This last week I went to Austin, Texas for work, seeing friends, and SXSW (South by South West). The trip didn’t last as long as I would have liked (like most), but in the time I was there, I had a blast. I’m actually quite exhausted from a week of getting up early to get work done, and stopping in the early afternoon to go out and enjoy what SXSW had to offer until late into the night.
I spent the majority of my time with my friends and hosts, Jake and Maria, whom I met in Puerto Rico last New Year (2014-15). Along with them, I made new friends along the way and caught up with old ones.
I’ll be back in Portland for this weekend before heading out again to San Ramon (3/21-25). You never know about San Ramon, but it should be a decent enough time.
If you want some more details about SXSW or my time in Austin, then keep on reading!
What’s All The Hype About SXSW?
Since deciding to go to Austin was at the beginning of the month, I decided to forgo getting a wristband or badge for the event because the cheapest I found was $895 for the SXSW Music badge. I wasn’t planning on spending a lot this trip, so getting a badge was out of the question.
SXSW had quite a lot going on. From SXSW Education to kick-off the event, to Film, Interactive, and ending with Music. The Film and Interactive overlapped a bit, and then the music started at the beginning of the week I was there. Slowly ramping up from a number of events to eventually being flooded by people from all over and music to match.
The badges were broken out by Platinum, Gold, Film, Music, etc. On the SXSW website, the badges ranged from $843 being the cheapest to Platinum being the most expensive at $1,895.
The Platinum gave you access to the entirety of SXSW, where the other badges all had their benefits.
After talking with Maria, I decided I didn’t need a badge and that I would just partake in whatever free or cover charge only events I could get into…which was actually quite a lot.
Outside the badges was something called a “Guest Pass.” Free to get, and easy to use, it allowed entry into a number of “Official” SXSW events that were on the Free list.
On top of the “Official” SXSW, there were a ton of unofficial SXSW events going on that were free to access or took a cover to get into, so I never really felt to disappointed.
Yeah, a number of the parties that were going on took a badge or wristband to access, but since there were so many other things going on, I made the most of it.
There were a number of other sites I found, like Eventbrite and do512.com, that had a list of events to attend by RSVPing in advance. Those were pretty popular, so there was usually a line, but again, they made not paying the $800+ for a badge/wristband pretty fantastic.
Speaking of RSVPing, my friend Jeff, who works for Pandora, told me to RSVP for Pandora before I came on out, and I’m glad I did. They had a number of free shows and it was worth attending while I was there.
Starting Thursday and ending on Sunday was the SXSW Gaming expo that reminded me of a small version of PAX (Penny Arcade Expo). Along with this was on the 4th floor of the Hilton where they were doing a demo of all sorts of VR equipment. I really enjoyed where VR is going. One thing awesome was that both locations were free to attend for those who have a “Guest Pass” …which they were giving away right around the corner.
Rant: Though minor, it was pretty annoying to have to pull out my phone to show that I have a guest pass when there were people walking around giving them to people at most of the events. Sure, maybe it helps to track the people going to things, but they never once scanned the pass on my phone, so what is the point?!
When I arrived on Monday, there were quite a lot of people attending, but as the week when on, more and more people flooded in and filled the streets. Probably a lot of it has to do with Spring Break happening for all the college students looking for a party.
I’ve been to big parties before, but I was blown away by the number of people filling the streets in downtown Austin around 6th street. With the streets full, and so many of the venues, I couldn’t imagine the actual number of people who attend this festival.
I will warn, prepare to walk at SXSW…a lot! Since I got there on Monday all the way until I left on Saturday, I put in thousands of steps of walking. At a low it was around 10,000 steps, at a high, on Friday, I ended up getting over 19,000 steps. Amazingly enough, I never felt tired on my feet; probably because of all the tasty food! One thing about Austin is that it has a lot of places to eat. Really tasty grub! If you ever get to Austin, be sure to go to one of my favorites: Koriente! Fantastic noodle and rice dishes. My favorite is the Mahi Mahi with noodles instead of rice. Also some tasty bubble teas.
Music at SXSW
The majority of my time at SXSW was spent seeing a whole slew of different types of music. From hip/hop, rap, and rock to K Pop. Probably my favorite part of the event was seeing performers that I normally wouldn’t go out of my way for on a normal night of the week. Most everything I ended up going to was either free or cost a bit of a cover charge. So no need for that $895 music badge!
Here are some of the performers I caught:
- Anderson .Paak
- From The Nine Nine
- Emily King
- Sylvie Grace
- Soul Asylum
- Jackie Vincent
- Acoustic Minds
- So much more…
Austin Outside of SXSW
The majority of my time in Austin was either doing work or going to something at SXSW, but thankfully my friends know a number of other spots. Like Barton Springs Pool where we ended up going early on Friday. After a week of running around it was nice to take a breather and enjoy the cold water of the springs. Definitely recommend this place ($8 for non-locals, $3 for locals).
I’m Biased, But Check Out MC Harold!
On a final note, I recommend everyone who goes to Austin to go to a performance by MC Harold (Jake and Maria are in the group). A local improv rap comedy group who have a number of shows in the Austin area. They’re awesome and definitely worth a watch if you like improve, comedy, or rap.