One of the realities of the music festival portion of SXSW is that there's so much going on at once that you simply can't get to everything. Unless you've figured out how to be in two, three, or four places at once, you're going to miss some of the good stuff. The key to seeing as much of what you want as possible is good advance planning.
Headrush plays acoustically at the DMI party.
photo: Mike Levine
Another reality of SXSW is that there are tons of parties, many of which take place during the day, and most of which are by invite only. Sometimes you can get passes from exhibitors at the trade show, but often, it's just a matter of knowing somebody involved. One of the bigger parties was put on by Spin magazine at Stubb's (a large outdoor venue), and included a performance by the New York Dolls, among others. Those who arrived on Wednesday were likely disappointed to discover that Queens of the Stone Age had put on an unscheduled, unofficial, invite-only show in Austin on Tuesday night.
One of the parties that I attended took place at the Lucky Lounge, a club on 5th Street, and was hosted by DMI, an indie label that that distributes its content exclusively through digital retail channels. Among the performers were Headrush, Larisa Bryski, and redlightmusic.
More Bars, No Cars
Although clubs participating in SXSW are spread out all around Austin, most are concentrated in the downtown area, of which the epicenter is 6th Street, which has a strip of several blocks featuring a huge number of clubs. The street is mostly closed off to vehicular traffic during the evenings of SXSW, and is filled with partying people. It's like a mini version of Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.
There's something for almost everybody at SXSW; the show even has its own golf and softball tournaments. However, the main event is definitely the music.