3/14/2012 8:12 AM
For someone who has never been to Austin before, going to SXSW for the first time is a bit of a shock. A good shock. Like a sugar rush. There's so much going on everywhere, all over the city, that everyone going to Southby must have a totally unique experience. Weeks before Southby had even begun, every event was already being promoted Eventbrite, Facebook, and every other kind of social media imaginable. To choose the best events at the best times takes a kind of coordination newcomers like us are incapable of, so we decided just to go with the flow, and see what all we could learn, see, and do in our first day.
After getting our badges in the convention center, we walked outside and were bombarded by endless fliers for events, live music at every turn, and more free food and beer than we could ever consume (which is saying something). Sitting on a bench to look over the endless packets of party guides, music guides, and Austin guides we have been given, someone came up to me and handed me a free bracelet. This kind of thing turned out to be fairly common. A few hours into Austin, Joe described the city during SXSW as something like being in Candyland. Everywhere we looked, someone was promoting something, and in order to be remembered, this often included free stuff.
Even better than free stuff was the incredible music, much of which was also free. The first band we saw almost by random chance. After almost getting ourselves lost, we decided we needed to sit somewhere cool and dark to relax. The Bat Bar seemed like the perfect place. A giant bat adorns the outside, and the inside is exactly what you would expect from the name: cool, dark, and hip, with brick walls and a feeling of being underground. Interestingly, the band played by the window at the entrance of the bar, so that both those on the inside, and under-21 passerby on the outside, could watch the band groove. The band we saw was Tantric Picasso
, a classic-rock style group from Denver. Their psychedelic clothing and guitar solos are reminiscent of a young Quicksilver Messenger Service.
In search of more free food, drinks, and excitement, we decided to check out the Hype Hotel. The line went around the block, but inside it was well worth it. Tacos, drinks, and a photobooth were all provided for free, and a well-known music site like The Hype Machine was sure to provide. The first band to play was Oberhofer
, an up-and-coming indie pop group that's been getting a lot of attention lately. Backlined with orange amps, this young band from Brooklyn easily managed to get the crowd moving. They performed high-energy, catchy tunes, with heartfelt youthful exuberance and timeless pop energy. Watching them jump around the stage, the energy was infectious, and it was impossible not to dance.
Next was Incan Abraham
, from Los Angeles, who were a bit more chill. They describe themselves as "psychedelic shoegaze," and their ambient, echoing melodies almost put us in a kind of trance.
Exhausted, we decided to head home early to prepare for another long day. On the way home, we regretfully passed up a free movie, met a Mexican artist, and once again, almost got lost. So far, so, so good.
by Melissa McDaniel and Joseph Perry