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10 (+1) takeaways from SXSW 2017

Jim and the French Vanilla

Jim and the French Vanilla Adam Bubolz

City Pages dispatched me to Austin last week to try and absorb as much of South by Southwest as possible and offer my own unique take.

On-the-spot, instant-media daily blogging about wandering around, seeing shows, and eating tacos? Nah, you can get that anywhere. It required several days of intense, reflective analysis of the overall experience before I could write about … wandering around, seeing shows, and eating tacos. (Or maybe I just needed to sleep for three straight days.)

At any rate, here’s what I learned last weekend.

1. SXSW has too many shows and offers way too much sensory overload for you to waste any time on irony. Watching has-beens like Crazy Town play small, empty bars eats up time you could be watching good bands play awkwardly in convention center conference rooms.

2. An outdoor courtyard in the middle of the afternoon might be the perfect place to watch Poliça. An outdoor courtyard (on a concrete slope) at 1 in the morning might not be the ideal way to watch Har Mar Superstar, but he’s showman enough to crush it anyway.

3. Finding the best tasting food-truck food in Austin during SXSW is a fun challenge. Finding the least over-priced food-truck food in Austin during SXSW is like finding a fucking unicorn.

4. Some truly great bands from all around the country play SXSW. Many, many more bad bands half-ass their way through various showcases. So SXSW is basically a very crowded, overly busy version of the Twin Cities on any given Saturday night.

5. Unless you are a Super-Special Celebrity Person, SXSW swag is pretty terrible. The Amazing Earbuds brought to you by Doritos sound pretty terrible even if you got them when you arrived at the MTV Woodie Awards in a Pedicab covered in ads for Google.

6. Given their astonishing work ethic and commitment, you can go to SXSW and see virtually nothing but bands involving Jim and Mike Blaha (The Blind Shake, Jim and The French Vanilla, and Shadow In The Cracks).

7. If you’re a band from Minnesota and you list your hometown as “Woodbury” or “Bloomington” or pretty much anywhere but “Minneapolis" or "St. Paul" or "Duluth” that makes it very hard for overtired, grumpy music journalists to search for your shows in the SXSW app.

8. The hip-hop fashion accessory of SXSW 2017? Rolling travel bags -- to carry thousands of self-produced mixtapes.

9. With excellent planning and bit of luck, you can coast through SXSW on free food and drinks. But those drinks will come pre-mixed, are poured from a pitcher, taste disgusting, and next thing you know you’re watching Rick Ross trying and failing to read a teleprompter.

10. If the sound of a Prince tribute a mile away drifts faintly through the window of your ninth floor hotel room, you’ll still get chills when they play “Purple Rain.”

+1: I don’t believe it’s as authentic as “Keep Austin Weird” and even if it is, I don’t care: Calling SXSW “SouthBy” is douchey as fuck.