Monday, March 20th, 2006
SxSW XX RIP
4 days, 50 shows, around 1000 photos, loads of BBQ and one pair of sorry sore feet. SxSW 2006 in the bag.
Though only my second year attending and the first for all four days, I still felt like something of a grizzled veteran heading down to Austin. I knew where the clubs were, which showcases would be worth hitting and which to not bother with. More than anything, logistics are the name of the game at SxSW. How far point A is from point B, how thick a sea of punters you’ll have to cross to get there and if you have a snowball’s hope in hell of getting in when you finally arrive. Is there anywhere to get food nearby and how clean their washrooms are. This is a big one – in a nutshell, Red 7 good, Emo’s bad. So very bad.
The day shows are also a crucial component of the fest, with most labels and magazines in attendance holding parties that offer bills as good as, if not better than the official showcases. Add in a much more relaxed vibe, less lineups and often free beer and/or food, and you’ve got a crucial means to maximizing your show intake. Absolutely necessary. And if you get into the private parties, which many increasingly were, you also get to feel cooler than the hoi polloi. Of course, if you – like me – had confirmed RSVPs in advance and yet somehow still didn’t appear on the list (hi Stereogum!), then you feel like a total knob.
I have a general “nuts to the buzz band” modus operendi – being able to say I saw such and such rock their nuts off in Austin before they got on the cover of Fader really isn’t that appealing. I prefer to pick out my personal must-sees and just keep an open mind when wandering around and filling in the gaps. You never know what you’ll come across when waiting for someone else’s set to start and my tastes don’t usually step too closely with the hyped acts. That said, I did try to see Tapes’N’Tapes and was denied with extreme prejudice. Ouchie. That’ll learn me.
But that said, I didn’t have as many of the revelatory new band moments at this year’s fest as last year. The artists I was most impressed by were the ones that I’d expected to be – there wasn’t really any backing into anything blind and lucking out into a life-altering experience. From the veteran end of things, Eric Bachmann, Rainer Maria and Centro-Matic provided some truly memorable highlights while Decoder Ring, Headlights, Band Of Horses, Serena Maneesh and Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s were tops in the rookie class.
Random observations – there seemed to be far more badges on display than wristbands this year – I still can’t imagine I’d get an extra $400 of value out of one of those, but will admit that when standing in the wristband line outside a venue and watching the delegates wander in and out at their leisure, it doesn’t seem like too dear a premium to pay.
This was also my first opportunity to interact with other music bloggers en masse, and it was an interesting experience to actually put a face to a URL. It was quite cool to actually run into people I knew on the street or in a club as well as talk shop (or whatever) with people who don’t think what I do is weird or freaky.
I mentioned in last year’s wrap up that I would have to travel to Austin this year with a cellphone. Which I did. Now I resolve that for next year, I will travel to Austin with a cellphone that has coverage in the United States. Rather sad that it will have taken me two years to perfect this whole “telecommunications” thing.
Another 2005 resolution that I didn’t address quite right was the accommodations one. My hotel was a ways out of downtown, and while it did cost me a fraction of what something in the heart of things would have, it was also a bit of a pain to not have a convenient homebase for the inevitable lulls in the schedule. Travelling in and out of downtown really wasn’t a problem with ye olde rental car, but parking could be a real bear, even with something as pocket-sized as a Chevy Aveo. Next year, maybe I’ll try to go in on a downtown hotel with some folks.
My only real regret of SxSW? I think I’m the only person who was in Austin that didn’t see The Flaming Lips in some capacity, whether it was one of their two “secret shows”, listening parties or just seeing Wayne Coyne roll down E 6th St in a giant plastic ball. Did that really happen? But otherwise I would call the experience a success. I tried to be smart about things and am thankfully not nearly as tired as I could have been. Still quite tired and achey, but not as. Last year it took me some months to want to do it all over again. This time I’m already plotting 2007. See y’all down there.
The Toronto Star has a few more dispatches from Austin as does The Globe & Mail. Popmatters also has two more. I actually haven’t had time to read any of the other reports I’ve been linking – no time. Maybe this week I’ll get the chance to compare notes with other attendees.
I am actually posting this from somewhere in the boondocks of Chicago – not sure exactly where. I took American Airlines up on their offer to stay overnight in Chicago in exchange for $500 in travel vouchers, so I’m hanging out in the U S of A for one more day. It turned into a bit of a fiasco getting to the hotel and whatever, and naturally my overnight stuff was all in the suitcase that still continued on to Toronto (making for a rather gross-feeling morning) but all’s well etc etc.
np – My 4:30 AM wake-up call.