Band Concert Review
SXSW: South by South West Is Worth The Trip
Austin City Limits - Austin, TX - March 2006
By Dan Locke
During this time of year, people are traveling during spring break. And they are going to locations like Florida, Mexico and Hawaii. But for the ten thousand people who are into music, their spring break takes place in Austin, Texas for a event called South by Southwest (SXSW) http://www.sxsw.com . Now in its 20th year. SXSW is the largest music and media conference in America. Over the last two decades, it has gained the reputation of breaking indie bands into the mainstream public eye.
What makes SXSW so special is, that it is like summer camp for the people working in the record industry a place you can see a band who have a buzz. It is a place to see a band they have always wanted to see. And for some it is a place one can just check out different bands by just walking down the street and hearing what is coming out of the bars.
In order to go to SXSW, one has to plan months ahead of schedule. If you don't research ahead of time, you don't you will have a bad time at SXSW and will never want to go back. SXSW is something you should want to go back to every year. The thing you need to plan ahead is your flight, hotel (where you are going to stay), and what you will see at SXSW.
First, schedule your flight . You should try to book as early as possible, for the best deal. Check out Priceline.com, Cheaptickets.com, the airlines and your ISP homepage (sometimes they have deals on travel).
For the hotel, again check out Priceline.com and Cheaptickets. If you have an entertainment book, look for hotels. Another place you can look for places to stay is at Craiglist.com People are willing to open their homes for bands during SXSW. The one big thing you have to remember about hotels and SXSW is that you will want a hotel that is close to 6th Ave if possible, because you could be booked as far as 15 miles from downtown Austin. All taxi rides will cost you about $20.00 each way, so it could cost you $40.00 a day to travel from SXS and your hotel.
After you have finished booking your flight and room, the next thing you have to do is decide who you are going to see at SXSW. Will it be people who are indie, singer songwriters, metal bands, power pop bands, female artists, hip hop artists, rock band, country bands, classical bands, bands from Chicago, London or Seattle. The choice is endless. How do you choose? One thing I have learned by being a photographer and working with hundreds of bands over the years is to have an open mind, and be willing to listen to anything. But most important see what you like.
The one thing I did this year was to listen to almost thirteen hundred bands at SXSW. This can be done easily, but it takes time. I went onto the SXSW website and saw the list of artists playing. With that list there were links so you could read up on the bands and they have sound samples. So, read up on the bands and listen to samples. If you want more info go to the band's website, do some research. By checking out band biographies and listening to their music you should be able to decide on what bands you would like to see, and that could add up to a few hundred bands. Now, here also you have to do more research. There is a Yahoo Group called the Unofficial SXSW http://groups.yahoo.com/group/unofficial_sxsw_info. On that group they give updates on who is playing the daytime shows and parties (every year there are parties that are given by records companies and magazines). Every year there is a person who does a database of all of the daytime shows and the free shows including the parties. This is a very helpful list. Another thing that SXS has created is set up a download application on their website which uses Torrents which enables you to download most of the bands playing at SXSW. So you can listen to them on your iPod.
About two to three weeks before SXSW happens, SXSW puts out a list of who is playing where and when at the night shows. But this list is being updated all of the time. For example, "The Lovehammers" were going to play and about ten days before SXSW they were dropped from the list. So, check out the list every couple of days. They list about 70 venues that SXSW uses for the event. But don't forget about the free shows being offer by other people, because during SXSW, bars who are not taking part of SXSW are asking for bands to play in their bar. So you never really know who will be playing until the day of the show. And these are not just local bands from around the country; there are also major players. Therefore if you want to see two or three bands that are scheduled to play at the same time, check out the day shows and you may get to see all of the bands.
How do you get to see the bands? You can go and check out all of the daytime shows and the free shows or you can buy a wrist band for $175.00; and it will get you into most of the clubs that are apart of SXSW. Another way you can go is to buy a badge ($350.00 plus) this will get you into every club. The one thing you still have to watch out for is if the club is crowded it will not get you in; you will have to wait until people leave the club, then you can get in.
For the bigger shows, if you don't have the wrist band or a badge with you, you can pay cash to get into the club. The premier example of this was for the Pretenders at Stubbs. There were 3 lines of people with wrist band, people with badges and then people who were paying. I hear they were paying anywhere from $10.00 to $25.00.
One other thing you should check out during your time in Austin is Invasion of the GoGirls @ SXSW - http://www.myspace.com/gogirls. It runs during same time as SXSW. It's really a great place to see some really cool girl bands, as well as a great free event.
The last thing you need to do before you go to Austin, is to check out the rumor about who is playing at SXSW. Some of the rumors which spread that actually happened were The Flaming Lips played twice, and the Beastie Boys played at Stubbs.
In closing, get your flight, hotel and list what bands you want to see. Have a good time. Most of all, be ready to watch some kick ass music.