At the beginning of last week I ventured to Austin, Texas for South By South West for the very first time. Both the state and festival itself were foreign to me. While I love live music and my passion can even be stretched to an appearance of hubris, I was without a doubt a rookie last week. Like many others, I often expect analogous events to overlap almost completely with comparable past experiences. While any festival-like event holds certain similarities, it is the subtle differences that make the experience worthwhile.

Unlike any event on this scale I have attended, SXSW does not have a unified space. Whether it be stadium, field, or suspected alien landing ground, every past festival I have attended has had a dedicated enclosed location. South By South West simply consumes downtown Austin. Every venue, bar, and empty building is filled with live music and other happenings. The demand for space is so high; a church was converted into a 400 person venue for the week. Even then, the attendance is enormous that the streets are brimming with people long after everyone should be asleep.

But what made my trip to Austin for my first SXSW worthwhile more than any artist, venue, or ruckus street ever could, were the other attendees themselves. Between the convention, film, and music aspects of the gathering, a crowd unlike any other is formed. Techies, music nerds, bloggers, CEOs, college students, promoters, artists, and average Joe’s all melted together to create a crucible of culture, backgrounds and tastes. I was able to meet with others in the industry, create new ties, and connect with other like-minded individuals in a way I never had before. All the while doing what I love: photographing and enjoying live music.

-Photos and recap by Ben Kimo Twichell