South By Southwest (SXSW) was on my radar. As someone who loves live music, it wasn't just a music event, it signified a Mecca of entertainment. Just as Frank Zappa satirically summed up 1967 San Francisco as where "the bands all live together" ("Who Needs the Peace Corp?", We're Only In It For the Money), I have this idealistic vision of SXSW as a place where impromptu jams spring up all over the place. Sure, it's a naïve fantasy, but regardless of the reality, I'd be like a kid in a candy store.
If you're not familiar with SXSW, it started as a local music festival back in 1987, but quickly defined Austin as a magnet for musicians and the industry. Now it's grown to an outlandish size, with Interactive media, Film, and Music segments lasting a week and a half. Bands from all over the world come out to create some buzz, make connections, and maybe catapult their careers. Aside from all of the official shows, there are countless unofficial shows sponsored by record labels, media outlets, and others.
This year, I'm finally going to make it down to Austin for the festival. Writing for Spectrum Culture qualified me for press credentials and I'm eager to take full advantage of my time there. One thing I've quickly worked out though is that SXSW is a lot like the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Just as GABF featured more the 2700 beers from almost 600 breweries last year, there's too much for one person to take in during SXSW. Dozens of bands can be playing at the same time at a host of scattered locations. So a plan of attack is vital.
At GABF, I honed my strategy over years of practice and found the best approach is to pick a small list of targets, aim for those, but let the fates intervene. So, I might plan on dropping by New Glarus Brewing, Lost Abbey, Dogfish Head, and my friends at Alaskan, but I'm ready to take advantage of a great beer tip along the way. I'm planning a similar approach with SXSW. I have a small number of bands I really want to catch, but I also expect to improvise my schedule a fair amount. So far, my shortlist includes Local Natives on Wednesday, Flaming Lips on Thursday, and Valleys on Saturday. Of course there are plenty of other shows I'd like to catch and a couple of interview opportunities I'm hoping to firm up, but I'm certain that no matter where I am, the music will be ringing in my ears.