South by Southwest—or "Silicon Valley Spring Break" to some—is a massive showcase hosted right here in Austin featuring the hottest gadgets, up-and-coming artists, and innovative ideas. With a multitude of events every day from March 11-20, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. In addition to the 30 events we’re excited for, here are essential tips to making the most of SXSW this year.
1. Plan in advance for big events...
Recognized venues like Hype Hotel, Fader Fort, Mashable House, and KGSR’s live SXSW Broadcast at the W Hotel can have long queues, and reach capacity early on—people have been known to start lining up at 5 a.m. for a chance to snag bites at Rachael Ray’s Feedback last year! The payoff can be huge though. Remember that Kendrick Lamar played Fader Fort just before he became a household name, and special guests have included Usher and Miley Cyrus. Plus, KGSR's lineup this year is incredible to say the least: Chvrches, BØRNS, and Ra Ra Riot are set to appear.
2. ...But you may have more fun exploring smaller showcases.
Haven’t heard of any of the bands? Go anyway, and embrace the spirit of SXSW, which is to broaden your horizons. International offerings can be especially fun: last year one of the most enjoyable events for this contributor was a Taiwanese music showcase. If you’re looking for something a little different, check out the YouVisit showcase featuring quirky locals The Octopus Project or The British Music Embassy’s showcase. Finally, don't forget that if you’re interested in an official event but don’t have a badge, you can usually pay a cover charge to get in, if they’re not at capacity.
3. Venture outside downtown for a more laid-back vibe.
The masses of people quickly subside outside the downtown epicenter, making for a more relaxed experience. Check out South By San José at Hotel San José, which will host bands like Peaches and Mercury Rev. There will also be curated merchandise pop-ups, including a collaboration between Madewell and Fort Lonesome the day before the music starts. You can also savor la Barbecue and sip complimentary drinks, while you catch hip, live music at The Yard, where we heard Geographer is sure to steal the show.
Spreadsheet lovers, rejoice! Whether you’re using a service like RSVPster, the official SXSW schedule creator, or striking out on your own, stay on top of your RSVPs and have a flexible game plan for each day. Keep your social media notifications on just in case there's a last minute Kanye show in the works. Worried about your battery life? You should be. Pack a charger like these from mophie—no word on whether or not their St. Bernards will be making the rounds again this year.
5. Dress appropriately.
Regardless of your personal style, keep in mind Austin’s penchant for 30-degree temperature fluctuations and pack some layers if you don't plan on heading back to your room for a quick change. Wear shoes made for walkin’ and dancin’—cowboy boots are always a great option. Check out Allen Boots or HELM Boots for the perfect pair.
6. Most importantly, relax and have fun!
Fuel up at SouthBites trailers, featuring Austin all-stars East Side King and taco heavyweight Veracruz All Natural, alongside out-of-towners here for a limited time. Drink responsibly and get home safely, and don’t worry if you take a day to rest or don’t make it to one band's show—there are hundreds more. As aptly stated in the official SXSW first-timer’s guide: “SXSW is a marathon, not a sprint.”