I am not a SXSW veteran (I’ll save that accolade for the 10+ year returnees), but I’ve been around the block once or twice. The bands change, but the story remains the same. From my experiences, here are five points that will help your experience go smoothly.
1. There’s no shame in napping. I did it yesterday. I’ll probably do again today. Going strong from noon to the wee hours of the morning for five days is not just wearing, it’s dangerous.
Point: Naps are for kindergardeners and SXSW party goers. Between the hours of 5pm-7pm is a great window for a power hour nap.
2. Double check, RSVP twice, check your inbox for confirmation, but whatever you do—don’t wait until show time to make sure you’re “on the list.” Outside Hype Machine Hotel, one of the most popular unofficial showcases, I listened to a girl bawling her eyes out while stammering, “I don’t understand! How can you, and him being on the list, but not meee! I signed everyone up.”
Point: I’m the last person to talk about being organized, but it helps—a lot.
3. Veterans will tell you: stay away from “major” parties with several notable headliners. Unless you’re on a VIP list, or plan on arriving several hours before the doors open (not when your favorite band plays), chances are you’re going to walk several blocks for nothing more than a rejection.
Point: If you have to see Jimmy Cliff, Fiona Apple, Santigold, or Jay Z—plan your night around it.
4. Pace yourself. It’s easy to find your next free drink, but it’s hard to act respectable when you’re swaying back in forth looking bug eyed at your cheeseburger.
Point: There’s no turning back. You know the saying, “One drink, two drinks, three, and floor.” Yep—it’s not pretty.
5. Call me a curmudgeon with bad knees (it’s relatively accurate), but you’re better off staying put at a showcase than wandering around from one to the next. Trust the lineup’s curator. If there is more than one band you’d willingly see, there is a strong chance you’ll dig the other bands too.
Point: You’re at SXSW to listen and discover new bands, not walk the streets.