Written by Benjy Oliver
My life was recently radically changed forever as I was able to fulfill a dream. Yes, I was able to finally experience the notorious and legendary South By Southwest in Austin. My only regret is not going to this event sooner, and not staying longer while I was there. I’m using the word event as lightly as possible here, if you couldn’t tell. SXSW is of course mostly for music industry types and insiders. It’s also paradise to music and art lovers alike, and mecca to anyone seeking a good time. Since I waited so long to make a decision about going, I did not have any official representation. My best friend and I would simply show up without any passes, badges, or wristbands. We both wondered how our budget conscious decision would affect our experience. Our goal: to try and attend 10 shows in 3 days!
We anxiously arrived late Thursday night, just missing the free show by The Strokes. Our first stop was a crowded bar on 6th street called Peckerheads. We ascended the stairs and made our way into the crowded club just in time to see Yelawolf taking the stage a little after midnight. The energy was so intense in the room, it felt as if the wooden floor beneath us would cave in for sure! And while our pre-fest planning included seeing a free show by The Bravery at 2 am, we decided we should get our rest while we could instead.
The largest learning curve for SXSW virgins is learning about the schedule, the options, and of course getting used to getting around the state capitol. We spent most of the day Friday between the Metal Blade tent and Emo’s. Well, that and getting lost! We observed a couple bands outside of the tent before entering the always packed, infamous Emo’s to catch Foster the People and Esben and The Witch. We weren’t able to get to Matt and Kim, Little Dragon, Chiddy Bang, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, or Mac Miller that night. We saw Jack White’s Third Man Records van, but were too intoxicated to explore further. We spent Friday walking through the city, taking in the one of a kind sights and sounds along 6th street. It’s quite amazing as you walk from place to place, and there is literally live music all around in every direction. At times it even becomes hard to distinguish as different songs blend into one.
Our bodies grew stiff and sluggish by the time Saturday morning rolled around. We spent most of the day at the one and only Waterloo Records. The entire stage setup was surprisingly solar powered. It was there we saw The Meat Puppets, Neon Trees, J Mascis, and Kurt Vile. Since those were the only plans during the day, we were free again to wander the wild and chaotic madness of the city. And what better night, with the moon being the closest it has been to earth in the last 20 years. And as fate would have it, we were lucky enough to end this great night by being able to see one of the best performances of our trip: Rittz.
This trip ended up being one of the best of my life. I seriously can’t imagine any other place I would want to be besides Austin this time every year. The marvelous city somehow becomes much more magical and magnificent. It is perhaps such a special place because it’s where dreams can come true and dreams can be lived out I can’t wait until next year!
Tomorrow will have part two of my coverage of this year’s SXSW fest, featuring reviews of the shows we attended. The next day will have my final part three, with a list of the best new bands and music we discovered.