“South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual music, interactive and film festival held in Austin every year.” – SXSW.com
While technically accurate, this generic definition did nothing to prepare me for the 10-day blur of adventures I got myself into with classmates and friends, new and old.
Spoon, Jurassic 5’s Charlie Tuna, Nas, Run the Jewels, Verite, BØRNS, Gorgon City, Odesza, Elliphant, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Big Data, Twin Shadow and Best Coast were among the bands I saw play throughout the festival. There were many others…
And I did not even really see all that SXSW had to offer. Admittedly, I skimped a little bit on many of the amazing interactive panels. One of my classmates won a guitar from a Japanese start-up by playing an accurate rendition of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and many others attended fascinating panels led by CXOs of some of the most prestigious companies in the world. I also somehow missed Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart wandering the street, as well as a free screening of Fast 7.
However, for me, SXSW was about trying to catch as much music as possible. I chose to bypass any of the SXSW badges, as well as the SXSW music wristband and test my luck by utilizing connections and being in the right place at the right time. Before SXSW, many of my fellow McCombs friends staying in town came together, compared schedules and tried to plan out our days. While at times this was successful (Spotify House), sometimes we just got lucky. There were multiple shows I just ended up walking into the venue not knowing who was going to be playing, only to have an incredible night with friends.
Here are a few of my top SXSW Music Tips & Tricks that helped me a lot:
– Create a What’sApp (or something similar) chain with all McCombs people that stay in town for SXSW. We leveraged this on a daily basis to determine what people’s plans were for the day, and most importantly to determine what the line/wristband situation was at similar venues. Many of us did not waste time at ‘at-capacity’ venues and were able to meet up at near-empty ones for shows (this is how I saw Ghostface and Raekwon).
– Leverage McCombs connections!!! There are a lot of McCombs alumni that are working at amazing companies in Austin and across the country that hold SXSW events. Through direct and one-off connections, I was able to volunteer at an Umbel event and get VIP-access for Spoon. Through a one-off connection, I scored VIP-backstage tickets to a Nas concert and was let into numerous after-parties and events.
– Hit up South Congress if you are looking for a more relaxed day. Once you cross the bridge and get downtown, there will be people everywhere. The streets are still manageable, but do not expect to be able to drop into a coffee shop and get work done. South Congress has a much less crowded, chill vibe (especially during the first week). They also have some great local acts (although these can be found all over downtown and the east side). West 6th is generally less crowded than the East Side and Downtown.
– Give new venues and new bands a try. This is pretty self-explanatory, but as long as the venue isn’t too far away (2+ miles away from downtown), check it out! I had never heard of Scoot Inn and now I cannot wait to go back!
We’re already looking forward to next year!