March 16, 2009
You can break South by Southwest attendees down into basically two categories: people who think they’re cooler than you and people who actually are cooler than you. Both categories are goddamned annoying. In fact, it is a huge struggle not to sulk around all week in a misanthropic funk, brooding like Robert Pattinson in Twilight, tortured by the idea that other people are at better parties with better drugs, better liquor, better music, and richer, better looking people. Damn you, Bobby Bones! Dig deep, Sparky. Go to your happy place. Think back to those simpler, unjaded years when going to see live music was more about seeing the band rather than being seen seeing the band. Sure, it’s awesome to say you were at the show where Billy Corgan played backup bagpipe in a crotchless kilt (thank God for Twitter, right?), but sometimes the buzz band gets drowned out by the buzz. In all likelihood the buzz is coming from your cell phone, because you’re getting tweeted that Jack White, Dolly Parton, and the Dalai Lama are sitting in with Daniel Johnston at Emo’s. Doh! And you just blew your bankroll on the pedicab ride to the Corgan spectacle! As any hipster will tell you (if you can somehow get them to make eye contact), staying on top of what’s cool is fucking exhausting. It’s 24/7 obsession, except for the parts where you’re sleeping or making sandwiches at Thundercloud. If that’s how you like to roll, SXSW provides ample opportunities. More than likely however, you’ll just be just setting yourself up for disappointment. Here’s a pearl of wisdom that they don’t drop into your registrant’s bag: The truly wonderful thing about SXSW isn’t that you have the opportunity to go see bands you’ve been hearing about, it’s that you can stumble into bands you’ve never heard of and be absolutely amazed. To do that, however, you’re going to have to open up your heart and mind and embrace the unknown – not just unfamiliar music but unfamiliar people, as well. Just because a band is playing the Cabana Calle 6 Patio doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t blow your mind as much as the headliner at Stubb’s – especially if they’re buzzing hard on crank and standing next to you at the urinal. If that actually happens, make sure to remind him that Cabana Calle 6 Patio isn’t an actual venue the other 361 days of the year. It may save them a few awkward phone calls. There are plenty of other “venues” as well – nearly 100, especially if you count unofficial showcases – and most of those have urinals, too, or at least an obligatory full-to-the-brim Porta-potty. Urinal or no, you’ll have plenty of chances for interaction at SXSW: musical, cultural, and even carnal (if you like to roll the dice with your privates). Keep an open mind. Anything can happen, and if you run into a few buzz bands on your voyage of discovery, try not to let it harsh your groove. Sometimes bands are popular for a reason. You can investigate that premise this Thursday night for free at SXSW’s Auditorium Shores concert series. You may not have heard of them, but Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Cold War Kids, and M. Ward are bands with considerable buzz. They’ll get a chance to justify it before several thousand music lovers at SXSW’s largest venue. Who knows? You might start buzzing about them too.