Thursday, February 2, 2012

Planning Ahead: SXSW 2012

Well folks it's officially February, which means it's time to start thinking about/planning/freaking out about SXSW 2012. If you're an Austin resident then you should stop reading this for a moment and buy a wristband while you still can. The first batch at the deepest discount have already sold-out so now is your chance to get one for $175. After this 2nd batch of 2000 wristbands is sold-out, which will probably happen TODAY, the price will exceed $200. So, don't hesitate now is the time. By the way, before we get too much further I should clarify that this post is about the music side of SXSW, while some of the information relates to the Film and Interactive portions as well, I am focused on SXSW music.

Anyway, for those of you who prefer to experience all of the unofficial festivities that have become the parasitic leech of the true festival don't sweat it, there is a still a lot for you to do. However, if you want all of that free-ness you're going to have to work for it. I have already received an e-mail from Lacy Maxwell Productions, they are the production company who puts together the Levi's Fader Fort by Fiat. So, you know that will be going down. I don't know who will be there or when you can RSVP but when you can, you should. The best way to stay on top of that is to sign-up for the Fader Events e-mail list. There's also, typically, two events hosted by Filter Magazine and at least one hosted by the Hype Machine. Truthfully, there are a billion parties and if you want the free, corporately-sponsored booze you have to RSVP due to some crazy Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission law. Don't ask me, I just work here. I've got some suggestions for how to battle the never-ending parties and other helpful tips below the break. For now, enjoy this great video from one of my favorite Austin artists playing SXSW 2012.

Love Inks - Blackeye video via YouTube

Ok, so let's start with how to navigate the wretched RSVP scene. I have 3 strategies for you, the first is pretty simple, keep an eye on Show List Austin, they will post most or all of the free events worth knowing about. I like to use the "Find on Page" feature and just search RSVP, click the links fill out the info. It's tedious because the parties will be added for the next 6 weeks, keep a list on your computer of parties you've already RSVP'd to and just fill in the blanks each week. Even if you don't think you're going to attend a party just RSVP so you don't have any issues at the door if you do choose to go.

There's also a new, more comprehensive list this year aggregated over at SXShhhh. The minds behind this site have created a tedious and extensive, private Google Doc every year outlining EVERY party happening in Austin with the when, the where and the RSVP info. This year they have chosen a different route, leaving it open to the public, making it more customizable and charging about the price of a beer for access ($5.)

The folks over at SXSW Party List are also a great resource if you simply want information and party posters.

Last, but certainly not least, you can pay the folks at RSVPster $40 and they will RSVP you to EVERY party with a +1. This is 9 days worth of parties and you don't have to go through all of the scouring of the internet and tedious entering of the same information over and over. They will do it for you.

Now, as far as the who to check out you should keep an eye out on my picks. I'll be highlighting bands almost every day leading up to the festival starting on Monday. You'll get a little info about each band and there will always be some form of song sample to check out. You can also check out 2 playlists I've created on Spotify. The first one is a monster, it features almost every band playing the festival and if you listened to it non-stop it would take you about a day and a half. You can find the comprehensive one here. I've also narrowed that list down to about a 2 hour list with roughly 40 highlights, which you can find here.

Things to keep in mind when planning:
  • Just because the booze at the parties is free, doesn't mean you have to drink it all.
  • Bring lots of $1's, the bartenders are working extra hard and their tip is not included just because you RSVP.
  • Have an idea of a few bands you want to see everyday but be flexible.
  • Utilize public transit. CapMetro isn't the greatest but it's better than cabs/parking.
  • Bring, buy or rent a bicycle. (Have a good bike lock too) <-- This tip via Rideincircles
  • Think about places to get food downtown NOW. Places with chairs will be your best friend.
  • If you have official credentials, don't waste your nights at free, unofficial events.
  • If you have official credentials, plan a couple of nights where you stick to one venue and a couple of nights to roam
  • Accept the fact that you can't do everything you want to.
  • Don't buy into the corporate hype. Who cares if [Multi-Platinum Selling Superstar] is playing a "secret gig," SXSW is about new, undiscovered talent. Give your attention to those who ACTUALLY NEED IT.
  • Bring earplugs! You'll be watching bands play in parking lots, alleys, tiny bars and amphitheaters protect your hearing future.
  • Bring a notepad and write down who you are watching. Thank me later for this one.
  • Bring a bag with snacks, toilet paper, wet-wipes, paper towels, cheap sunglasses and hand sanitizer
  • If there's free booze, there's free water, take both. You can't walk out of venues with any of it though (so put the sealed waters in your bag.)

So, there you have it kids. You have a little over a month so start planning. I hope this little guide has helped.