austin (this saved me countless times when I was trying to get to an interview.  Wish I’d discovered it Day One.  Kind of wish I hadn’t told you guys about it.  If I can’t get a cab next year, I’m blaming my readers).

Biggest show I sort of made it to (but more like listened to from far away): Flaming Lips at Auditorium Shores Stage.  So crowded I would have gotten the same experience watching it on TV.

Earliest bed time: 3 a.m.

Latest I slept in: 8:30 a.m.

Best public place to regain strength, charge your phone, use the bathroom, and lay on the floor and complain about how much pain you’re in: Austin Convention Center upstairs (surprise, surprise).

Favorite street: Rainey Street.

Favorite celebrity sightings: Standing in line behind Pauly Shore at Iron Works BBQ, meeting Perez Hilton at the VH1 Cafe, and being too scared to go talk to LeVar Burton at the Sennheiser + Paste Interactive Studio & Lounge on Rainey Street.

Favorite fan-girl moment: meeting Icona Pop at the VH1 Cafe and acting extremely uncool about it (sorryI’mnotsorry for creeping).

Favorite score: Generous Unknown Girl came up to me while I was sitting pensively on a bench and asked me if I wanted the free red American Apparel skirt she got because she didn’t feel like carrying it around.  If only she had a backpack (see Lesson One below).  Thank you, Generous Unknown Girl.  I am forever grateful to you.

Biggest rip-off: Wu Wu Fest advertising “free Wu Wu sushi” at their party if you RSVP/”Like” them on FB…what they should have said was “one tray of six pieces of free sushi to be passed around once every two hours so you probably won’t get any unless you hang out by the kitchen, suckers”…I’m bitter, yes, but I was really hungry.

Most pointless “secret show”: Justin Timberlake at Myspace.  It’s not a secret show if it’s plastered all over the wall of the building in giant letters.

Now that I’ve shared my high and lowlights with you, let me move on to the valuable lessons I learned…

Lesson One: Don’t wear new shoes, stupid.  Wear the most comfortable, walkable shoes you can find.  I don’t care if they are Crocs (actually, I take that back —  Crocs are inexcusable), but in this case, style is secondary to practicality.  I seriously have blister scars on my heels from these stupidly adorable mint Oxfords that I thought were a good idea.  Damn my vanity.

On that note, go with a backpack instead of a purse.  Hands-free is where it’s at.  And throw a sweater in there.  It gets a little chilly at night.

Lesson Two: Let some things go.  You will never be able to stick to the uber-strict time-crunch schedule you have made for yourself, so allow yourself to go with the flow, always have a Plan B, and remember to leave yourself some time to stumble upon some new discoveries.  That’s part of what SXSW is for.  It’s not just a festival to see your iPod playlist come to life (did that reference date me? Should I have said Spotify or Drinkify playlist?).

Lesson Three: Bring your phone charger with you.  Bring a portable charger.  Trust me.  You’re gonna be InstaTweetVining the crap out of this thing, and your phone can only handle so much.

Lesson Four: Don’t wait in line for any band for more than 15 minutes.  It is a waste of time.  You are missing too much of the goings-on around you, and chances are the band you are impatiently waiting for will be playing an unofficial show tomorrow at 2:00.  Which brings me to…

Lesson Five: Do not rely strictly on the official SXSW show schedule.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this schedule is THE BOMB, and the SXSW app on your phone that allows you to make your own schedule kept me from running around like a headless chicken (more than I already was, anyway), but chances are, your must-see-or-it-was-all-for-nothing band is playing either a day party you don’t know about or an unofficial showcase somewhere.  Look up your priority bands on their Twitters and websites, and chances are you’ll be able to track them down.

Lesson Six: Stalk Twitters and RSVP to absolutely everything you plan on attending well in advance.

There you have it.  Now let’s do that again.

Emily is an over-enthusiastic lover of music, books, movies, fashion, and culture in general. Her love of music spans across all genres (what is a genre anymore? she waxes poetic to herself), though she was nursed on true punk and will never understand “redneck country” music – tractors are not and cannot be sexy. Emily currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and considers herself to be a great wit, though she is still waiting on validation from a credible source.


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