How to Survive SXSW 2000
A good way to survive is not to go at all. If you don't like being around lots of happy music lovers, if you don't love live music, if you are cynical about most everything, if people having a great time is a real turn off for you, if people being too close to you physically makes you crazy, if you whine alot, if you like to criticize things others enjoy, please do us all a favor and stay home.
Here is the information I found most valuable from P2ers when embarking on my first SXSW adventure (in 1997), with additional advice from the following years, including details on wristbands, what to bring/wear to shows, restaurant recommendations, etc.:
Hope this helps someone.
- Wristbands are still a great deal if you want to visit more than one official venue every night during the entire course of the festival, and if you can buy them when they are cheapest (the first week they are sold). Wristbands mean you don't have to pay cover each time you enter a club. And you get to go in ahead of people paying the door admission... but behind the badges. Wristbands do NOT guarantee your entry into a club if the club is already full. But often, they will get you in ahead of ticket buyers.
BUT.... if you just want to go to only one official venue each night, or you can only go to one or two nights of the festival, or if the focus of your SXSW experience is the daily events (Under the Sun, Yard Dog, Cherilyn's P2 Barbeque, etc.), don't buy a wristband.
- Many clubs are "thematic" when booking... but not always. So if two of the bands on the list are roots rock, probably the others will be too (but not always).
- At some venues, you can hear the music very well without entering a club (Waterloo Brewing, Stubb's, Opal Divine's, to name but three). If you don't mind not "seeing" a band, and if the police don't make you move, this is a good option for those on a really limited budget, for those who arrive after the club fills up, or for those under 21.
- There are LOTS of free concerts during the day, from in-stores to official SXSW events in Waterloo Park to unofficial events all over town. These free day events are great ways for under-aged folks to see bands, and to free up your evenings to see even more bands. Free events are compiled and listed on P2. In 2000, the Austin America Statesmen listed some as well. The favorites of many are those at Under the Sun on Congress Avenue (shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday), Saturday at Texacalli Grill, and the Friday show by Bloodshot Records at Yard Dog on Congress.
- WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. Shoes made for walking and standing. And standing. And standing. And standing.
- BRING EARRPLUGS (I think I still have hearing problems from Doug Sahm at the AMAs with the Texas Tornados).
By Monday, one list member said "your feet and calves feel like you've been on a forced march to Cold Harbor and your neck has a terminal crick from looking up at some different stage every turn of the clock, and your eardrums keep time all by themselves between set after set of past masters in the art of reaching in and wrenching your guts, wrapping themselves around your heart and probing all its sore places 'till it's ragged and turning over all that settled ground in your soul."
But it's worth it.
- Don't expect to get much sleep. The fun usually starts around noon each day and doesn't end until the wee hours of the morning, and if you end up at the right after-hours parties (usually in the parking lot of the Austin Motel), you'll be up until dawn.
- If you are in town and a member of P2, you might want to check out Cherilyn's P2 barbeque. It's gotten really big over the years, and it's pretty hard to find other P2 folks at this now, because so many people are there... but it's still worth checking out. Also, someone on P2 has, for the past three years, made a list of everyone on the list that's going to SXSW. Be sure to contact this person if you are going to attend (she or he will post to the list several times announcing they are compiling such) -- others on that list will end up looking for you at various events, and it's really helpful, in the rush to write about SXSW experiences for the list, to be able to look up people's names.
- The weather can change INSTANTLY; bring clothes for most weather conditions, from humid heat to freezing temps and back again. The weather in both 1997 and 2000 hit both of these ranges in the span of 12 hours.
- Don't try to see absolutely everything, or you will spend more time running between venues than actually enjoying music. Plus, you will miss surprises, like bands you never heard of playing great music, unannounced guests, etc. It's helpful to make a music plan in advance, but be flexible and call an audible when it feels right. Be willing to change your plans. In fact, have at least three options per night.
- Several people said "Go to one bar a night that has most of what you'd want to see that night". I subscribed to this rule for the most part and I did end up having an excellent view of many wonderful bands the first year -- I recommend this strategy is you are new to SXSW. The next year, I club hopped a little more, because all the shows I wanted to see were pretty near each other.
- Wherever you are, have a good time. Don't feel bad when someone says that another show you missed was so incredibly wonderful -- if you dwell on trying to make the "right" decision, you will always feel like you are missing something.
- To rent a car or not to.... Parking is a nightmare, and most things are very centrally-located, so a car is not absolutely necessary if your housing is downtown. But if you want to see Austin beyond its music venues, or you are staying outside of the downtown area, or the shows you want to see are on the same night but in very different parts of town... you need a car.
- The Austin American Statesman (daily paper) does a special edition every day of the music festival -- it's a hoot, has great gossip, and offers updates on cancellations and added shows. It can usually be found free all over town (the special edition, not the whole paper). The Austin Chronicle (the weekly paper and sponsor of SXSW) did their own daily for the first time in 2000 as well (but I never saw those).
- Fantastic and reasonably-priced places to eat (an online mapping service, like the one provided by Yahoo, can give you directions) abound in Austin. These are my favorites: (all of these are centrally located): Magnolia Cafe, on Congress near the Continental Club, Kerby Lane Cafe on South Lamar down the street from the Broken Spoke AND on Guadelupe across from campus (both Kerby Lane and Magnolia have those famous ginger pancakes and are open 24 hours), Mother's (lots of decent restaurants in this block, but this is by far the best one), Kreuz's and Blacks barbecue (in Lockhart), Threadgill's (downtown, just South of Town Lake/Colorado River), Guerro's (also on Congress near the Continental Club), Trudy's (off Guadelupe near the UT campus, plus one waaaay down south, past the Broken Spoke), any of the Tex-Mex dives on South First (Polvo's andLittle Mexico are my favs, but you can't go wrong with any of them, really); and, for breakfast, try Tex-Mex places on the East Side -- my favorites are El Azteca and Juan in a Million.
Most of the above have good to excellent vegetarian options.
Mark Rubin also provides an "eats" guide to SXSW on his web site.
- Don't do your NCAA brackets at the same time that you are trying to map out which shows you want to see during SXSW, or you will get mixed up and having Kansas playing Kelly Willis in the final.
For more information about SXSW, visit http://www.sxsw.com
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