Most people write their SXSW recap mentally and physically drained from a week of bouncing between day parties and shows that last well into the next morning. Your sleep schedule is far from normal, and you have withdrawals for a week because you’re not drinking energy drinks and Lonestar at 2 in the afternoon on an empty stomach. It took me a good two weeks to even process what I’d seen and heard, while reading other people’s take on the music conference with absolutely so much going on that it’s overwhelming to keep track, especially when you’re in the middle of it. No amount of preparation could ready you for SXSW. It’s all about plan B, C, D and so on. With the official SXSW events, it’s easy. They have it together, and pass that organization onto attendees. Shows are well-organized, well run, and for the most part run on time. It’s more the day parties that are a train wreck of organization, no shows, long lines, and delays. We experienced everything from shows running 3 hours behind to a show getting cancelled because the sound system blew out. We even attended shows that lasted one song when we thought it would be a full set. Silly us right? We should have just known.
Being in the know is the battle at SXSW and it’s a yearly struggle to keep up. But for us, that’s where the joy lies. My rule #1 when it comes to SXSW is you see the band you haven’t seen before you see the band you’ve seen before. That was a struggle this year as many of the South Carolina bands we’re very fond of played Austin for the first time. I was able to catch a couple of sets, but for the most part I was trying to see new acts. Most of the acts I had ranked 1-5 on a giant spreadsheet that I carried in my back pocket. Because, when phones aren’t working or are slow those stapled tattered pieces of paper will still be there. And when it comes to seeing a lot of these bands, you have to realize that I live in Columbia, South Carolina, most of these bands don’t come here. Asheville, yes. Chapel Hill/Durham, yes. Charleston, maybe. Columbia and Greenville, doubtful. It’s something I quit complaining about 4 years ago, and something we’ve tried to remedy by working on bringing these bands here. And that’s just one of the many reasons SXSW is so great for us, because on more than one occasion we’ve developed relationships that we never would have if we hadn’t traveled to Austin.
The whole week really is a conundrum of choices. Wait in line a couple of hours to see Albert Hammond Jr. or go see 5 bands you’ve never heard before at The Wild Honey Pie party because you trust their taste in music. The choice is easy really. We’re here to discover. Like on Monday evening when we went to see Charlie XCX at The Mohawk after we saw Diarrhea Planet kick off their week by slaying in the back yard of a bar under a pop up tent. That’s where the crowd surfing started, and it went on as even Paste Magazine editor Joshua Jackson took off into the crowd after introducing them at their day party days later. I enjoyed seeing Charlie XCX and I knew nothing about her. Now with only a couple of months perspective she’s been on late night TV and JUST NOW dropped her “Boom Clap” video and has a song at #1 on the Billboard charts as she’s responsible for writing Iggy Azalea’s hit “Fancy.” And that crowd surfing gimmick that Diarrhea Planet debuted has followed them since. Just the other week at Hangout Fest they got wild with donut floats they threw in the crowd for a deluxe, more comfortable surfing experience.
So what do you hold on to from SXSW? The week was an absolute blur at the moment, but thinking back on it now, with some more perspective everything falls right back into place. When you look at the pictures I hope it takes you there just for a moment, or makes you listen to one of the bands. For me, it’s something different. I see a picture of The Rocketboys at the Stereofly showcase and I think about how I missed half the set because we took a wrong turn and accidentally got on the interstate. I ended up dropping the girls off and parking about two miles away and still somehow made it for the end of their set. I see pictures of Future Islands and think about how bad my back hurt and how bad it sucked to stand in the second row behind the most annoying super fan ever whose sweaty hair dripped on me all night. I think about a pissed off Speedy Ortiz drummer who just busted his ass to track down some cymbals to play a 25 minute set an hour past when they were supposed to start. I see Hospitality and one of my favorite sets all week while I drank a vodka drink at 1 in the afternoon, because why not? I see a picture of The Districts and am reminded how I was awe-struck by their kinetic live show. I see a picture of The Baseball Project and think about how I parked in front of someone’s huge house in the middle of a neighborhood and speed walked two miles to see some of my all-time music heroes in Mike Mills and Scott McCaughey. And Bleeding Rainbow. There was hardly anyone at that show, but I blazed a trail, ditching the rental car at Jack in the Box to see 10 minutes of their set after having the best tacos of my life at Torchy’s Tacos. #Trafficsucks
I didn’t appreciate all the incredible moments we had this year until now. Sure, it came with some bad. The drive back home sucked, it rained the entire time. The tragedy in front of The Mohawk won’t soon be forgotten. But seeing great bands, unexpected run-ins with old friends, and being surrounded by people who love music as much as you do for a week is something really, really special. Each and every time we’ve been it’s been nothing but worthwhile, and I’m sure that will only continue in the future.
Read our other posts from SXSW 2014.
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