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SXSW Survival Guide: Always be buzzing

Eric Webb

Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 5, 2014

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 and stay alive.” South By Southwest Music runs March 11-16, and it’s going to be a jungle out there. Free shows? Secret shows? Giant Doritos vending machines? 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 sometime. 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 secret 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 offical 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 baby North West’s new au pair.

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.

On the constantly updating Austin360 SXSW social hub, you can follow the latest tweets and Instagram posts from our staff, our curated list of expert South By sources, and reactions from people all across social media.

If you stumble across a hot piece of information, make sure to hashtag it #360sxswtips or tweet us: @360sxsw.

Go straight to the source

Have a band you’re paticularly invested in? Will your year be ruined if you don’t find Kelis’ food truck? Are you pinning your emotional health on catching any secret Coldplay 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 are hosting their own events: your Spotifys, your Converses, your Taco Bells, that sort of thing.

Make friends

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.

NEXT TIME: Don we now our best fest apparel.