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Despite the high cost of attending SXSW, I think it’s more than worth it. For networkers, it’s a no-brainer for the level of access it provides to many industry movers and shakers. For music fans, the ease of meeting many speakers and potentially seeing many artists and bands up close is quite extraordinary.

South by Southwest Music Festival: Closing Thoughts on SXSW 2015

Sunday, March 22 marked the sixth and final day of the 29th annual South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival in Austin, Texas.

Due to rain, the BBQ and Softball Tournament – the only event scheduled for the day – was cancelled. I used this unfortunate opportunity to rest, sleep, and reflect on my inaugural SXSW.

I’ll start by noting the winners of SXSW’s Grulke Prizes for 2015.

2015 Grulke Prize Winners

Gengahr Performs at SXSW Music Festival 2015
Gengahr Performs at SXSW Music Festival 2015

Missed Performances

With several hundred artists and bands performing at SXSW, it was impossible to see everyone I wanted to, even if I had sprinted from venue to venue and never had to wait in line for anything. Just thinking about scheduling all those performances makes my head hurt (kudos to whoever does it).

Without further ado, I regret to have missed the following performances:

  • Alvvays – The first indie band that I’ve ever saw, predominantly referred to as jangle pop.
  • ASTR
  • Cathedrals
  • Future Islands – Nuff said.
  • HEO – Dream-pop band from South Korea.
  • Joywave
  • Leon Bridges – Current music darling, just a tad behind Kendrick Lamar and Courtney Barnett
  • Marina And The Diamonds
  • Oh Land
  • Seinabo Sey
  • Son Lux
  • The Acorn – This Canadian indie folk band has always had me with its 2007 LP Glory Hope Mountain.
  • The Knocks – This New York City electronic music duo has been creating and remixing music for practically forever (listen to “Dancing with the DJ” and “Modern Hearts”).
  • Viet Cong – This post-punk quartet from Canada has been lighting up the college radio airwaves for the past few months.

First Timer’s Guide

SXSW provided a First TImer’s Guide for the festival. I glanced at it before I went, but nothing screamed READ ME. Having popped my SXSW cherry, I decided to review the guide to see what applied.

  • Pack for Every Occasion – Comfortable shoes are a must
  • Driving/Transportation Options – Driving is more than useless in downtown since many streets around the Convention Center were closed, including much of 6th Street. I became very intimate with the bus schedule, but I regret using the plentiful pedicabs on more than one occasion.
  • SXSW GO app – It’s an indispensible smartphone app, but networking features on it were nonexistent since it didn’t sync with SXsocial, the festival’s social networking tool.
  • Make a Schedule – Since I wanted to cram a lot of activities into my day, scheduling my time was a must.
  • Pace Yourself – YES!

Wish List

I wish there had been a locker station so that you could temporarily unload some personal items during the day. I’m not sure how popular it would be, but I could have used some place to store some heavy items during some of my many rest periods rather than trudge with them.

I wish performances had been scheduled more evenly throughout the day. There were many tents and independent showcases, but many weren’t identified in the SXSW Go app and thus dependent on you knowing about them.

I also wish there had been more signs, especially for venues that had more than one entrance and more than one stage. It would be an easy way to eliminate confusion and help get patrons where they want to be.

Yahoo - SXSW Music Festival 2015
Yahoo @ SXSW Music Festival 2015

Random Tidbits

I’ve written much about the festival, but here are random and out-of-context tidbits gathered throughout the week that didn’t fit in my previous coverage, yet should be preserved nonetheless.

  • Many panelists acknowledged that millennials have a strong BS detector. Proceed accordingly.
  • Many panelists also acknowledged how amazing Soundcloud is.
  • Currently, playlists are the most popular form of music curation.
  • Some part of MTV still cares about promoting and showcasing emerging artists/bands.
  • Snoop Dogg: “I always write for the people.”
  • Jim DeRogatis (Sound Opinions) did not like Father John Misty’s new album I Love You, Honeybear.
  • I have no idea what lucky person ended up with the kangaroo balloon at the end of Courtney Barnett’s final festival performance at the Radio Day Stage.
    • Also, I got a response to my inquiry about Barnett’s possible record of eight performances in a single week. Elizabeth Derczo, SXSW Music Publicist, replied that “8 performances throughout the week really isn’t close to being a record and is not that uncommon.” Kudos to those artists/bands.
  • Bob Boilen (Host/Creator of NPR’s All Songs Considered) polled the audience about interest in seeing or listening to full live performances on NPR. The audience leaned more toward listening to live shows without video, which make them relatively easy to record compared to visual shows.

Special Shout-outs

Thanks to Canon Professional Services (CPS) for the courteous cleaning of my Canon DSLR and lenses.

Thanks to Joy of Hands of Joy for the relaxing and much-needed shoulder massage.

Closing Thoughts

Despite the high cost of attending SXSW, I think it’s more than worth it. For networkers, it’s a no-brainer for the level of access it provides to many industry movers and shakers. For music fans, the ease of meeting many speakers and potentially seeing many artists and bands up close is quite extraordinary, although die-hards can probably still see them on stage and around the city for a fraction of the music badge’s price. Free alcohol is also easy to obtain, especially during the day (but please remember to tip your bartender).

That said, book your lodgings early, use public transportation, and be prepared to have fun.

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About Tan The Man

Tan The Man writes mostly about film and music. He has previously covered events like Noise Pop, Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, South By Southwest, TBD Festival, and Wizard World Comic Con.

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  1. Hi Tan – I agree with most of your observations on SXSW. Your suggestions apply to SXSW Film and Interactive as well.

    I, too, thought about lockers as a great idea. They would have saved me several shuttle rides.

    I spent one day listening to music. I wish I could have spent more, but there were just too many films to see. 🙂

    Great article.