Without a doubt, SXSW is an exciting but chaotic experience. With a few thousand acts converging on Austin, it’s bound to wreak havoc on any normalcy you might know. But don’t despair! There are a few steps you can take to ensure that you get the most out of your SXSW experience.
1) Research. This is the key to enjoying SXSW. Like a band? Check out their tour dates and see if they’re playing. Go to the official SXSW site and start listening to anything that strikes your fancy. Even if you’re not entirely on the up-and-up, you’re bound to find more than a few great bands if you take the time out to do the research.
Once you’ve decided which bands you want to see, it’s time to start compiling a list of parties you’d like to attend. Again, Google is your friend. If you have Twitter, it’s a good idea to start following sxsw accounts (search for tweets with #sxsw hashtag to find these accounts). I’ve gotten a large amount of my party information from following accounts such as @sxshhh, @SXSWPartyList, @BrooklynVegan, and @sxswbaby. Many of the venues in Texas have Facebook pages as well. Sign up or RSVP to as many parties as you want to. Just remember, there is no guarantee you’ll get in so always have a backup plan. Or three.
2) Make a schedule. In order to keep track of all of your events, it’s best to make a schedule. Whether you have a listing in your cell phone or a detailed spreadsheet, keep that information handy. I usually compile a spreadsheet and list the parties and bands by their timeslots, along with the addresses and names of the venues. That way, if I can’t get into party A, all I have to do is pull out my spreadsheet and decide which one of my backups is best.
There are websites, such as SXShhh which help you compile your schedule for a nominal fee, though I’ve seen other sites which charge upwards of $40.00 for their services.
3) Take the shuttle. If your hotel has a shuttle to downtown, take advantage of it. Cabs in Austin are not only expensive, they’re also hot commodity – you and 40,000 other revelers want one and you’ll find yourself waiting for hours to get one. We paid $50 for the shuttle last year and it was great. Definitely worth the money.
4) Be sensible! Wear comfortable shoes because you’re going to be walking and standing in lines for a large portion of your trip. Pack sunscreen and drink something besides Lone Star, like water. More importantly, check the weather before you decide what to throw in your suitcase and no matter what it says, pack a mid-weight coat or sweatshirt. Texas weather is unpredictable. And sometimes downright cold.
5) Enjoy yourself! Austin is an amazing city that embraces its “freak” culture. There are wonderful places to eat and drink and, of course, the music is fabulous. Don’t stress about missing a band or not being able to get into a party – it will happen at least once (and probably more than just once). Just remember – there are hundreds of parties to go to, and really great people to meet. So just have fun!