Twas the Night Before South By…
The festival of all festivals is upon on us. People are either flocking to the heart of downtown, or planning their getaway – in which case, why do you live here!? Sorry, soapbox. In all seriousness, if you want to flock with me, it’s time to get mentally prepared.
First of all, SXSW is a marathon, not a sprint… Though you should probably embrace sprinting, as well. I understand and encourage your Day 1 enthusiasm. There are parties and free drinks and free food and the leader of the free world!! But this is a 10-day event. TEN DAYS. Take a breath, dismiss the idea of pre-gaming, and pack some snacks.
If you haven’t already, a little scheduling can go a long way. Simply picking the one event or session you want to see/attend most each day will help preserve your sanity. You are about to be inundated with options upon options, and heartfelt promises of the next best thing. If you realize you’re in a lame session, get up and walk out! Your time is valuable, and those extra minutes may guarantee your space in a session worth attending the following hour. Likewise, if you realize there is an evening without late night activities that entice you, don’t be afraid to go to bed early one or two nights!! Sleep is your friend.
On the other hand, “free” is not your friend. Sure there are exceptions (food – always eat), but more often than not, “free” will weigh you down with throwaway swag [Editor’s note: though we do endorse Hershey’s Take5 Swag Exchange – an innovative idea if ever there were one (and great music inclusion)], and fill you up with drinks you don’t need. Just because there is free alcohol, you do not have to get drunk – or even have a single drink.* I personally alternate between Diet Coke and 5 Hour Energy. Why? Because I want to absorb valuable information, witness epic moments, and REMEMBER them the next day. Again I say, TEN DAYS. You do not have time for a hangover.
Even though the first 5 days are designated Interactive, music is all around you from Day 1. Hello? This is Austin. Therefore, the same Music festival rules of thumb (elaboration available in previous posts) can be applied immediately. The short version: I have a strong bias toward international acts since they tour the U.S. less frequently, and are generally tougher to catch outside of a festival setting. I also favor smaller venues with regular sound setups (vs. temporary stages and sound systems) such as Lambert’s and The Parish – I’m also eager to check out ACL Live’s new small venue, 3TEN (300 person capacity).
While I have hinted at it, I feel the need to say outright: don’t forget to feed! You will likely be on your feet far more than usual. Your brain will be on overdrive trying to constantly process/learn/make decisions. You will have to be “on” for more of the day, several days in a row. Protein bars, nuts, pretzels, and any other packable snacks will get you through the inevitable long lines, underwhelming sessions, and caffeine shakes (because coffee).
Ready or not… It’s all happening.
*If you cannot resist the free drinks, PLEASE do not drive. Austin has cabs, Uber, Lyft, buses, bikes and ride shares. Use them even if the wait is crazy long or more expensive due to increased demand.