SXSW is one of most well-known indie music festivals held in Austin, Texas. It grows larger every year, with more rules and restrictions. An all access writstband was $750 in 2012 for the 5-day music portion. Some argue that all of the rules are just to keep money in the hands of the organizers. Some bands who play at an Official SXSW event were made to agree to only play one other event, making it prohibitively costly for musicians. There's probably not much money to be made on only 2 gigs. But it could also be the big break they've been waiting for, with coverage by every major music media outlet.
My plan: go unofficial. It's my first SXSW, but I've been to Austin numerous times, so I have a few ideas of what to expect- lots of walking, stand-still traffic jams, and as much music as I can handle. Numerous websites have databases of events, day parties and unofficial showcases, many offering free food and drinks-while they last. I prepare before the trip by finding bands I want to see, rsvping to as many shows as I can reasonably get to, up to 6 a day. I know rsvp-ing doesn't mean I'll get in, but I use it to keep organized with Facebook events and emails for reference. On day 1, the road trip begins at o' dark thirty along with 2 people I've selected from respondants to my Craigslist rideshare posting. We take turns driving, dj-ing and napping through 3 states, stopping only for gas and potty breaks. My intent is to do it on the cheap, packing my car full of the makings for pb&j's, fruit, snacks and water. Gas for the entire trip will be less than a single plane ticket. We reach Amarillo, Texas, the halfway point, right as the sun is coming up, perfectly timed to see sunlight reflecting off mirrored highrise buildings downtown. It's going to be a good trip, I can already tell.
We arrive at 2:30 pm, local time, for a total of 14 hours on the road including stops. We've taken to running the air conditioner, mostly to clear up the foggy windows. The temperature is perfect, but the change in humidity is noticeable. One of my carpool mates, red-headed Cameron, is a former Austonian, and he takes us on a little tour when we arrive. First stop, Barton Springs/Zilker Park to strectch our legs. The park is full of people, despite it being a weekday, and parking is non-existant. Welcome to Austin. We drive to the nearest Chuy's restaurant for happy hour, a place I've been once before. Purchase of a drink gives us access to the nacho bar, with delicious queso, beans, meat and 4 kinds of salsa. I fall in love with the kitschy wall art, and the PacMan themed t-shirts the servers are wearing. We gourge ourselves and then head to the greenbelt. We hike muddy trails to arrive at the Landbridge- a natural rock formation suspended 60-80 feet above the creek below. For the rest of my time there, the locals are buzzing at the fact that there's any water at all at the greenbelt, something of a rarity. We make friends with some other people on the Landbridge, and I think to myself that people are more outgoing here. It's nearly sundown, so we leave with plans to return and jump off on a hot day.
I drop off Cameron at the Alamo Drafthouse to meet a friend, not to see him again until the end of the week. Nathan comes back with me to the apartment I will be staying at for the week, the home of a friend since high school and former Puebloan. We take turns showering and we both sleep off the day's long drive and hike, waking up after midnight. I drop Nathan off downtown to catch up with a friend's band from Austrailia, his home. I don't see him again for the week either. I return to the apartment, Carl is on his way home from work along with another friend, and they're bringing tacos, a daily must-have in my book. This is one of the things I always miss most when I leave Austin, they're nothing like any tacos in Pueblo. The three of us decide to take a stroll around the neighborhood, getting lost trying to find the trains we hear nearby. Is getting lost really possible though, in the day of the gps-enabled smartphone? The temperature is still perfect even though we don't get back until late in the morning. The schedule is pretty typical for the week, good thing I'm on vacation.
See the photos from day 1 here.Read more