Friends, I know I have reported back on a lot of the exciting SXSW events, but I decided it would be a shame to leave Austin without showing you some of the local color.
Okay, maybe these weren’t real, authentic Austinites, but they were some of the more enthusiastic participants in the shenanigans on 6th street, which served as party central for the music portion of SXSW.
So many things vied for your attention in these quick-moving four days of music-driven insanity, it truly was hard to parse through it all. I was immediately drawn to Flatstock, a convention of rock concert poster artists from around the country, including the talented Brian Ewing, Rob Jones, and Peter Cardoso. Since I have no wall space left in my New York-sized apartment, I somehow managed to make it out of that convention hall empty-handed — but it was a struggle with all that pretty paper on display.
Of course, most of the time since I’ve last checked in, has been spent elbowing my way to the front of some of the coolest live music shows I’ve ever seen. South By Southwest is incredible not only in the variety and sheer number of shows it offers at one time, but also in the relative intimacy of each of those shows. The largest scale venue I entered during the entire festival was Stubb’s, where Noah and the Whale played in a showcase with Portugal. The Man, and TV on the Radio. And as the pictures below will show you, I still got pretty freaking close to those guys. For Long Islanders, I would equate the size of the venue to a Jones Beach. For non-Long Islanders, so sorry, you should have grown up where I grew up so you could get my references. But almost every other show I attended was in a small club setting, with the musicians so close you could feel them breathe on you five rows back. There was so little space between me and the legendary Emmylou Harris when I saw her perform, I could have slapped her five (though she didn’t seem down). The point is, you will have opportunities to see these acts in other venues around the United States, but not in close quarters like these. Especially once we writers are done disseminating our messages of love about the acts that wooed us to the rest of the music-consuming universe.
Speaking of which. Though I did see many more bands than I had the chance to write about, here are the links to the ones I thought were most worth reviewing. I would buy any of these artists’ albums and see them again live in a hot minute.
Though I am amazed at how much ground I was able to cover, I definitely have been thinking about what I could have done to better prepare myself for the madness. Thus I bring you…
Tips for next year:
- Book your hotel room early. By the time I planned my trip this year, all hotels within a five-mile radius of downtown Austin (where all the action is) were booked solid, and trust me, you do not want to be staying outside the (surprisingly reliable) SXSW shuttle bus system.
- If you haven’t arranged to lay your head on a pillow in the downtown area, party on, but not after 1am. I mean, you can if you dare (and lord knows it’s tempting to keep boozing on green beer night), but when the shuttles stop running, the battle royale for the cabs begins. Expect to wait on the side of roads with nine hundred of your competitors while your booze slowly wears away, and your drinking buddies become grumpy buddies. Not fun.
- Get the App. I am not always the earliest adopter of technology, but I have to say, the SXSW mobile app saved my night on multiple occasions. Arrive at a show of dubious promise? All you has to do was get on your iPhone or Droid for constantly updated access to a listing of the shows going on at that very moment and into the evening. The program even allowed you to mark and save your favorites. I’m sure there will be a new version for next year’s festival (and who knows what devices we’ll be using to access it – chips in our brains?) but do take advantage of the tools the festival provides to help you organize the mountain of activities at your disposal.
- Do a little research. Just a little. You don’t have to drive yourself nuts, but it is way more fun to realize the band whose album you just became obsessed with played three shows before and not after they happen.
- That said, be flexible. Know that potential for fun exponentially increases when you stress less and go with the flow. Some of the shows you want to go to will be packed, and you’ll walk away. You will miss some things you desperately want to see, like SURPRISE THREE HOUR KANYE PERFORMANCES starring all of the guests from “My Dark Twisted Fantasy.” So what. (Sniffle sniffle.) You saw eight bands you knew nothing about five days ago, and a couple more you thought would never reunite to play again.
- Eat a lot of vegetables before you go. Before the start of the Sharon Van Etten show, I heard someone to my left exclaim, “Man, that is IMPRESSIVE.” Turns out he was referring to a twee little audience member fisting something that looked like an uncooked hot dog, but that ended up being, of all things, a plain old carrot. Drowning in empanadas and food covered in unidentifiable salsas, all of us were simply craving untarnished delivery systems for real deal vitamins. Next year I’m sending myself a fruit basket to the hotel room.
Hope to see you all at SXSW 2012! And now, it’s nap time…