The Ultimate SXSW Guide: Tips From a Serial Adventurer

by Khrysi Briggs on March 7, 2017 in Entertainment, Music, Lifestyle, Living Texas, Austin, Travel,

Whether you’ve traveled hundreds of miles to attend or spent a month’s rent to spring for that Platinum Badge, odds are you’ve been planning this musical odyssey for months now. With the big shindig finally here, are you prepared for anything and everything? Do you know how to fest like a pro? Folks, SXSW 2017 is here. Over at TLM we’re stockpiling on sleep, curating our ultimate must-see lists, and preparing for total fest domination. To ensure that you have the best fest ever too, here are some tips and tricks of the trade, compiled by the most seasoned festival goers and audiophiles we know.

Step Outside Your Fashion Box – Comfortably

you don't have to go full-blown bohemian, but this isn't a weekend in the hills either. It's time to get weird.
you don’t have to go full-blown bohemian, but this isn’t a weekend in the hills either. It’s time to get weird.

When attending a multi-day music festival, it’s important to get familiar with the clothes in your closet that achieve both fashion forwardness and comfort. Festivals often inspire a more laid-back, boho approach to street style that can open the door for you to take some fashion risks you might not normally try in your daily life. Say pairing a cute dress with a pair of Chuck Taylors, or splurging on a pair of designer overalls (hey, I said they might be fashion risks).

Go Home Texas Weather, You’re Drunk…

One of the biggest keys to having a great fest is getting familiar with the weather patterns of your host city. Say for instance you’re attending SXSW in Austin in March. You should know that Texas in spring is alternately dry and then rainy, and can often jump from winter to summer temperatures and back over the course of just a few days (or, as is often the case, within the same day). They key to fickle weather survival is layering – especially elements that can easily be stowed when they’re not being worn. Light sweaters and windbreakers that can be rolled up and tucked in a bag are ideal festival gear.

Festival Footwear

The right footwear makes all the difference.
The right footwear makes all the difference.

Music festivals are awesome, and you’re not the only one who thinks so. There are lines to get into the venues, lines to get to the bar, lines to cross the street… lines, lines, everywhere a line. While a cute pair of sandals might seem like the perfect footwear for a balmy spring or summer fest, you leave your tootsies open to a litany of foot assaults from other, more heavily-clad hooves. I know they perfectly compliment your new romper, and they’re sooo comfy, but do your feet a favor and arm them with the protection they need from 30,000 or so other attendees.

Make a Plan

It may have some problems, but this baby will save you tons of time if used right.
It may have some problems, but this baby will save you tons of time if used right.

Do your due diligence – this is the only SXSW 2017 experience you’ll ever have! Sure, it’s exciting to stumble across a new band you just found and fell in love with, but it’s also really awesome to catch a set you’ve been stoked about for months. Know your must-sees, and make them happen. Be conscious of which artists you’ll be able to catch another time in case a sacrifice has to be made. Utilize the amazing scheduling apps that most festivals offer now. The SXSW GO Mobile app in particular can help you navigate one of the farthest-reaching lineup of acts currently offered in the festival world. Get familiar with it pre-fest – it’ll save you tons of time and searching later. Add favorites and build your schedule in the app or sync with your online schedule between devices. The “My Favorites” lists will auto-update as more event information becomes available. Abby, the SXSW Bot delivers a casual, fun conversational-style user experience to help Attendees navigate SXSW, find out what’s happening, and get timely answers to FAQs. If you’re a first-timer, solo-goer or a SXSenior, this app will help you out. Other benefits include:

  • SXSW Recommends – SXSW delivers personalized recommendations based on your interests.
  • Schedule – Browse the entire SXSW 2017 Schedule on the go.
  • Networking – Search the directory for other Attendees.

Have #squadgoals

Festivals can be an amazing excuse to spend days enjoying your squad of equally music-enthused friends. It can also be a great place to lose your cell phone, over-serve yourself, and get completely lost in a crowd. If you and your crew are adhering to a loose buddy system, designate a meet-up location and a time where you can all plan to end the day together and make it back to wherever you’re staying in one piece. This may seem like a “family vacation” approach to something that is essentially a multi-day party, but it adds an element of security to an atmosphere where literally anything can happen.

Maximize Day Partying

Day parties are a great way to find new bands to fall for.
Day parties are a great way to find new bands to fall for.

When big festivals come to town, big businesses do, too. Throngs of rapt and eager consumers provide the perfect platform to plug some product, and beer, liquor, and food companies tend to take full advantage of this. SXSW in particular offers the widest array of Day Parties of any festival I’ve ever seen, many of which offer free food and drinks to attendees. For the thrifty fester, these day parties can be a budget game-changer. Stop in to a tent or event sponsored by a local eatery or brewery to nosh on some great eats and local brews on the cheap (a few bucks in the tip jar each trip to the bar will make you a rockstar fester to the bartenders). Odds are they’ve booked bands to draw a crowd too, so you’re likely to catch a great set while you’re there. Be mindful of where you’re partying, and keep an eye on your phone. You never know what celebs may be jamming to the same set as you at any given time.

Get to Know the City’s Transportation System

If you take public transportation, expect delays. Photo by Spencer Selvidge via KUT News
If you take public transportation, expect delays. Photo by Spencer Selvidge via KUT News

With the insurgence of thousands of attendees over the course of a few days, festivals can be hell on a city’s traffic. Get familiar with the public transportation offered by your destination city – how late do the buses or trains run? How far is your hotel/lodging from the festival? How much time and money have you budgeted to get back and forth over the course of the fest? Knowing these things in advance will help you enjoy more of your time while you’re there. Cap Metro service will be extended during the weeks of SXSW® and can fit your schedule most every time. If you’re planning to use the bus system, download the CapMetro App for comprehensive maps and details. You can also pay for your pass through the app, saving your loose cash for those day parties. You can also get around using an Austin B-cycle or one of the many pedicabs use to be whizzing around.

What To Pack

There are a few essentials that can literally save your festival experience. Some things you should always keep on hand that are probably not already on your must-pack list are:

  • A portable rechargeable battery for your smartphone/tablet
  • Sunscreen – you’re going to be outside all day
  • Band-aids (for walking blisters); and if you’re like me, a pair of purse sandals – just in case
  • Ear plugs – you may be here to hear the music, but at some point you may want to hear it just a little less
  • Cash – $1’s and $5’s if possible (for tipping on day party freebies)

And finally, from one music lover to another, the best advice I can give you is to be open-minded. Look up from your phone every now and then, and enjoy the moment in front of you. Be present. Meet new people, fall in love with new bands; rediscover the simple joys of adventure and experience. In the end, following that advice will ultimately lead to a festival experience that you’ll remember for years to come.