10 Things I learned at SXSW 2015

Was it your first SXSW? Yeah, me too. Here’s what we learned:

Please note I did not attend any actual “workshops” or “panels” or “educational opportunities.” These are lessons from the school of life, mate.

hey girl gosling

No, no, you won’t, Ryan. Not this year.

1. Everyone else will see better celebrities than you. I have, like, 10 friends who claim to have run into Ryan Gosling (although one of these people owns socks with Ryan Gosling on them – like, socks that he had made with Ryan Gosling’s face on them – so I think perhaps he isn’t the most reliable source when it comes to Gosling sightings). You know who I met? NICK LACHEY. Yeah. Nick Lachey. So, well, yeah. Total honesty though: he’s super nice. Oh, and I might have seen Iggy Izalea. But it also might have been just some other Australian girl with a shit ton of people around her, so I can’t be sure.

2. Do you live next door to a lovely, quiet bar or pub 14 blocks removed from where SXSW is officially happening? Bands will play in that lovely bar from noon into the wee hours of the morning every day. Some of those bands will be surprisingly good. Other bands will tempt you to throw empty beer bottles at them from your window to try to make them feel a little bit of what you’ve felt for the past five days if you were that type of person and I’M THIS CLOSE TO BEING THAT TYPE OF PERSON. Other bands will also perform on the steps of an empty fast food restaurant across the street from your office. Where do they plug in their amps? We may never know.

3. There are tons of free parties to go to and you’ll be way more excited about free food than the free booze. I mean, free drinks are rad but let’s be real: I will take canapés in their multitude of forms and sizes and varieties over weak, watery cocktails until I die. Unless there’s beer involved and then beer trumps all.

sxsw crowd

4. Smart Austinites take PTO from their regular jobs and make bank as Uber or Lyft drivers for that week.

5. People with badges will never take off their badges. They sleep, shower, eat and socialize with their badges around their necks lest you forget they have a badge, miles away from anything SXSW-related. We get it, dude. You have a badge. You work for a super cool company and are probably on a panel somewhere and most likely you own a really expensive and yet difficult to ride bicycle back home and we get it. But you’re still in line with the rest of us because, oh look, your badge is for the Interactive portion of the festival and you want to see the same band we all do. Maybe try to get a cooler job next year that will spring for the Platinum edition of that badge. And NO*, I’m not super jealous of your badge.

(*I’m super jealous of your badge.)

6. Do not drive ANYWHERE downtown during any part of SXSW. You’ll be down there so long you’ll just consider it easier to start living from out of your car. Oh, you have a meeting at 10.30 on Tuesday morning completely unrelated to anything SXSW? Doesn’t matter. Learn the bus schedule, bro.

7. You will think that showing up to Auditorium Shores to see Spoon’s free show is the coolest thing ever until you get there and then you’ll realize it was a terrible, terrible, terrible idea and that Netflix and the couch are so much better. Spoon is still ace, though.

Spoon sxsw by Jim Eno

Spoon at Auditorium Shores, SXSW (photo by Jim Eno)

8. There will be some great shows from people you’re big fans of (Alvvays – how awesome were you guys? You guys were awesome. And James Bay – you basically ruled SXSW this year) but you’ll really be thrilled when you realize some of the best music you heard came from bands based in Austin and you will have tons of opportunities to see them when there aren’t a bajillion people in the room. I’m not really writing reviews for any of the shows I saw so instead, I’ll just address the band as if they were standing here.

  • East Cameron Folkcore: Holy shit man, you guys are amazing. I’m gonna see the bejesus out of you as long as you’re playing.
  • Whiskey Shivers: You have a washboard in your band, like, as a real instrument. You should be running a label by now.
  • Colin Gilmore: You’re just a Texas dude with a guitar and that is something I can get behind.
  • Dana Falconberry: The coolest.
  • Warm Soda: You guys have a name that makes me feel weird but I like your jams.
  • Institute: Your name is just terrible but you’re a punk band so I’m going to assume you were being ironic by making yourselves un-Google-able. I like your style.
  • The Sour Notes: to be honest your music doesn’t move me but your videos are phenomenal and therefore I would like to see you in person sometime.

9. But really, SXSW all comes down to this: you’ll see some really great music even if you aren’t trying to. You will accidentally hear a fantastic band. You will wait in line for three hours but meet some awesome people and then when you get inside it will totally be worth it. You will wander around and run into people you know and then even more people you want to know and a general good time will be had by nearly everyone. It will definitely rain on you but probably won’t bother you as much as you think.

You might also see a band playing very badly out of the back of a van and think, “You’re pretty terrible but I like your chutzpah. I hope the cops don’t shut you down.” And then the cops will shut them down and you will be relieved because they were terrible.

10. Oh, PS: Elijah Wood is a DJ now.

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