Every year in March, Austin says "Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses of music fans trying to get into as many shows as they possibly can." South By Southwest runs March 9-18, and it's going to be a jungle out there. Free shows? Secret shows? Stunts like giant Doritos vending machines (R.I.P.)? Who can keep track? Leading up to and during the music festival, we'll be offering a series of tips to staying ahead of the pack in our SXSW Survival Guide.
Tip No. 1: Always be buzzing
Gather 'round, children, and I'll tell you a tale filled with magic, wonder and a free Kanye West show at the abandoned power plant.
In 2011, I went to Port Aransas during spring break, because I was in college and we all let ourselves down sometimes. Betwixt loading up a styrofoam cooler with High Lifes and getting food poisoning from toxic softshell crab on my birthday, I caught a tweet on my phone that would change my life forever, the kind of tweet that will echo through eternity in the halls of Valhalla once Ragnarök falls. I don't remember the exact phrasing, but it contained the words "show," "SXSW," "West," "secret" and "Kanye."
Also in that tweet? A phone number to RSVP via text.
That SXSW show, where Kanye took over the Seaholm Power Plant fresh off the hype of "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," remains one of the best nights of my life. John Legend was there. Bon Iver, too. The free Tito's Handmade Vodka flowed like water. Perhaps the best part: Everyone there was so, so excited. The official showcases are rife with talent, and the pre-announced side parties are a whole other festival experience themselves. But nothing matches the satisfaction of hearing about something before anyone else.
That's why it's important to stay on top of the social media buzz surrounding the festival. Not only will it keep you ahead of the rumor mill, but it will let you know what shows aren't too crowded, what shows should be more crowded, and how to RSVP to any parties that pop up along the way.
The moral of this story is that if you watch Twitter, you might get a chance to be North West's new au pair.
Where’s the party at? Check out our guide to the best unofficial parties during SXSW
Join the hivemind
Do not fear the Matrix, Neo. Knowing what's going on at SXSW is all about staying on the grid and following even the faintest of leads, like some kind of bloodhound who only sniffs out hashtags. Luckily, we have a one-stop shop.
Find a list of all of the Austin360 team's Twitter handles here. If you stumble across a hot piece of information, make sure to mention us in your tweet: @austin360. Keep an eye out for those Twitter sages dedicated to SXSW party news, too, like Cameron @ SX and Miss Kris.
Go straight to the source
Have a band you're paticularly invested in? Looking for secret shows? IS BEYONCÉ GOING TO MAKE A SURPRISE APPEARANCE AT THE P. TERRY'S DRIVE-THRU? (No. No, she is not.) Following specific bands, especially those that control their own Twitter accounts instead of letting a PR flack tweet for them, is a great way to stay connected. Also, keep an eye on Twitter accounts for brands and companies that host their own events: Spotify, Vans, Tumblr, that sort of thing.
But of course, there's always safety in numbers. As you pick up acquaintances through the week (and you will unless you are actively antagonistic), make sure to grab those digits. Remember the part in "The Dark Knight" when (spoilers) Batman and Morgan Freeman activate the surveillance network of Gotham City's cellphones to find the Joker? Be Batman. Create a SXSW text chain. You can only be in one place at a time, after all. Your friends' knowledge can be your knowledge. That way, you'll be able to say "I was there" the next time a superstar rapper commandeers a hollowed out utility building.
More from our SXSW Survival Guide:Tip #2: Don we now our fest apparelTip #3: Gear upTip #4: The more you know ...Tip #5: The badge isn’t everything