#SXSWTips: Surviving Showcases and Parties
RSVPster note: We’ve asked some SXSW vets to give their tips on what to expect for SXSW’13. First round of #SXSWtips comes from @CameronatSXSW — we’ve been following him on Twitter and he’s way on it with the music side — he keeps up with all the SXSW news, bands added to the line-up, rumors, and party info. Here’s @CameronatSXSW‘s tips for how to enjoy the fest:
Managing to see all the Official SX showcases and the freebie unofficial SXSW shows on your schedule is chaotic, and if you’re a newcomer, it can be downright overwhelming. Your Google Docs spreadsheet is filling up, your friends are wanting to go to 50 shows a day, and the sheer volume of concerts can drive you insane when you’re trying to schedule everything out. But don’t worry, you will have a blast, and hopefully I can help reduce some of that pre-fest anxiety. By this point, you’ve probably already Google’d “SXSW tips” and gotten some great advice, but here are some often-overlooked tips about showcases and parties to keep in mind:
1) You Can See Official Showcases Without A Badge… sometimes
A lot of people forget that you actually can get into a lot of official showcases without a badge or wristband… for a fee. The venue’s goal is to reach capacity, and if a show isn’t full after letting in the badge and wristband holders, they will often open it up to the public and charge $10-$20 for a ticket (sometimes more). Check the venue’s website or call ahead and see if they will be selling tickets.
2) Lines. Lines. Oh, Another Line. Cool.
“How early should I be there to make sure I get in?” is a question that every person has to ask before every show, and it’s often extremely frustrating and puzzling trying to figure it out. Due to the unpredictability and chaos that is SXSW, it’s often difficult to make a concrete judgment call. There are, however, a couple things to consider that can help you gauge what to expect:
This is the obvious one. How “hot” an artist is right now is the main determining factor for the size of the crowd. Are they getting a lot of radio play? Are they getting a ton of blog buzz from places like Pitchfork and Hypem? How many Twitter followers or Facebook fans do they have? Have their videos gained a lot of traction in the last 6 months on YouTube?
The artist you’re going to see might be a nobody, but is the guy coming on after them a somebody? If so, people will be showing up early, and that might make it difficult for you to get in, even just to see the opening acts.
Well established parties like Fader Fort, MWTX and PureVolume House are always going to have longer lines than anywhere else, especially if the place has free food or drinks. You want to show up to these places at least 60 minutes before the artist you want to see goes on.
Sure, it was easy to see Mumford last year, but they were playing at a place with a 10,000 person capacity. Most artists do not have this luxury. Scout out venues beforehand, ask around, or Google it to see how many people they’ll be letting in.
- Schedule Frequency
If an artist that’s buzzing is only playing one free show, it’s going to be packed. If they’re playing 5 free shows that week, odds are you’ll be able to see them without any issues.
- Check Twitter: Create a list of SXSW-related accounts helps you stay organized, use Tweet Deck on your phone to easily search SX-related terms, and you can also ask using #SXSW questions in regard to what’s happening at events like: “Does anyone know if Mohawk is at capacity for the Windish showcase #SXSW?” – crowdsourcing info can help you decide what you catch, and what to avoid, and will let you know about any schedule changes.
After considering these things, if you believe the artist you want to see will have a small crowd, you can show up 15 minutes early and be fine. If you think they’re in-demand, be safe and be there 30-60 minutes early. If you think it will be near impossible to get in, then try showing up 2 hours early and cross your fingers.
3) Always Be Flexible
If you are planning on seeing every artist on that Google docs spreadsheet you’ve been working on, well, I have some bad news for you: it’s probably not going to happen. Bands drop out, shows are unexpectedly full, that friend of yours drank too much and you had to take them home… things happen. But this isn’t a bad thing at all. If you want to survive SXSW with a smile on your face by the end of it, then flexibility is key. Wander around Austin as much as you can. Go see bands you’ve never heard of. Check out showcases promoted by companies you didn’t even know existed. After all, isn’t that what SXSW is really all about?