Peace, Love, and SXSW

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It’s March, and locally, as well as in the far-reaching grasp of the music industry worldwide, it’s time for South by Southwest (SXSW).

In a nutshell, SXSW is a collection of MUSIC, FILM, and INTERACTIVE festivals and conferences. If you’re in one of these industries, it’s a great way to be discovered, and if you’re a fan, it’s a great way to discover.

SXSW is held annually in Austin, Texas and lasts ten days. Today I’m focusing on the music festival which lasts seven, and myself, which lasts three.

I don’t want to bore you with the details, but if you’re unfamiliar, click here and scroll down for a short synopsis. Basically, what you need to know is that thousands of unknown bands seeking representation perform at parties (or showcases) in every nook and cranny of the downtown area. Some parties require a badge and some don’t. Some offer free drinks and some don’t. I suggest saying NO to the badge and YES to the free drinks.

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SXSW and I go back to my mid twenties when I was working for a CD manufacturer in Austin. My husband and I had a condo downtown (prime SXSW real estate which I’d later learn is rent-able for over a thousand dollars per night during the festival!). One of my company’s clients, a band out of Jacksonville, managed to book a showcase but not a hotel. They slept on our living room floor.

It was late afternoon on a Thursday. The guys were in the living room tuning their guitars, strumming a few chords, and singing a few versus. I’d just gotten out of the shower. Wrapped in a terrycloth robe with my hair in a turban, I sat at my vanity while the music picked up outside my bedroom door. Then came the voices, lots of them, and a chorus of instruments at full volume. I managed to get one eye sufficiently lined and shadowed before a full-on concert erupted on the other side of the wall. Without giving my appearance a second thought, I sprung from my chair and threw open the door. My living room was full of people. Standing room only. What began as lazy downtime had shifted into an impromptu showcase for a major record producer. In my living room.

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Several years later, my husband and I drank our weight in free Mai Tias and chased Glen Hansard from party to party until our efforts were halted at a badge only showcase at Antone’s. The line stretched for blocks, and there was no way I was going to wait hours just to be told my badge-less ass couldn’t get in. Still, I wasn’t about to give up, and I had just enough rum swimming in my veins to forge ahead. I grabbed my husband’s hand and dragged him around the side of the building to the stage door where two gate keepers (at the time, I was sure I’d seen four) were in the middle of a heated argument. My husband was mortified because I was convinced I could talk my way in.

“I’m his biggest fan. I know every song. Did you know he has a hole in his guitar like Willie Nelson? Have you seen the movie, Once?”

It happened in a blur, but before I knew it we were being shoved through the door and ushered to the stairs. The two (possibly four) gatekeepers resumed fighting, their voices fading as we climbed.

“I can’t believe you did that! What the hell were you thinking?”

“Are you kidding? That was a true fan. That’s what SXSW is all about.”

“Uh no, dipshit. It’s about bands getting…”

That’s the last thing I remember.
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Over the years, we’ve encountered some changes, but some things remain. Like Frankie, we continue to favor restaurants to food trucks. We always plan to end the night at a wristband only showcase, but our feet carry us to Pete’s Piano Bar instead. We still spend weeks researching bands, parties, and freebies for our annual SXSW spreadsheet. And we always, ALWAYS carry our tried and true Justin Bieber backpack.

South by Southwest has been a part of my life for decades, but as the opening setting of my book, it has become a part of my heart. Something happens to me when we make that left onto Caesar Chavez. I’m not just there to catch live shows and hunt free drinks anymore. I’m there to visit old friends, imaginary friends. Friends I can’t wait for you to meet.

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