(That stands for ‘South By Southwest,’ a gigantic international music festival held annually in Austin, Texas, by the way.)
Well there are literally, and I mean it, no words to describe the experience, but I will do my best.
First, allow me to take you on a journey with just some key phrases. Picture this:
A quaint strip called 6th Ave in Downtown Austin lined with nothing but bars, cantinas, shops, tattoo spots, and restaurants.
Everyone has a tattoo, and I mean everyone. Face. Neck . Legs. Chest. And other unseen places I’m sure.
Music emanating from EVERYWHERE. Blues, Jazz, Rock, Punk, Metal, Indie-all blending together a dissonant symphony that permeates energy.
Awesome fuckin’ food and never a minute to say, “Hmm, what should I do.”
With those phrases in mind, let me take you on a journey.
From the time I woke up in this city, I knew it was going to be a crazy weekend. March 18th, a Thursday, I awoke to the din of an indie-blues type jam pulsing against my 11th story window. Looking down, I could see a moat of sorts, cutting through the outside patio of my hotel, with little catwalks leading to the street. Some walkways were al fresco and wide open, other ways took you through a little detour through a faux-cave tunnel. The sun was shining and it was a balmy 71 degrees.
It was 10 AM, and music was already pumping, and people were pounding the pavement.
I hoofed it over to the convention center, a nice 2 block walk, passing a horde of music junkies, bands, groupies, wanna-be’s, and of course, locals en route. Passing a sign that said “Austin-Live Music Capitol of the World,” I just smiled. If I only knew how this place was going to explode at night.
So I caught a few seminars, all of which were cleverly named. “Welcome to the Music Industry – You’re Fucked,” “Quickies 1: Branding Marketing & Publicity,” “Nerdcore 101,” and even more enticingly quirky titles for panel discussions. Not the first time SxSW takes a conference to a rock star level. They give out free beer to press and people with SxSW passes from 3-4 PM. But the bad-assery has only just begun.
Other panels included names…big names. GWAR and Smokey Robinson to give you the two ends of the spectrum. Both the infamous and incomparable metal band and Motown phenom were equally entertaining.
On top of all of this, there were trade shows with new recording rigs, guitar gadgets, music schools, promo companies, internet networking sites. Name it. If it was connected with music, marketing, press, or anything between the trifecta, it was there.
Know who else was there? What seemed like every band on the planet!
In my handy SxSW itinerary, the first thing I noticed was the fact that there were 76 authorized SxSW venues. Authorized venues is only the tip of the iceberg. Any place that served food and/or liquor and could squeeze a band and at least 50 people in; music was bumping from.
And I mean every band. From Motorhead on Wednesday night, to Stone Temple Pilots on Thursday, to Cheap Trick and Smokey Robinson on Friday, the musical spectrum was represented in its entirety. And these were just the headliners that played the Austin Music Hall and such, with legends like Cheap Trick playing (what seemed like a festival-in a good way) in one of Austin’s beautiful parks-right outside the Performing Arts Center.
But don’t get discouraged if the classics I just name didn’t get your pulse going. Minus the Bear, Andrew W.K, Temper Trap, The Crystal Method, Steve Aoki, Redman (Yes, fuckin’ Redman), Street Sweeper Social Club, Estelle, Sum 41 (I know I thought they were dead, too) , The Boxer Rebellion, and frankly too many more bands and artists to named. And these were just the ones I knew. There were tons, and I mean tons, of kick ass bands rocking the 15 block radius, pulsating all night in downtown Austin. I was left with a couple questions though when I looked at the bill. Like who the hell were some of these DJ’s I never heard of, who the fuck invited Patrick Stump for a solo performance, and who was the genius who came up with “Flosstradamus,” “Pigeon Religion” and “Puffy Areolas” for band names?
The overall vibe of the entire trip was simply “chill.” That is probably the most hippie statement I have ever put in print, but everyone was unbelievably nice and laid back, music was everywhere, drinks were flowing and the food was great. Add this to a nice 75 degree sunny day, and this is a recipe for something beautiful. Everyone was in a good mood and there was a reason to be. Despite all the stigma surrounding Texas, I saw one fight in all my travels. And it was at a metal show. No surprise.
By: Alex ‘Stigz’ Castiglione