SXSW For Dummies: Keep That Beer In Your Pocket
See more SXSW silliness from Tuesday in our slideshow.
Photos by Stacy Schwarz Yes, that's Superbad's Michael Cera playing bass with Mister Heavenly at Bat Bar (wherever that is) Tuesday.
It's time: this week, hordes of bands and interlopers will descend upon Austin and do their best to take it over, raging as hard as possible and filling the gutters with puke. So it'll be pretty normal for Austin, except for the swelled population.
The secret to SXSW is simply surviving it - by all means, enjoy the party. However, if Sunday rolls around and the seemingly endless hangover has erased all memory of the amazing bands that were seen, well, that doesn't do anyone any good. A pickled liver is a poor trophy to bring home, if it's the only thing brought back. Heck, it's about as useful as a Grammy.
That said, here are some time-tested tips to maximizing the SXSW experience.
1. Plan, but don't plan. Track down one of the giant amalgamations of shows, and make up a schedule - some recognizable bands, labels, free booze or food: it doesn't matter what drives the decisions. Carrying around a paper copy of the day and night parties at Showlist Austin http://showlistaustin.com/ works well, or be fancy and slap it on that smartphone with Sched. http://austin2011.sched.org/ Don't feel bound to stick to that schedule, however.
The SXSW badge pickup area will not be this empty by the time you get there.
2. Don't stand in line, doofus. Seriously, there are thousands of bands and hundreds of shows to be seen. Sure - wait in line all day just to crack the door at Stubb's by the time the day-party headliner takes the stage. That's fun, right? Forget that crap, and slip into any show anywhere. If for some reason that doesn't work, head to the next one. That's the beauty of this million drunk march - bands are everywhere, and the opportunity to take home a few new favorites is there.
3. Only pay for booze in extreme circumstances. Free booze is everywhere, especially during the day. It's completely possible - and acceptable - to drink from 11 a.m. until 4 a.m. each day. Start with the day parties featuring mimosas or bloody Mary's, then move through some of the other free liquors and beers.
Know that there will be plenty of Tito's Vodka, Lone Star, Dos Equis, and probably Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka available, plus a new wine or three that are either a) a celebrity's new vanity label; or b) benefiting charities. Bonus points are awarded for each bottle of wine snuck out in your bag. The quickest way to get drunk is usually on whatever new product is being promoted, but the Helldorado is always waiting at The Jackalope in a pinch.
4. Get off Sixth Street. Most of the bustle is downtown, on Austin's infamous Sixth Street or the surrounding blocks. Pockets of shows are everywhere, though - and the outliers are often full of smaller bands, copious booze, and less douchebags. Plenty of spillover happens east of I-35 now, and the stretch on South Congress has been happening for ages. A good cluster of shows happens around The Drag as well. Don't expect to take a cab from spot to spot, though.
5. Bring a bike. A bike is nearly essential for the experienced SXSW attendee looking to hit multiple locations. It is one of the clutch decisions that takes SXSW from a stellar experience to legendary - shows on the east side, South Congress, or The Drag are now mere minutes away - which means more time for listening to music and drinking, drinking, drinking.
It sucks walking from the Jackalope to Waterloo Records and back, so use some wheels. Don't be the dipshit trying to ride through the crowd on Sixth, though. Pro tip: Get a good lock, because bike thieves are always looking for easy picks.