As I sit here in the dirty outfit I’ve had on for two days straight, with a cigarette burn on my arm, underwear on inside-out and having just come from a 5 a.m. flight from Austin to NYC, I feel like the happiest pile of garbage on the planet.
As a music journalist, SXSW is impossible to avoid. It’s the talk of the industry for practically three months. You’ve got to prep for it in late February, go in March and compose everything (and yourself) by early April.
Everyone I know in the industry has made their pilgrimage to Austin about a dozen times. This, however, was my first.
It was a blessing and a curse to know so many people playing the festival and working it. They showed me the ropes, pointed me towards the best shows, the most promising bands and the most happening day and after parties.
There’s just no way to prepare for the craziness that is SXSW. Free official drinks, free unofficial drugs and partying that started at 10 a.m. and didn’t end till 7 a.m. the next day. I lost my debit card, my mind and probably some other shit that I just haven’t realized yet. But I don’t even care. I feel like a rock ‘n’ roll survivor.
It all started with meeting Champagne Superchillin and BOYTOY in Memphis, TN. I spent a few days on the road with those guys while we made our way to the festival. (Stay tuned for the tour diary—it was also pretty wild.) So I was already pushing my body to its limits, but I’d say it was a good prep for the chaotic activities that were about to ensue.
I arrived Wednesday around midnight and went straight to the hotel. After not bathing for days on the road, I treated myself to a midnight bubble bath and prepped my body for the first day of my first SXSW experience.
Around 9:45 a.m. I woke up to the fire alarm blaring and I immediately thought about the bombings happening around the city. Everyone in the room ran downstairs without even grabbing anything.
Bursting into the second floor, we saw everyone peacefully eating their breakfasts. We got some looks from strangers like we were crazy. All of a sudden we realized there wasn’t an alarm anymore and everyone was calm and acting completely normal.
Did we imagine all of that? I’m going to be honest; I still have no idea what actually happened. Fire trucks appeared, but we never really figured it out. We just ate a biscuit and chugged some coffee before leaving for the Pond Magazine unofficial day show. (Official shows usually didn’t start until around 7 p.m.)
I arrived with Lindsey Gardner (Siren Sounds PR) who put the showcase together. She recruited me to DJ between sets and I ended up helping set up the stage area and tend to the bar. The show was killer. It was in a huge backyard area, $1 tacos, $2 beers, free screwdrivers (orange juice & vodka) and the sun was shining brightly.
Around nine bands played: Gnarcissists, Navy Gangs, Barrie, Big White, BOYTOY, Vundabar, The Britanys, The Muckers and Honduras. Many were New York-based, which made it kinda feel like a class trip or spring break. But there were a few bands from around the world, like Big White from Australia. The bands were all garage/punk based, but these aren’t your normal punkers—these players shred solos that make you think, “holy shit, I’ve got to be the luckiest person to catch this free intimate show.”
Only at SXSW, am I right?
Throughout the day I had bands come to me to be interviewed. I chatted with Medium from Nashville, Totally Mild from Melbourne and Big White from Sydney, AU. I extremely recommend tuning into The Music Meetup to listen to these interviews firsthand. They’re quite the conversations. I may or may not have flashed the Medium boys at some point to show them a dumb tattoo …
After the day party was over, a few of us ran over to the official Georgia Theater showcase to catch the last few bands, including Plastic Pinks and The Nude Party. If you follow my writing at all, these names will sound familiar—their shows have been covered and they have been interviewed on the site before. And if you’ve ever experienced SXSW before, you know there’s a show every second of every hour.
I was immediately given four or five drink tickets and the bass player of Plastic Pinks pulled down his pants to show me a scar on his knee from an incident I was present for a while back. (Read more on that here.)
You’d think after a full day and night of partying a sane person would call it a night—but not at SXSW.
After that show, we ran over to another bar (and by this point my mind is so blurry that I can’t even remember the name of the bar) to see my buds High Waisted. These babes are full of sparkles and catchy tunes that everyone dances and sings along. I couldn’t miss out on that.
That was pretty much how the next several days went. Day shows and parties right when you wake up around 11 a.m./12 p.m. and then night shows until 2 a.m. I caught countless bands from all over the place, including Thick, Champagne Superchillin, Shitkid, Promiseland, Sloppy Jane, Bodega, Hinds, Surfbort, The Nox Boys, and Los Wilds to name a few.
Now, I bet you’re wondering what happens after 2 a.m. since you know I’m up until the sunrises.
Well, I can’t tell you the location or specifics, but there is a castle-like house with towers and a moat-swimming pool somewhere in Austin. Rumors abound about its owner. It might belong to a rich man on his deathbed hoping to show people a good time during his last few days on earth. Others say it’s a retired pro-baseball player with a thing for the music world. Some people swear it belongs to the one and only Robert Plant. I heard all three of those rumors, but have no idea if any of them are true. I can confirm there’s a moat often filled with naked swimming bodies on the outside and huge chandeliers, glass floors and big rooms filled to the brim with booze inside.
You have to know the right name to get in and once you’re in you see that it’s where all the musicians hang after their full day and night of playing shows. This party usually goes on until sunrise.
Speaking of early mornings, I’d like to take this moment to apologize to the staff of the Magnolia Cafe. In hindsight, screaming “The Star Spangled Banner” at the top of our lungs and asking strangers if we could eat their fries was over the line. Thank you for not kicking us out, but you probably should’ve.
I survived SXSW 2018 and all I got was this cigarette burn on my arm and a head full of wild and blurry memories.
But I survived and I’d say another SXSW is in my future.
In the meantime, kiddos, be sure to check in to BTRtoday.com to read all the drunk interviews I did with the bands.