If you’ve been to SXSW before or even glanced at the schedule, you probably know that at any given moment there’s a thousand things going on, probably including two of your favorite bands playing all the way across the city from each other. Making decisions about what to do at every given second in the face of so many options might seem impossible, but it’s not if you follow a few simple guidelines: plan ahead, prioritize, be realistic, and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone (while we’re on the subject of advice, wear comfortable shoes, bring your phone charger with you, and drink so much water. Also, cold showers in the morning are very energizing). If you’re heading down to the festival, we’ve made your life a little easier by picking out the (very diverse!) cream of the crop of showcases each day. Check it out:
It’s the first day of SXSW and I know you’re likely super tempted to overdo it and run around everywhere to see everyone, but seriously, don’t. Be smart, because you’re going to have to do this for three more days, and the showcases only get better from here! Shameless (but we think, very reasonable) plug: start off your festival with the showcase we’re putting on with Danger Village, featuring a host of kickass lady musicians: sets from Fallulah, Torres, Alpine, MØ, Goldroom and Empress Of at Empire Control Room (formerly Lipstick 24) from 1pm-6pm will get things kicked off in style. If your tastes lean toward the heavier side, Converse and Thrasher Magazine are throwing an awesome party at Scoot Inn with FIDLAR, Wavves, and the Atlanta riot-grrl foursome the Coathangers.
That night, we highly recommend sticking around ECR for two amazing shows on the same block: check out Megablaag’s party at Empire Control Room with another chance to see Alpine, as well as sets from Autre Ne Veut, Diana, and Real Estate side project Alex Bleeker and the Freaks, and/or cross the street to Holy Mountain for the Seattle label Suicide Squeeze’s showcase, with another chance to see the Coathangers, as well as performances from Waxahatchee, O.C. pop-punks Audacity, and the awesomely heavy, female-fronted Vancouver punk bands Nu Sensae and White Lung.
Thursday has a host of amazing options for you to check out, so fill up your water bottle, grab a coffee, and let’s get going. Basically, you’ve got four unreal day party lineups courtesy Converse and Thrasher Magazine, IAMSOUND, Pitchfork, and Insound, but the problem is they’re all over Austin. You can totally catch both IAMSOUND and Insound’s parties if you’re dedicated – they’re at neighboring venues The Mohawk and Club De Ville, respectively, which makes it even cuter that the hosts have such similar names. IAMSOUND has sets from promising Brooklyn bands Hunters and DIIV, as well as buzzy Brits Charli XCX, Palma Violets, Peace, and Disclosure; Insound is offering unlimited $5 Brooklyn Brewery beers (!!) and Roomrunner, Mac DeMarco, Widowspeak, and Marnie Stern. Converse and Pitchfork’s parties aren’t too removed from one another either, at Scoot Inn and 1100 Warehouse on the East side of Austin, but running back and forth between both might be a bit of a stretch. Look at your priorities list and make a decision based on lineup: Converse boasts the Orwells, Bleached, King Tuff, Heliotropes, and Thurston Moore’s new project Chelsea Light Moving, among others, while Pitchfork’s got Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Autre Ne Veut, Mac Demaco, Waxahatchee, Foxygen, Rhye, and more, along with headlining sets from Youth Lagoon and Toro Y Moi.
If you feel like staying in the same place all day, it might be a good idea to stick around for Pitchfork’s official showcase (wristband/badge required) if you chose to hang out on the East side: they’ve got a super-diverse lineup, which starts off with sets from Doldrums, FIDLAR, Pissed Jeans, and Savages before veering into pop and hip-hop with Sky Ferreira and Zebra Katz, then getting arty-EDM-y for the last few sets, with Ryan Hemsworth, Disclosure, and Rustie. Alternatively, you can head to Red 7 for Secretly Canadian, Jagjaguwar, and Dead Oceans’ always-great collaborative party, with Suuns, Akron/Family, Bleached, Foxygen, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Here’s what we recommend for Friday – treat yourself, Parks and Recreation style, to an easy morning. Hit up Stereogum’s party at the Hype Hotel and check out METZ, Kitty, Youth Lagoon and Sky Ferreira playing back-to-back sets (what more could you ever desire), or drop by Vans/Windish’s electropop-centric party at Mohawk to catch Doldrums, Icona Pop, Empress Of, MØ and Alt-J, then wander over to the Convention Center (if you’ve got a badge – getting in might be tough if you don’t) and try to check out a 5pm set from Vampire Weekend presented by New York’s WFUV at the Radio Day Stage. If you feel like camping out in one place all day (which is a totally legit option), Hardly Art’s party at North Door is the place to do it, especially if you haven’t gotten a chance to check out the Coathangers or Nu Sensae yet (they’ll both play that show, along with Audacity, Colleen Green, and Shannon and the Clams) or if you just want free pizza, which they’re offering if you show up on time, which means noon sharp.
