DAY 1: My SXSW 2013 in $100 dollars (4 days, 44 bands)

Wednesday, March 13th

4:45 am and my alarm went off. Even on the morning of SXSW, such an early rising sucked. It was for a good reason though and this early bird rousing was planned and expected.

After brewing coffee, I collected my essentials (backpack with my schedule, chapstick, notepad and pen, sunscreen, camera, phone, wallet, sunglasses, bike lock, helmet, spare tire and repair kit) and checked the bike tires and lights. Why bike? I may accidentally get drunk today and driving impaired, especially during SXSW, is for dummies. Plus, parking is at a ridiculous premium during the entire festival.

The mass of this entry is Day Of content. However, a helluva lot more went into planning.

Here are a few of the nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned over the years of attending:

  • Use a bike, public transportation and/or your feet to get around. I’d highly suggest having a bike handy. Getting from show to show in good time is vital. An extra 5 minutes can make a world of difference during this first-come, first-serve festival. What kind of difference? Well, in some cases, the difference is being part of the audience, drink in hand, singing along and revelling in the energy of the show OR standing in a line outside, watching people with badges come and go at their leisure while you listen to the dulled performance through the fences/walls.
  • Have a schedule folks. There are over 2000 acts to see and you’ll be lucky to see more than 100. Hell, if you make it to 100 bands, your ears will be bleeding, the amount of sleep deprivation you have amassed will have people mistake you for a zombie and you will be lucky if you’re able to recollect a sliver of such a magnanimous helping of auditory input. What was I saying? Oh yeah; A schedule, have one.
  • Options for schedules:

    • Make one – Right, right. You don’t have time for that kind of investment. Well, really, you don’t have to because of option two.

      Find one – There are beaucoup free schedules available to you. Seek and ye shall find. I make a humble one and take great pains to ensure it is absent of artists who would be found wanting (and yes, snobbishness was intended with that statement). Ahem – there are tons of them out there though. Free shows. Best shows. Shows with free food. Shows with free beers. Outlandish shows (underwear performances occurred daily at one venue during SXSW 2013).

      Have a back-up plan – Don’t bank on getting into every show you want to attend. Sorry princess, but you might not be permitted entry. There are only so many sardines that can fit into a can. Somewhat akin to sailors and their subs, Austin packs people into it’s venues, but inevitable some poor sap will have a meaty and calloused palm put in their face and be expected to wait. Good luck guessing how long one is expected to wait. A few minutes, an hour, FOREVER? From experience, I can promise you that I am not. A back up plan is a must for each day of the festival. Aside from the venue being at capacity, there are several other reasons to have back ups planned: a show ran late (shocker, I know), a band/artist cancelled, the venue is too far to make it worth the trip, you’re tired of busy venues and want someplace a little slower paced (have a few options outside of the beehive of activity that is 6th street and downtown). The fact is, experienced SXSW visitors have at least 1-2 back up plans to execute when they’re denied entry to their most preferred show.

      Waiting is the hardest part – IF you are hell-bent on seeing a particular artist/show and suspect it may be a popular event, camp out at the venue as early as possible. Unless you have some backdoor connections, you’ll have to wait and the only card you can play is to get in line early. Personally, I’d recommend against it. There are way too many shows to see to camp out. The majority of showcases are short-lived events (60 sets AT BEST and 20-30 minute sets being pretty normal). It’s not worth your time to wait such a spell to see such a short show.

    Okay – back to Wednesday morning. Before departing, I double-check my wallet.

    Starting Cash: $100

    I arrived at the W just shy of 6:00 am and while in the lengthy line, sipping my coffee and walking my eyes around my environment for passing amusement prior to shows, I spied a $10 bill on the ground. Score! More money made then spent this SXSW (thus far). I barely made it inside before the venue is at capacity to the first morning of KGSR’s four-day SXSW 2013 morning series.

    I “donated” $5 (I say donate, because everything online says it’s by donation but $5 is the expected minimum.

    Who I saw?
    6:00 am – Delta Rae @ the W
    6:30 am : Family of the Year @ the W
    7:00 am – Pickwick @ the W
    7:30 am – Wake Owl @ the W
    8:00 am – Elle King @ the W
    8:30 am – Iron & Wine @ the W
    9:00 am – Court Yard Hounds @ the W
    9:30 am – Bob Schneider @ the W

    I met Jenny & Scott Erikson of Two Bar Productions just before the Pickwick set. These two good folks live in Central Washington State had a lot of great musical recommendations. For the rest of my SXSW experience, they proved to be the uncontested champions of musical knowledge.

    Scott & Jenny – Thanks so much for all the new tunes!

    SXSW best value tip – the free morning shows are a must. Having only spent $5 at this point, my morning has been amazing. I’ve seen some great shows, someone bought me a beer, I’ve met some good peeps, heard a whole slew of great artists and got a lot of music recommendations. AND, had I arrived 15 minutes earlier, I would have gotten free coffee and tacos!

    12:00 pm – Gonzalo Bergara Quartet @ the Continental Club

    Jazz performances are rare at SXSW. And if you were going to see one, this was the one to see. This group put on an amazing show. I think the GBQ was the most talented instrumentalists I saw this year.

    I bought a beer and ended up buying the CD from the band. All told, I spent $25 dollars.

    2:00 pm – Swear & Shake @ Russia House

    Crap! Not the band but the reason I saw this band. I had to use one of my back up plans. To see Macklemore x Ryan Lewis, I went to Waterloo Records but guessed I was not going to get in. The venue was packed an hour before their 3pm set and the line trailed down the length of the fence and turned the corner. This is why it’s important to have a plan! I went to Russia House to see how busy it was. At 3pm, I wanted to see Syd Arthur. When I popped in, I got a pleasant surprise. On stage was Swear & Shake, a recent SJSB feature!

    I enjoyed the show. I did. What was jacked up though was the stage. I mean that LITERALLY. The stage was elevated about 4 feet off the ground. The ventilation system for the building was about 6 ½ feet above the stage. That left the band a very finite amount of space within to rock. I felt sorry for them.

    One beer purchased.

    3:00 pm – Syd Arthur @ Russia House

    4 pm – Elle King @ Brazos Hall

    I arrived there early and got a chance to meet Elle. The venue was so empty that I found Elle King minding her own on a couch, phone in hand and texting away. I politely interrupted, sat down and we had ourselves a good ol’ chat.

    The venue was an odd one. They were taping performances and interviews. The staff make a point of telling the audience to silence their phones and mind their conversation volume to not interrupt the recordings.

    6 pm – Lord Huron – Clive

    Alex bought me a beer!

    7:30 pm – Rachael Ray’s Feedback Party – Bangers

    You can only get access to this specific show if you’ve some kind of media connection. I’m guessing my blog and time with KOOP radio gained me access. The food and drinks are free AND quality. The service is amazing and the shows were intimate.

    I tipped $5 and drank and ate my fill!

    8:30 pm – ZZ Ward – Bangers

    I stood five feet from ZZ and rocked out to her bad ass show. This lady girl pumped out some hot & steamy soul.

    10:00 pm – Matt Nathanson – Bangers

    I headed home & took stock of the day.

    The shows I really loved were:
    Delta Rae
    Wake Owl
    Elle King
    Iron & Wine
    Bob Schneider
    Gonzalo Bergara Quartet
    ZZ Ward
    Matt Nathanson

    Cash left: $65

    2013 sxsw wednesday