Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How to dominate SXSW, Part 1: Plan your schedule.

So, SXSW is about a month away, but if you live here in Austin (and even if you don't) you can sense the rabid anticipation.  "Are you going to the Mashable party?" "Is Soundgarden playing?" "Who is Perez booking?"

I used to think I had to do SXSW the "right" way.  But as it turns out, any attempt to tame the SXSW beast is just crazy talk! You can't do everything. There's too much amazingness. It's like walking into a chocolate shop, only, instead of simply chocolate, this shop also offers unicorn rides, skydiving, a kissing booth manned by your favorite celebrity, overflowing baskets of kittens, laser light show dance parties, and hugs from koala bears. (I may or may not have just described my personal version of heaven).

If you are worried you won't see everything there is to see at SXSW, dash that thought out of your mind right now. You won't. It's cool. But in between now and the big day, Michelle from Wicked Whimsy posed a good idea - why not try putting together a little guide of sorts?  So I thought I'd tell you guys how I tackle SXSW, and hopefully some of it is helpful. I'm going to gear it to the free SXSW experience as much as possible. Let's hustle this together.

NOTE: Most of the advice I offer is in the music and interactive departments of SXSW; I am admittedly very lame with SXSW film tips. If you have some, I would love to supplement this guide with your knowledge. I am attending some screenings for the very first time this year, so by all means, spill your wisdom.

how to dominate sxsw, part 1: 
plan your schedule.

You will undoubtedly end up cobbling together an overlapped, overly ambitious SXSW schedule using various music blogs, Facebook invitations, and party RSVP websites. Since the key word here is RSVP  - which you will do often between now and SXSW - I'm going to direct you to three websites that will help you RSVP like a ninja.

The Official SXSW Grid: Music
This site, to me, is somewhat terrifying. But useful if you know what to look for. I recommend supplementing it with something like this: "SXSW Schedule Initial Impressions," from Matthew Odam at Austin360/the Statesman.

Know that there will likely be some venues here, Austinites, that you have never heard of. That's because new venues are literally created just for SXSW - or more accurately, little-used spaces are spruced up and given a big vinyl sign for SXSW. So if you're like, "why have I never heard of the Intergalactic Rainbow Planetarium?" that's because it literally did not exist last week.

My favorite FREE showcases tend to be: 
-Whatever is happening at Auditorium Shores.
-The Village Voice party.
-The Rachael Ray showcase (you think I'm kidding but I'm not. Last year: New York Dolls, people).
-Filter Magazine's party. Last year, they had Bat for Lashes.
-Many people loved Fader Fort last year, where Kanye made a surprise appearance. I was only at Fader Fort for a little bit (missed Kanye), but they often plan some big hush-hush person.
-Brookyln Vegan co-sponsors many SXSW shows, so hit them up to find out what they're putting on.

To find these parties quickly on the SXSW site, browse the grid by venue. Then enter a search on your web page for "Village Voice," "Filter," etc.

Also never, ever to be missed: The Mess With Texas mini-festival, put on by hometown heroes, Transmission Entertainment. This was far and away my favorite showcase last year, with Cursive, Thao Nguyen, and more. The website is here and will be updated as we near SXSW.

Do512's SXSW Page basically genius. It's a one-stop shop to RSVP for all SXSW shows and parties - music, interactive, and film. Note that it includes both free and badge-required shows here, so keep that in mind when you design your Do512 schedule. I will probably do most of my SXSW party organization here, and if I get a chance, stop by the Do512 offices myself so I can throw my arms around the staff members and smother them with gratitude!

BONUS: If you register on Do512 (looking in your direction, out-of-towners), you'll get their SXSW Top 10 Parties of the Day emails.  DO IT.

ALSO: I'm going to be updating my Do512 SXSW schedule regularly if you want some party ideas. I just started so the list is small - for now. Grow, it shall.

Republic of Austin
This fab local blog is keeping a running list of party recommendations, including some solid interactive party recs.  On that note - guys. If you haven't been to the interactive parties yet, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE MISSING. I think we're all hip to the program that social media is pretty much ginormous, and for a few nights in Austin, you can party with the internet game-changers. Last year, I met Peter Shankman, founder of HARO, which was geekily exciting!

Here on Austin Eavesdropper, I'll be posting SXSW parties too - both the big ones and the teensy ones - so you can always come back here for suggestions.  I aim to keep things in a bike-able radius when I do SXSW. I know. Me, biking! It's the one time of year I do it. And it is humorous.

So, there you have it: A primer for planning your SXSW experience. This will no doubt be updated, and I welcome any and all ideas. In closing, here is a glamorous picture of friends Ronnie, GARY!, Sissel and I from last year's SXSW.

What you can see in this picture are bean bag chairs. What you cannot see in this picture is the girl I had just met in the parking lot.

"Hey, do you know where people are going to find a restroom?" I asked.

"Right here." Lifts up dress. "Shhhhhhhhhhhhh."  (That would be the sound of her peeing on the ground right in front of me).

This was the fanciest, most celeb-filled party I attended at SXSW last year.


maybecupcakes said...

Thanks for the SXSW tips! Also, your version of heaven sounds awesome. I want to go to there.

Hipstercrite said...


Grant said...

I never plan for SXSW. I just go where the jeans are skinniest.

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@maybecupcakes - Let's ride a unicorn there together!

@Hipstercrite - After this, you'll have a whole crazy batch of bands to test on Mom and Dad.

@Grant - Good strategy.

sissel said...

I broke both my feet that night, and then peed on them.

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Sissel - Who WASN'T peeing inappropriately that night. I wonder if pee issues always arise during Perez parties?

Dana said...

If you'll let me, i'll just tag along with you again. That was the most I've ever seen of SXSW and I loved it.

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Dana - Grinding together at Kiss & Fly might have been my favorite part, too. :) Leave it to the gays to be the highlight of the party!

reckless daughter said...

so helpful xx

Laura said...

Hmm. I don't think I get the Do512 website... it says you can follow people, but I don't see any "click here to follow" types of links. Am I just blind? Have you turned off your "follow" abilities? Am I going insane?! (Seriously, though, I can't find any button to follow you, and it's driving me nuts. Maybe you should just follow me instead. I'm "originaloflaura.")

Alli XT said...

awesome guide - might I also recommend RiotVineSXSW if you're on twitter. I've found it super helpful for tracking and book marking events that I know I want to go to during music.