At night, you’ve got a host of options. Impose Magazine’s party at Longbranch Inn looks great if you’re into punk or grunge: they’ve got sets from Nu Sensae, Naomi Punk, Jacuzzi Boys, and Diarrhea Planet, among others. Alternatively, the booking agency Panache is throwing the party of the century at Hotel Vegas, with Thee Oh Sees, Bleached, Mikal Cronin, Roomrunner, and a plethora of other fun garage-punk acts. You can also make the Mohawk-Club de Ville circuit again, with Ground Control and Paradigm’s parties – check out Ducktails, Parquet Courts, DIIV, and Merchandise at the Mohawk or Palma Violets, San Cisco, Savages, and Youth Lagoon at Club de Ville. Or, if your tastes lean more toward the electronic side, Hype Machine is throwing a great party at the Hype Hotel with DJ sets from Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Kastle, and Kidnap Kid, also featuring live performances by Goldroom and Solange.
It’s the last day! Have you still got it? Today’s a good day to do some damage control and pick up sets from bands you missed earlier in the week, or see your favorites again. If you’ve checked every artist off your priorities list and don’t feel the need to go for doubles, hit up a show at a venue you like where you’re familiar with a couple of the artists performing (extra points if there’s free beer or food involved), and stay there all day. You might discover your new favorite band, and at the very least, you’ll get some hilarious stories to tell your friends. If this sounds like a good idea to you, Impose’s party at Yellow Jacket Social Club (with Parenthetical Girls, Sam Flax, and others), Portals’ party at the Hype Hotel (with Mac DeMarco, Toro Y Moi, and Blue Hawaii), and Pop Montreal’s party at Liberty (with Waxahatchee, Mozart’s Sister, and Sinkane) look like good places to catch some buzzed-about acts and discover newer ones too.
As for the nighttime showcases, you have two options. Embrace your exhaustion and chill in one place all night or go out with a bang and run all over town – it really depends on what you feel capable of. I’ll probably go sit down at the Parish for Captured Tracks’ showcase – get there early because Naomi Punk plays at 8, followed by ex-Deerhoof member Chris Cohen, and stay for sets from most of the label’s roster, including DIIV and Beach Fossils. Another viable option is hitting up Red 7 for the punk and metal festival Chaos in Tejas’ showcase, which includes early sets from Parquet Courts and Merchandise, and then heading over to the nearby Stubbs’ to try and catch Sky Ferreira and Vampire Weekend. If you’ve still got the energy to dance, do it at the Hype Hotel with Hype Machine’s party, featuring sets from Ski Lodge, MØ, and !!!.
REMEMBER – plenty of events haven’t been announced yet, and you’ll only find out about pop-up shows that are announced during the festival by obsessively checking Twitter or keeping an eye out for posters on the street. If you’re underage, check out websites like sxswunderaged.com that profile all-ages showcases. I went to SXSW when I was 20 and you can too, but it does take a little more research – don’t let it discourage you! Whatever your age group, keep in mind that it’s physically impossible for you to see every band, and you don’t have to. Take my word for it when I say that you’ll have a much better time if you see the stuff you’re most excited about at a chill pace, and keep from wearing yourself out. It’s cliché advice, but you’ll have the best time if you follow the music, and your heart. Talk to people about what bands or showcases they’re psyched about, and check out their recommendations. If you hear a good song while you’re walking past a venue, go right in! Don’t be embarrassed to sit down, take a break, and people-watch. And if you’re waiting in line for more than ten minutes, just forget about it – there’s so much else going on. It’s great to have a pre-set, ideal plan, but stay flexible and allow that to change, and you’ll really get the most out of your experience. Also, seriously, drink so much water.
Whether you’re heading down to Texas or checking out live streams and playlists, let us know what artists you like! I’ll return the favor at the end of the week with a sampling of stuff that really impressed me, so stay tuned!