I’m sitting in the Austin airport after a wild week of music, more music, brisket and beer. (With a side of music.) Yes, folks… I “did” South by Southwest. What is SXSW, you ask?
The first week is for independent film, the second for technology innovators and
startups, and the third week for independent and upcoming musicians… well, sorta. Not just. The last week of SXSW is how it all started and so the draw for music week is the most compelling, I would say. So compelling in fact that anyone and everyone that has even so much as pressed play on an iPod shows up. And every single place is a music venue. Houses, corners, even elevators. I’m not kidding.
It is a beast of a music festival, if you can even call it that, and it’s an event I’ll never miss after this one. How I’m saying that after sleeping so little and the fresh hum of guitar amps still ringing in my ears? It’s hard to explain. I can only attest to the energy around here. People are buzzing still, after non stop music 20 hours a day for a week. The paint still hasn’t dried on some of the venues that were painted, rebranded and reinvented for SXSW. Needless to say, for Austin, SXSW is a VERY BIG DEAL.
And here at the airport, flights are delayed. People are updating their Facebook status’ with “I made it through SXSZzzz.”Everyone is tired. Or hungover. (Mostly both.) Everyone has raccoon eye tan lines. And a guitar strapped to their back like a Baby Bjorns at a Lamaze convention. I just realized that I have been walking around with BBQ sauce smeared on my tight jeans by seeing it on someone else. And I don’t care. It was delicious. There are arms tattooed in multicolored, crunched paper bracelets from VIP parties and uber exclusive secret shows and unannounced mayhem at 4am where P-Diddy sang karoake and Kanye healed the sick. It was epic. It was also somehow, in all this craziness it manages to be special. Dare I say, intimate. Maybe it’s southern hospitality, the sweet drawl and manners, or simply too many Shiner Bocks, but Austin, in all her Lady Gaga-Madness managed to charm me.
- Foodtrucks sell Migas
Austinites love tacos. And they love that they love tacos. And they want you to love tacos too. My first night in Austin after landing was spent in a Mexican food joint with my cousin Kalyn on the outskirts of town eating “Migas” tacos and waffles, while drinking cold Negro Modelo. Not a bad start to the week, if you ask me.
Migas is a breakfast taco, essentially, my local tour guide informed me. And since I’m not the Food Editor of this blog (or any blog, unless, if by “editor” you mean, “Nomnomnom…”, then yes, I “edit.”) so I’ll not wax poetic about the flavors, but they’re good. Eggy, peppery, veggie-y, good. I give them 3 out of 4 Nomnomnoms.
You’ll quickly notice upon arrival that Austin is a hotbed for foodtrucks. They’re EVERYWHERE. The locals call the gathering of foodtrucks “trailer parks” (probably because most of them are fat little mod’d airstreams) and when they gather, wagons circled in a little powwow, they deliver delicious foodie creations ranging from cupcakes to snowcones, paninis, crepes, waffle tacos, korean tacos, brisket tacos, breakfast tacos, and also… yes, you guessed it. Pizza.
- Beers of Austin
There are some very proud brewers in Austin. And rightly so. I could go on and on about all the fabulous beers I tried, and probably will in a future post, but let me make 2 recommendations.
Drink a Shiner. It’s the unnofficial “good” beer of Texas (I’m not much for the fizzy yellow stuff), and it tastes better there than it does imported to your local corner store. I have no scientific evidence to support this, but if we had enough of them, I’m sure I could convince you.
Go to The Ginger Man. If you’re a brewer or a fan of
strong interesting beers, you’ve got to check this place out. They’ve got everything and are quick to show you to the Texas Micro-brews if you ask, which I like. A little local pride. The staff is very nice and drunk informed, and will make sure you get a cab find something delicious for you to try.
Now, to be honest, this is really just the tip of the iceberg for how many thousands of shows and activities that went on over the week at SXSW. But you simply can’t make them all. (I barely made my own show.) Some more advice?
- Book Hotels EARLY
If you can book it a year in advance, great. We booked ours a couple of months early when I booked the gig. I recommend it. We grabbed our comfy 2 bed La Quinta Inn room just a few minutes from downtown and took one convenient public bus right into the heart of the action. Bus tickets are $1 each way or $2 for the whole day. That’s a no-brainer for WPP. And busses run till 2am during SXSW. Holla!
Also, when you get there, go with the flow. Find friends. People are nice there. Don’t rush. There’s so much to see in Austin. I fell into an early trap of trying to make this huge schedule with times, and shows, and bands, and parties, and sharing that document with the entire world, whew. I’m tired just trying to wrap my head around what a mess that would have been. Luckily these guys did a much better job, and it helped. But spontaneity is really where the fun is at SX.
- Don’t Forget H2O!
Get yourself a foldable water bottle. (I know. Why didn’t I invent that?!) They’re genius, can fit in a man-purse (what?) and will keep you from falling down and going boom. Not to mention, the oows and aws when you open that baby up. Oh man… I’m gonna go drink out of mine right now.
(Oh, and don’t forget the flush-able baby wipes! Amber scoffs, but just trust me on this one.)