AUSTIN- At this point, if you haven’t been to Austin, Texas for South By Southwest you’re probably in either two camps. In camp A you have the people who want to get down here so freaking bad they can taste it. Every year that goes by without their presence at this festival fills them with the longing of a child watching recess from detention. If you’re in camp A you’re likely a music enthusiast with some sort of plan to get your ass down here, one day, soon.

If you’re in camp B, you get it. You’re tired of hearing about how great Austin is. You’re tired of seeing #sxsw a thousand times a day. You assume it’s all hype at this point. SXSW is now 26 years old. It’s got to be blown out. Everything great in music dies at 27 anyways. Corporate America has discovered a gold mine for “trend setting young adults with disposable income” and it can’t possibly live up the hype. Right?

It does. Oh it does.

SXSW is a music festival like none I’ve ever seen. There are literally thousands of acts playing nearly 24 hours a day. Trying to sift through where to go, who to see, how to get in, and what to do is enough to turn anyone with a penchant for organization crazy. It’s simply impossible. Just let it go.

Everywhere you look there is a band playing music. Real bands, hometown heroes, up and coming acts, LA, NYC, Nashville, Chicago bands. People you’ve never heard of who might become your new favorite band are playing right next door. Find them.

How do you deal with it all? Here’s a few tips for the man on the move in Austin.

Research

Don’t get too hung up on details but before you arrive I would strongly suggest scanning sxsw.com for the list of announced bands. (Music acts, comedy, etc are listed under “showcase”) Cherry pick some acts you want to see. Follow them on Twitter, like their Facebook page, etc. Don’t try to plan your whole trip. Too many things change, too many things are TBA. You’ll have to change your plan a hundred times and it’ll end up being wasted time. Good immersion therapy for OCD and type A planners. Go with the flow.

RSVP

Pay a couple of bucks to a site like RSVPster.com. They will RSVP you to the dozens of sponsored parties that get a lot of the big name acts. Their site is a gold mine of information for attendees. Use it. If you have the money, buy a badge ahead of time. You’ll skip every line, you’ll get into every official event. You don’t need one to enjoy the festival but if you have the coin it opens doors and keeps you in the clubs and out of line.

Invest Your Time Early

On your first day go wait in line for your wrist bands. You’ll thank yourself later. Just do it. You need them even if you have a badge and you can only pick them up at certain times. I know, you’re finally at South by, I need BBQ and a drink and some tunes, right now. Hurry up and wait, it’ll pay off later.

Start Your SXSW Experience on Twitter

Not on Twitter? Join it, if not just for this. Search for #sxswtips #sxsw #sxsecrets. Save those searches, check them regularly. Nothing on the web can keep up with Twitter. No web site, no schedule, no app. Twitter was made for days like these. Passion Pit goes on in 30 minutes, next door? Find out on Twitter. Rumors of Justin Timberlake and Daft Punk being deposited in a field by an alien spaceship? Find out on Twitter. Nearly every venue has an associated hashtag. Half the time I’m just using it to find out the name of the band on stage, who’s up next, who plays here tomorrow. Find it all on Twitter. It’s the internet’s whisper chamber, embrace it.

Continue It on Instagram

Best for use while on the ground in Austin, searching Instagram’s hashtags and nearby photos will give you approximately 860 words more per look than twitter. Searching nearby might tell you that John Wayne Bro is absolutely killing the club two doors down while you can’t get a drink for some act you’re not even into. There is a party happening everywhere. Find the one you want.

Download The Official SXSW App

The sheer volume of acts in town take away from this app’s usefulness. It’s not their fault, it’s just nearly impossible to sift through and organize everything they have happening. You set a few search parameters, a search area, a time frame and get moving. You scroll for 3 minutes and realize you’re still searching 10pm in a .2 mile radius. It has purpose and value but don’t rely on it exclusively.

Go Straight to 6th Street

There are other pockets of activity but 6th street is the beaten path for a reason. Get in a taxi and say, “6th and Congress please.” That’ll drop you right where you need to start. Google maps is your friend. Get your bearings. That big lit building that looks like an angry owl is at 4th and Congress. If you’re looking at it the numbered streets decrease. (3rd, 2nd…) If it’s at your back the numbers go up (6th, 7th, 8th). Know where you are, it’ll help later. Walk down 6th, take it all in.

Don’t Get Bogged Down With Information

When in doubt, walk into your closest bar and order a drink. Regroup, watch a band, have a drink. Plan your next assault. Most shows seem to start on the hour so if it’s quarter past go catch one in progress and start checking your area.

Drink Water

I know. Boring. But do it anyway. You need to hydrate, it’s hot, you’re walking everywhere, you’re probably having too much to drink. Know your limits. Don’t be that guy.

Pick a Liquor, Drink It on The Rocks

Beer will slow you down and make you wait in line for bathrooms. I prefer whiskey. Get a drink, sip it. Maintain the buzz without getting sloppy.

Charge Your Phone

Seriously consider buying one of those backup battery packs that hold an extra charge. Turn your screen brightness down, charge your phone whenever and where ever you can. Bring your charger out with you.

Document

Mayhem rules. You will see so many bands your head will spin. Taking notes is boring, take a picture of the band, post it online with their name. When you get home check ‘em out and buy some of their music. That’s right, I said buy music. It’s fun, try it.

“Stay out late, sleep in… Do not take a night off” -Robin, Los Angeles, CA

You’re only here for a few days. Get your rest but don’t bone out of the nights, that’s where it’s at. Don’t push so hard during the day that you miss the best part.

Talk to Strangers

Don’t just stare at your phone all night making video recordings you’ll never watch. Talk to the people around you, make a friend for the night or life. Find out who The Airborne Toxic Event is and that they are about to rock Buffalo Billiards, connect with your fellow humans. It feels good.

Go Back Next Year, Do It Better

Have any tips? Find me at @jeremyspeaks and @jeremybjohnson on Instagram. I’ll collect your tips and post them here. See you on the street!

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