A gig-goer’s guide to Austin 2012 SXSW
The music component of Austinâs SXSW festival runs from 13 to 18 March. (Extreme Air Shots)
Contemplating the performers who have rocked Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival over the past 25 years is a mind-boggling exercise -- Johnny Cash, Little Richard, Motorhead, the B52s, The White Stripes, The Woggles and more.
This year, the epic music, film and interactive festival is back (9 to 18 March, with the music component running 13 to 18 March), with a cast of thousands and a schedule to test the mettle of the most party-hardy reveller. “It was a pretty big thing in the ‘90s when I was first there; now it's a monster,” said Wally Kempton, who’s attended both as a musician (in Australian power-pop act Even), and as manager of Melbourne band The Level Spirits. “It's massive and non-stop — bands and parties, conference events and barbeques galore.”
Only those who’ve experienced SXSW can really fathom what a feat of endurance the festival is. The key to not burning out too early? Organisation. Sort your accommodation well in advance (the quirky Austin Motel is the Holy Grail), memorise these survival tips, download a few must-have SXSW mobile apps and plan your itinerary each night.
“Make a plan of what acts you want to see — what time they’re on — draw it on a map and take it with you,” advised Julian Matthews, a muso who’s played the festival twice (once with Perth group DM3 and last year with The Level Spirits).
For the music part of last year’s festival, some 2,000 acts performed at more than 90 venues across Austin. This year is shaping up to be just as hectic, not to mention eclectic. Look out for soul sensations Lee Fields & the Expressions, rockabilly queen Lanie Lane, Austin’s own garage-punkers The Ugly Beats and -- representing the big names -- John Mayer. Stake out a spot at Bruce Springsteen’s keynote address and pull up a chair for conference sessions on everything from song writing to promoting music with social media.
When asked what the best thing about SXSW is, Matthews didn’t hesitate. “Being able to see incredible acts basically non-stop — in between eating barbeque ribs.”
Make sure you fuel your fun-mongering with regular snack-stops -- Austin’s famous food trailers are an obvious choice. Scattered around town (there’s a bunch on South Congress, where much of the festival action is), these retro-caravans combine quick service with a surprisingly diverse array of menu options.