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.
There are two ways to do SXSW: Go in flying blind with only fate on your side, or plan out a meticulously researched flowchart, showcase by showcase. Either approach has its perks. Which you choose is really up to what you hope to get out of the festival: spontaneous adventure or checking bands off your bucket list.
No matter which SXSW gameplan you decide on, it definitely doesn’t hurt to do a little light reading in preparation.
Tip No. 4: The more you know …
Even if you don’t want to sketch out an itinerary, it would help to know where showcases are actually happening. The official SXSW schedule is overwhelming to be sure, but it’s perhaps the best way to get a sense of who’s on the lineup and where they’re playing.
If you’re more open to suggestions, we'll have those, along with carefully considered, hour-by-hour recommendations for each night of the music festival, coming soon on the the Austin Music Source. Whether you’re looking for hip-hop, punk, country, indie rock, pop or international music, our team’s tastes will help point you in the right direction.
Need a more in-depth sampling of acts for a specific genre? Keep an eye on Austin360.com/SXSW for those, too.
Hearing is believing
Need a little taste of what you’re about to wait in line for? Check out SXSW’s official Spotify playlist.
Plot your course
You can’t really do SXSW unless you know where to go for SXSW. Whether you’re hitting up official showcases or popping into side parties, you have to know where the action is, or else you might end up curled in the fetal position behind a downtown dumpster.
Smartphone users: Use that GPS until Siri gets sick of you, but only if you know you can charge up often and reliably. Any map app will eat up your battery life like it’s Kobayashi in front of a ballpark frank. Even if you have GPS capabilities, it’s a good idea to print out some directions or a map. (When in doubt, ask a local where you’re going. We are theoretically friendly.)
Really, honestly, truly want to go the spontaneous route? At least look up where some of the major venues are located and jot down some notes. There’s no prize for getting lost.
Get a move on
The only reason for you to drive into the maelstrom of SXSW traffic is if you don’t know better. (How did the cars that did find parking spaces get there? It’s a mystery lost to the ages.) If you absolutely insist on driving, check out this interactive map of downtown parking spots and check for road closures. And if you are Scrooge McDuck, help yourself to parking in a garage for $25 at the very least.
The best ways to get downtown? Have some kind soul drop you off and pick you up. Take a bus, and buy a daypass. Biking is a great option that will keep you continuously mobile. Or take advantage of a pedicab, the (basically) official mode of transportation of Austin, Texas. You won’t need our help finding one.
Or there’s always rideshares. Austin is home to RideAustin, the city’s answer to Uber; Uber, which is back in the city after a hotly-contested local ordinance that then required ride-hailing companies to fingerprint background check their drivers; and Lyft, which left for the same reasons, but is now back. But be warned— SXSW surge prices are sky-high, and good luck getting a ride in a timely manner downtown.
More from our SXSW Survival Guide: