Every year as most areas of the country are celebrating the end of a long, cold winter and the budding of new life, Austin is celebrating something a little more cultural but no less exciting: music.
The annual South by Southwest festival has been the launching pad for acts as varied as John Mayer and the Silversun Pickups, and it draws acts that range from two-man acoustic comedy band Flight of the Conchords all the way up to ska bands whose members number in the double digits.
The music festival began as an industry showcase, a place for new talent to perform short sets and get their act in front of industry insiders like A&R reps or even label heads – not to mention agents and managers. However, SxSW has grown considerably from those esoteric roots, drawing fans and critics as well as industry pros, and putting Austin on the map as the site of one of the most exciting music events in the world.
During the week of the festival, it’s tough to even get a parking place downtown, let alone a hotel room. Even though the festivities generally take place in March, the rush for hotel reservations and plane tickets into Texas’ capital city start as early as the summer before. When it comes to staying in the coveted area between the river and 6th Street, options are few and they get snapped up quickly, so it pays to plan ahead.
For people lucky enough to have an all-access pass and the stamina to listen to music from early in the morning until the wee hours, it’s completely workable to see anywhere from 150 to 300 bands over the course of the five day event. This is due to the festival’s roots as an industry showcase – artists do not play full sets, but rather are limited to anywhere from two to five songs, depending on how highly regarded they already are.
Many venues will specialize in a certain genre of music, so if someone has a favorite style, that makes it even easier to see a fantastic line-up of new and exciting up-and-comers without having to traverse the streets of Austin to do it.
In short, whether a person works professionally in the music industry, is a citizen music journalist, or just someone who loves discovering great bands and wants to be where the action is – in March, there’s nowhere else to be but Austin.