My vocal microphone on stage during Mother Falcon’s set. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

By Tamir Kalifa

South by Southwest is a marathon. Long days and longer nights straddle the line between utterly overwhelming and heart-pounding exhilaration with exhaustion as the common denominator.

For most musicians participating in the festival, that sentiment is cranked to 11.

My name is Tamir Kalifa. I’m a freelance photographer and member of local Austin bands Mother Falcon and Sip Sip. 2016 marks the seventh year I’ve performed during SXSW as an official artist.

This year, I’ll be playing nine shows in seven days (Some play more, some play less. In 2014 I played 16 shows in three different bands. This year, some of my bandmates are playing more than that). I’ll have my camera with me to offer a glimpse into what it’s like to be a performer during the most hectic week of the year where we’re one of thousands of bands squeezing in last-minute rehearsals, navigating the sea of pedestrians and traffic,  hauling gear, powering through limited sound checks, playing abridged sets, tearing down, going to shows, taking the edge off and then doing it all over again.

PHOTOS: Check out more behind-the-scenes shots in our photo gallery. 

Unofficial pre-SXSW Music party:

Although SXSW Music officially starts Tuesday, momentum starts building days before with rehearsals, shows during Interactive and Film, a trip to the belly of the beast (the convention center), to pick up an artist wristband and, for Mother Falcon, with All the Friend’s Ball.

Nick Gregg, the founding member of Mother Falcon, carries an accordion and a tattered box of guitar stands into Spiderhouse. I once heard Fred Armisen, of SNL and Portlandia, say that being a band is like being a professional mover. I’m in two bands with over 14 people and I couldn’t agree more. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

All the Friend’s Ball is Mother Falcon’s annual unofficial SXSW party. We curated 60 bands, puppet shows, live comedy and music video screenings across five stages from noon to midnight. Mother Falcon opened and closed the show.

Members of Mother Falcon warm up in the green room of Spiderhosue Ballroom before their set at All the Friend’s Ball. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

We invited bands and friends we’ve played with in Austin, folks we met on tour and musicians we respect. We try to get all of our friends in once place before the music portion of the festival kicks in, hence the name.

Emo puppet band Fragile Rock brings out a large David Bowie puppet at the conclusion of their set in the Spiderhouse Ballroom during Mother Falcon’s All the Friend’s Ball. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)