What can I say about SXSW? Those who follow BBB on Twitter or Like us on Facebook were getting the constant updates, and clearly I was stoked all week long. It was my first time, and I forsee that it will be impossible for me to miss one in the future. If you are a music lover, especially an Indie music lover, it is the place to be. I would personally rank it over Coachella, which I went to for the first time last year.
SXSW starts out insanely overwhelming. There are endless amounts of bands to see, and if the ones you care to see aren’t ‘Official’ SXSW bands, it can be a chore to find their set times. I was thankful for the bands who were good about updating their social media daily. However, there were a couple of times when I finally saw mention of a band’s set like an hour before it, having no mention before that they were even attending SXSW. Frustrating. Guess they don’t like people promoting for them or coming to see them play.
Anyway, I was smart and I followed the advice I had been given by friends and band members who had been. My friend and I didn’t have any shows that we would be crushed if we didn’t get into, and we mapped out who we hoped to see. Nightly, usually at dinner, we would make a game plan for the next day. Now, we didn’t have badges, those who did really had to battle it out to get into popular showcases (Like those at Stubbs). I don’t like to deal with that shit. Honestly, unless you are a musician or in need of networking, the badge is unnecessary. I easily got into ALL of the showcases I wanted to with the exception of one.
Overall, I counted that just set-wise (with a few repeat bands) I saw around 27 badass sets of music and probably 4-5 awful sets. That is a lot within 5 days. It was heaven on Earth for me. I want to live SXSW every day of my life. The only concerns were finding music to get lost in, booze to drink and amazing food to eat. There were no thoughts of the outside world for a week. It was my kind of place. To add to it being a music fan’s haven, at times I was in close proximity to the likes of greats like Dave Grohl, Mike Dirnt, Joe Lewis and Michael Fitzpatrick, and when this happened (and not at their own show) it served as a reminder that these great musicians, whom get put on pedestals, are people too. They were there out and about scoping out music just like us.
Now, it was hard for me to nail down my standout performances because I really loved so many of them. The talent, energy and effort that bands were putting into their set, even on day 5 after who knows how many shows (One I saw had played 15 shows by the time Saturday night rolled around!) was phenomenal. After putting an excruciating amount of thought into it over the course of the last few days, I would have to say my standout performances (of bands unknown to me or I had not seen live before) came from Reignwolf, Free Energy, and The Stone Foxes. The sets I caught by these bands (A double dose from Reignwolf and Free Energy) were the total package and I’m still hyped on them almost a week later.
Aside from these standouts, I loved that we could also stroll down 6th or 7th streets and just hear music wafting out from a venue. Sometimes it would catch us enough to drag us in (Found Aktar Aktar, The Welcome and a few others this way). Or we would show up to a showcase early just to see a couple of other bands who were playing. Some were not my thing, and others, like The Royal Heist or Dinner & a Suit, definitely ended up being my thing.
Another cool happening was running into friends of mine or band members I knew from LA, SF, Fresno, and all over the country as we walked to showcases, or who were also attending the showcase we were. It was fun to ‘compare notes’ on bands we were all digging. Some of my favorites ended up being recommendations, and were not on my original list to scope.
Overall, SXSW was five days in a row of 12+ hours of music, walking, standing, dancing, drinking, eating and just a damn exhaustingly good time. I can’t wait to do it all over again.
My personal advice and great advice I received:
As an attendee:
1. Wear comfortable shoes, girls if you are in it for the music, its not the week for heels.
2. Stay hydrated and fed, even if it means missing something. The standing and amount of walking will kill you if you don’t.
3. Don’t ‘pickle’ yourself by drinking too much on day 1, or even at the start of a day, pace is key. (At one point I was just doing a shot at each venue we went to, worked out pretty well…)
4. Extra phone charger. A Morphie brand charger is what I had, it’s a lifesaver. Don’t bother trying to bring your usual plug thinking you will easily find an outlet, you won’t.
5. Keep your ID in your wallet. DO NOT put it in a jeans pocket. It may seem like a chore, but you don’t want to forget it in the pants you wore the day before. All venues check ID’s and depending on where you are staying it can be a chore to go back to get it and you will miss radness.
6. Map out your plan of attack at the EARLIEST the night before. Any earlier and you may not be on the lookout for bands announcing new showcases.
For Bands(really this advice goes well for any show, not just SXSW):
1. UPDATE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY. You want people at your showcases don’t you?!
2. Be ready for a super fast load in, set times tend to be short. Maximize the time to play tunes for the audience instead of fucking with your gear.
3. Personally hand out CD’s if you are giving music away, seriously. It makes a personal connection and people will be more inclined to take a listen.
4. Go check out other bands! Support them! Give them a shout out! (I found a couple I really liked because a band I was a fan of dug them and told people!)
5. ALWAYS say the name of your band clearly during your set. Multiple times even. I know by show 5,6,7+ it can be hard to remember, but don’t count that everyone is there for you or has read or will read the posters with your name on it. Hell, sometimes the posters haven’t been updated.
6. Find a way to STAND OUT. Free download cards are okay and all but do you know how many of those I got? Tons. My brother and I had an ongoing discussion about how hard it must be for bands to stand out. At one point early in the week he told me about some band who gave him a weighted poker chip with their info on it (he couldn’t recall the name at the time), which we both thought was unique. Turned out that band was one I had planned to see later in the week for the first time, Not A Planet. They handed me one after their show and I had to text my bro to tell him about them. Killer idea.
Scope all of my pics here: