Don't fret dear reader, many of us live down here and down here we ain't spending a month's rent on a fucking Billy Reed duffle bag OKAY? Down here, we know our next duffle bag will be courtesy of an intern wearing a taco costume in the streets. It'll be a FREE duffle bag emblazoned with the name of a company that exists only as a logo on this duffle bag, a logo on a web site and a logo on the business card of some rich nerd with a fucking unicorn-fantasy-dream that involves a quirky made-up homonym of a word that you almost, sort of recognize.
Flooze video via YouTube
The next thing we're going to look for isn't a handmade, vintage, craft anything. I get it, we all like to shop, eat, drink loca-vore, fair-trade, organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, corn-free, whole-grain, analog. But for four days and five nights we're going to shop, eat, drink, Cool, Ranch, Doritos, Tacos, Locos because it's the only thing that will keep us from getting alcohol poisoning. Again. Allegedly.
Whether you live in Austin or are just visiting here, SXSW is a whirlwind and you WILL get swept up into it. Every year I'm filled with both excitement and dread like jerking off on Christmas eve, real quiet so your family doesn't hear. My best advice is for you to accept that you're missing things RIGHT NOW. If you've already committed your body to a film, speaker, or band's set commit your mind as well. It's one thing to check your schedule and make plans, it's another to chase the dragon. When you're computing the perfect mathematical ratio of time it would take you to leave this venue, walk two blocks, cross a street, wait in another line and still catch more than half of a set from someone else, you could have just enjoyed the set you're watching in its entirety. Are you spending more time moving between spaces and standing in lines than you're spending actually watching performances or participating in events? Whether it's day parties, or official events, it's as important to get the most out of your time, which can often mean not leaving. It's unrealistic to think you can catch a different band at a different venue every hour of every day. While that may be possible, to some extent, all you're going to accomplish is some fucking Foursquare (RIP Gowalla Bear) award that I'm unaware of.
My next piece of advice is for real and is one of the few items one should NOT cheap out on or get too cutesy with: Footwear. Firstly, jelly shoes don't count, nor do sandals. They may look cute but how cute will it be when your muddy foot is bleeding? Picture that, then find your two most comfortable sets of footwear. Now decide which one's the cutest weighing that decision against which of these am I willing to sacrifice? Every year a pair of my shoes is sacrificed to the SXSW gods (or whatever atheists believe-in). There's the mud, the "mud", the dust, the walking, the other people's alcohol poisoning, the Axe body spray and whatnot. It will all conspire to ruin what were once some very comfortable shoes you were willing to sacrifice. Plan for that. Also, bring extra socks. They don't take up much space and after hour 9 it will re-charge your battery about 8-10% it's not a big deal but it's nice.
I hate hats but they will reduce your extreme sunburn or help you retain heat depending on the weather and/or how pessimistic you are. I also advise sunblock...except you theater and interactive nerds, you folks might want to get some bronzer. Another thing, ponchos ain't pretty but if you can come up with a more portable, stylish form of rain protection by SXSW 2014, I'll invest in your revolution to the mobile-app industry, start-up company. For that matter the most portable, collapsible umbrella that will still protect you from rain.
Headaches? You better believe you're going to get them. While there are ways to prevent them like earplugs and hydration you won't be thinking about that when the bartender is bathing you in free Jack Daniels while you're listening to some band that features members of Whitesnake...'s children, so bring some Advil! Also, Coconut Water is natural and great but that sugar-water, filled with genetically-modified electrolytes will work in a pinch. If you see free non-alcoholic beverages in any form, you're not too cool, just take it and drink it. They have to mix that shit with water right? Right??
Earplugs aren't just to protect you from the loudness of the sound-system they're also to muffle the sounds of those drunken assholes next to you having a pissing contest about who attended the better and/or more exclusive event and/or performance and/or who's experience was more authentic,real or exclusive. You can buy these cheap ahead of time or roll the dice and assume that, roughly, 500,000 branding strategists put a logo on some somewhere that you will acquire whether you want them or not.
Wet naps. They're cheap, they're portable they will help protect you from things I don't even want to explain or think about quite frankly. Just trust me, there will be a moment when you think to yourself, "I should have listened to him about the fucking WetNaps!" and then you will shake your fist at the empty sky and curse my very name. Hopefully.
Pocket hand sanitizer. By now you're thinking I'm the Niles Crane of SXSW and you'd be mostly right. Let's face it kids, the world is a gross place and you're going to be out in it, making contact with lots of strangers and things who have also had contacts with lots of strangers and things. It's basically the set-up for a disease-disaster-film shot by a swarm of iPhones and digital found-footage, which will be premiering at SXSW Film 2014. #PrayForNiles
Moisturizer. People. No one on either end of a leathery handshake is satisfied with said handshake. Let's avoid embarrassment, start the moisturizing NOW and bring a $0.50 travel container with you. While, we're talking moist things...pack condoms. Your better looking, more outgoing co-worker is going to need some when he's having all of that sex in your room while you're taking meetings.
Refillable water bottle. Back in the halcyon days of 2010 you could presume that you might find a free bottled water somewhere and you could just refill that bottle throughout the day. Then some eco-genius, who loves the environment more than the taste of cardboard-marinated water, invented Boxed Water. Good job dude. Way to look out for our dear, Mother Earth. Thanks for teaching me what water in a fucking box tastes like. Nowadays, you might want to find any non-glass container of sturdy constructing. You can't enter or exit a space that serves alcohol while there is liquid in your container but it is perfectly legal to move between spaces serving alcohol with an empty, non-alcoholic container.
Gum or mints or something GAWD, your breathe is something fierce. I know there is sugar, or Splenda or some shit you don't want in there but I don't want you close-talking me after you've been downtown for 16 hours straight. Put a fucking mint leaf in your pocket, I don't care just take care of it.
Electricity. You want it, you don't have it. Find out where the plug is and bring your charger, this is almost more important that attending events people. It's not easy to blog, tweet and check-in to places if your phone is dead! How are you going to send endless texts to your friends and co-workers which they will receive 90 minutes after you sent them?!? How are they going to know where you wanted to meet them back then?!?! If you have an iPhone you can find those portable charger things that may or may not kill the life of your battery. If you have a non-iPhone with a removable battery, buy more of them, keep them charged and change them throughout the day. Boom! I just revolutionized your geo-location game strategy for SXSW 2013.
As far as I'm concerned those are your most essential things to have with you if you're going to be hitting SXSW 2013 hard, like a boss or whatever phrase we're co-opting and loading with irony this week. On that note, if you want to go at all to anything you need some way to get in. If you're going official, you need to buy SXSW credentials. If you're going unofficial, you're going to need to RSVP to EVERYTHING or pay for EVERYTHING. You want to suckle at the free-culture, parasite-SXSW events, they're going to need your name. RSVPing is more than a formality when it comes to free events surrounding the festival in March. Texas Alcohol law requires that if you're getting free alcohol we need to know who's giving it and who's taking it. In other words, Zima can't give you their newest product until they know your name OR you can pay for it and retain your anonymity...just not at the same place.
Once you've got the things above covered you might want to think about luxuries like layers. Is it going to be hot? Is it going to be cold? Both! Is it going to be dreary and rainy or is it going to be clear and sun-soaked. Both! I'm I going to see the best performance I've ever seen or the worst performance I've ever seen? Both! Need I continue or can I stop? Both!
Try eating sometimes too. Cupcakes count but not exclusively. You'll find lots of things in bar form and that works, especially if you can use them as the bread for a sandwich you can make from the next free food you acquire. There's supposed to be a food court of food trailers in the giant lot that acts as the Cerberus separating the Convention Center from the Rainey District. There's an IHOP over there too. Good luck with that.
If you're looking for who to see, where to go and all that? It's on the way, for now here's the AustinBloggy SXSW SURVIVAL BAG MOTHERFUCKERS!
- SXSW 2013 Highlights (evolving)