“Why is there a Fugees cover band playing outside my hotel at midnight?” and other pertinent questions from my first SxSW

Originally published on Athousandguitars.com on March 17, 2014:

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It is done. I survived my first South by Southwest festival. And it was amazing fun. I’m a little bit braindead right so I only really have questions in place of a proper report back. The songs and sessions and monster energy drinks might be on their way out, but here are the thoughts that are still lingering:

Why aren’t bands selling merch and albums after their sets?

This was a glaring omission for me because I think it happens about 99% of the time at home. And look, I’m a little relieved that almost no one was doing this, because I was converted to a full on fan of so many bands this week that I’d have left Austin a lot poorer if this were an option. I don’t think it’s banned by the festivals, because I did see two bands doing it (unless they were the illicit ones), so why aren’t all these ridiculously indie bands hanging around for ten more minutes after their set to take the money we’d like to offer them in order to walk around with their ad on our chests? I haven’t seen enough small bands play in the States to know if that’s never done here or if it’s just never done in Austin. Either way, it really should be.

Why are tacos so gross, but eaten everywhere?

For reals, they are horrible. On the first day I was here, I mistakenly tweeted that they were wonderful, before realising I’d been eating an incarnation of a vegetarian quesadilla. Quesadillas are great. I ordered a breakfast taco the next day and gagged halfway through, and whenever I smelt any of them for the rest of the week. I did try one again a few days later, just to make sure I hadn’t got the short end of the stick the first time, and they were still super gross. They’re made up of really weird (corn?) tortillas that are neither raw, now completely cooked, and usually some sort of excessively flavourless egg, and whatever else you’d like to add. Sweet jesus, America, there’s a whole world of food out there and this is what you choose to serve on every corner?

Does anyone ever see more than 1% of what the festival has to offer?

There were over 2000 bands playing at SxSW this year. As Jimmy Kimmel said, I think that’s all of them, all the bands that exist. I counted up all the bands I saw, and all the panels I attended, and estimate that I saw just over 1% of what SxSW 2014 had to offer, and I attended events for 10 – 15 hours a day, every day of the festival. Is there anyone out there who’s ever made it to all the gigs they wanted to? Or are we just 25 000 attendees with the biggest case of FOMO ever recorded? The latter, I fear.

Did you see Kanye?

No. Jesus. This is South by Southwest. What is that guy even doing playing at such an indie festival?

Is Austin really weird?

Guys, it’s not really that weird. I guess this is Texas, and in Texan terms, Austin’s the fucking space cadet of the family, especially around SxSW time. This week I saw a middle-aged lady walking around with her boobs hanging out of her top. She had some sort of sign which I couldn’t read, so I imagine she was making some sort of a statement, but I’ve sure never seen anything like that anywhere else. And I also walked past a hipster wearing shoes and a diaper. That’s all. So I guess this festival makes it particularly weird, but I think the city’s sort of like a non-sea-affected Cape Town. And also non-pretentious-affected Cape Town. It’s a very cool city, but it’s not the mothership for all those square pegs trying to fit into round holes. Maybe someone’s failed on keeping Austin weird, and now it’s just sort of quirky.

UPDATE: Via a Rolling Stone article, I found out why the aforementioned lady bared her….um, soul. It was an anti-protest for a bunch of gun people marching that day. Her sign said ‘MORE BOOBS LESS GUNS’. She is my new hero.

So in the name of all things Texan, here’s a song by a band I’ve become a massive fan of this week – Old 97’s. It’s such a wonderful love song to the state that it makes me miss home, even though this isn’t it:

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