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How I Survived SXSW: The Music

Written by , published April 1, 2011

See related: How I Survived SXSW: Film and Interactive

How I Survived SXSW: The Basics

duran2crowd-good...and the crowd goes wild!

How to survive the Music portion of South by Southwest. Easy. Expect midnight or 1 a.m. headliners, lots of SXSW parties and little sleep.

In my previous installment, I highly recommend the SXSW’s express pass for bigger venues/band names. It’s worth it. Definitely. But realizing bands are playing into the wee hours of the morning followed by all the after parties that don’t end until 6 a.m., 10 a.m. is virtually the crack of dawn. But, if you can swing it, wake up long enough to get it then return to your Zzzzs.

As with the film schedule, the choices are phenomenal. Pick the bands you want to see most, and let the rest be icing on the cake.

Unlike the film portion, there aren’t discussions or Q&A with the bands at the shows, but you can see plenty of panel discussions, keynote addresses at the Convention Center, as well as interviews at the IFC Crossroads House. Bob Geldof and Yoko Ono (talking, not singing) were among the highlights.

cnn-grill-band1There's music everywhere, including this live band at the makeshift CNN Grill SXSW.

Still, the music portion presents the perfect opportunity to explore and experience so many new, up-and-coming bands. Take full advantage.

I did a lot of that and was pleasantly surprised on many occasions. Sometimes, I found the particular music I stumbled upon was not necessarily my style, but I always appreciate the creative education … and people watching.

duran8Duran Duran perform at Stubb's.

Admittedly, I couldn’t help but indulge in the familiar. Music snobs might chide me for going the mainstream route, but I enjoyed nurturing my ‘80s roots while watching The Bangles or Duran Duran. I saw them both from front and center. That wouldn’t have happened “back in the day.” Thanks SXSW.

I also hoped, as part of this whole SXSW experience, to take in two of the consistently big parties – Perez Hilton’s Night in Austin and Rachel Ray’s Feedback Party. Lots shared their personal opinion about each of these “celebrities”, but my interest was not in them, rather the energy around the parties they throw and the people and performers who show up. I managed to score badges for both.

perez-hiltonsignThere was talk of a surprise guest at the Perez party – Lady Gaga. Brittney Spears. P. Diddy. No surprise guest showed up, but it was a heck of a party with great music. People with RSVP wristbands started waiting in line at 3 p.m. for open doors at 6. Probably not necessary, as I saw people walking in throughout the evening. Also, if you have a badge, guess what? You don’t need a wristband. Though it’s technically not put on by SXSW, they used the same entry system for the party – badges over wristbands. If you’re badgeless, you’ll have to RSVP for those wristbands, and know that they accept tons more RSVPs than they allow in, and wristband distribution ended about 5 p.m. – All gone.

Kanye West hosted a party that night, too. Again, more RSVPs than available tickets.

While I enjoyed my evening at the Perez Hilton Party, this also was the evening of the biggest moon in ages. I heard it was a gorgeous sight to see. My badgeless buddies enjoyed the view from Auditorium Shores, where the City of Austin hosts a free concert as a thank you to locals who, in essence, give up their city for SXSW. They found the show via listings at www.sxsw.com/free. Between the closing performance by Bright Eyes and the beautiful moon, I hear the night was amazing.

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