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SXSW: (More Like) South by SouthBEST

Posted Mar 20 2011 10:18pm
Back in October , I proclaimed the Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival to be Austin City LAMEst, and renamed South by Southwest (SXSW)* as South by SouthBEST.
*Also referred to simply as "south by"...but what is it with our music festivals and acronyms?

Having been to Austin during SXSW last year, I was able to base that declaration on some personal experience, but after the past week, I can undeniably say, without reservation, that I was correct in my judgement.
What a week* I have a had.
*ten days...whatever.
For those of y'all who aren't familiar, South By Southwest is a huge festival divided into three parts: Music, Film, and Interactive (social media-esque panels, etc.). As part of the SXSWi --that little i means "interactive"--fest this year, there was also a food blog-focused event called #techMUNCH [the closing event of which was that fabulous Cupcake Social I attended last Sunday].
There is way too much for me to even try to explain or describe. You have to come here to experience it yourself to really understand the creative energy that permeates the city (even more than usual), and the undercurrent of excitement and joy that rolls through everyone you meet and every place you go. It's laid back, and yet completely charged, in the way that only Austin can be.
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As I sit here on Sunday evening, with serious depression overtaking me at the thought of returning to school/work/real life tomorrow morning [I am VERY lucky to have had Spring Break so conveniently coinciding with SXSW] I must present to you a list of musings, ramblings, and advice that I like to call, in the vein of a 19th century poet...

On Surviving "South By"

To quote "The Circle of Life" from The Lion King, "There's more to do than can ever be done." Music is everywhere, from street corners to parking lots to more 'legitimate' venues. You won't be able to see and do everything. Go with the flow. Say "yes" when you can.

You will get very tired... ...and your boots will get very dirty.
Try to make friends with someone who works downtown so you can use her parking pass.
(That way you can avoid the cruelty of these types of signs.)

If your favorite band in the world comes to SXSW, go see them. (Try to get backstage .) But be excited to discover new talent , too.
Go big (for you) AND go home.
The secret to my success was "living it up" during the day, and then spending the night at home, watching movies. [Make sure to stock up on movies and/or time your Netflix deliveries so that you are prepared for the inevitable 7:00 PM I-cannot-walk-anymore-and-must-rest-now crash.]

Stay as healthy (and happy!) as possible.
I worked out every morning and tried to start the day with a (somewhat) balanced breakfast.. ...and then eat a lot of vegetables at dinner. :) Although my soda consumption was off the charts (so free, so available), I don't drink all that much, so I was headache and hangover free.

You never know who you'll meet.
I ended up at a "Taste and Tweet* Whole Foods , where I not only tasted delicious wine and scrumptious cheese...
*And yes, I totally pretended to be actually tweeting from my phone since I, well, can't.
...I ended up sitting next to Jeff Houck of The Tampa Tribune and Rene Lynch, food editor of the LA Times, without having a clue at first who they were. They were wonderful and amazing, and to see the words "@LATimesFood is now following you on Twitter" in your inbox is a really cool thing.

Carry a big bag to collect* free stuff.
*collect [verb]: receive on street corners or while waiting in lines; steal
free sunglasses, free T-shirts...
...free CD samplers and dog tags [slash] bottle openers...
...more free sunglasses...
...even the dog got some :)
...another free t-shirt (and $25 from Pepsi to donate via online service to the charity of my choice!)
...and you would be amazed at the number of free bottled beverages I can fit into my purse.
Make sure you have snacks... ...and sunscreen. [I recommend purchasing a spray for this. It's easy to reapply AND share. Sharing is good. It will endear you to security guards and other people who can get you in places you might want to go .]

You will wait in some very long lines. (Bring a book.)
But the (free) wristband* will be worth it.
*Side piece of advice: don't pay for the "real" badge or wristband. You can have a ton of fun without it! [At least when it comes to the heaven that is Fader Fort.]
There is no need to ever spend money. [Free! Free! Free!]
(Free fried beets and pork belly steam buns @ East Side King)
(Free sample of Southern-style BBQ from my new favorite food trailer: The Sugar Shack ) (Free Amy's Ice Cream @ Fader Fort---Fiat Explosion: strawberry shortcake with amaretto) Free POPCORN and St. Patrick's Day green cotton candy @ Fader Fort... ...with Cornucopia seasonings (the Dill Pickle was my favorite). (And clearly I was obsessed with the free popcorn and the plethora of diet sodas available to me.)

Rachael Ray is cooler than you thought. Deal with it. [And go to her party at Stubb's ...which I still need to tell y'all about.] You will find yourself taking pictures of people simply because they might be famous and you just aren't sure. And you will take pictures of people who want you to make them famous. :) It will be really, really, really, never-did-you-expect-it-to-be-just-this-much fun. Despite all of these thoughts, lessons, and words of advice, the only thing that is 100% guaranteed is that you will end the week have fallen in love (for the first--or the 500th--time) with Austin. Because even though I am no closer to ever knowing what I'm supposed to do with my life, am far from ever being "settled," and who knows if I'll ever find my 'permanent plus one'?...I know that (as Maria commented earlier ) Austin and I are soulmates. And this is where I'm meant to be. [So...who's coming to visit during SXSW next year?]
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