SXSW isn't quite like any other festival. It's one that begins the second you step off the plane in Austin. Hell, it begins in the airport in Seattle. Sitting at your gate watching rappers cram 9000 of the same cd into their bags, bands make sure their instrument cases are sealed tight. Arguments with the gate flight attendants over whether or not they can fit into the overhead bins. Everyone who's anyone and a whole lot of people who definitely aren't anybody converge every year upon the city in hopes of getting signed, noticed, boosting their profile, or indie cred. Sometimes it works and other times... Well, in a place where booze and Doritos tacos are free, I'm sure you can do the math.
My SXSW started in the Austin airport, where the first of many showcases I would see without trying occurred (there was also one happening in my hotel lobby upon check-in consisting of banal indie rock) but they don't just take place in random places, they also fill every bar, club, venue on 6th street and beyond. Closing down that entire cross section of the city for all kinds of shenanigans even in the street (yes I did see a ginger rapper surrounded by a crowd of people laying down the rhymes). The thing about it is, it's not even all about the music. It's about the atmosphere, about knowing that when you're waiting for your bags at the airport you're going to see 3 people you know without even trying, that you're going to run into friends from the other coast while picking up your credentials and make new ones with theirs along the way.
SXSW is a conference, an industry convention where the product happens to be music, the average festival goer would do good to remember this. Also paramount is a schedule, every band is playing 5+ shows at 9 different venues over 6 days, so you have to be smart about when to see who where, as well as who you might see there. Yesterdays schedule for me (arriving late from Seattle in the afternoon) consisted of hitting the PItchfork Interactive party before bailing early to catch my favorite act from last year in some random deep club across the highway, Nicholas Jaar (who was and is incredible, if you haven't already heard). Along the way the way running into the likes of Eugene Mirman (brilliant comedian also in Bob's Burgers) and Nick fucking Oliveri (from Queens Of The Stone Age, Kyuss, Mondo Generator, etc), there was also a very drunk Fitz from Fitz in the Tantrums but that one got a little weird. If you keep a good eye out you're bound to see all kinds of familiar faces, music and otherwise.
Worth noting though, shell out for a wristband, even a badge if you can, otherwise you're not getting in to see the bands you want, particularly the rare or large ones. You'll feel bad when your bank account takes that initial hit, but as soon as you get here it's worth every penny.You will not sleep enough, you will not eat enough, your feet will hurt, you'll be drunk by 2pm (and stay drunk till 2am), you'll take 50 pictures of nothing and think it's the greatest thing ever at the time, and you will have a blast doing it. Off for the first full day starting with Empress Of at noon! Check back tomorrow and throughout the week for more.
Favorites from the day:
There is a band called Diarrhea Planet here.
Overheard: "You're not supposed to be able to see, it's shoegaze"
On to day 2!