When I reminisce back to my last two SXSW experiences, they resonate in their stark contrast. My first deployment into the Austin festival was as an outsider in his senior year of college. The festival altered my life in a profound way and was the catalyst in moving to Austin upon graduation. As for the transition from Washington D.C suburb to Eastside Austin, it was quite easy. Living with an old friend and a new one a mile from downtown helped with that. My job as a literacy tutor ensured I’d have off for my second SXSW tour. Having experienced the festival once I learned three things:
- Start early.
- Hydrate (not just at the open bars.) And
- Always ride a bicycle.
Every rule for SXSW is a double-edged sword and with factors changing by the hour any misstep can be disastrous. Starting early is crucial to achieving the most, problem is that tends to require sleep. On our first year, the average day for the team (ride or dies) started at 1pm. Safe to say we missed out on a lot, I’ll never forgive myself for missing Stephen Jackson’s event. I apologize “Stack 5” I was young and naive to SXSW’s grueling toll on the body. In my second year we were out by 11am every morning. It was great and that was the problem, open bars from noon on left one in a brown-out state before the sun had set. As the festival shifts from tech to music, the best events start going later and later, with the Illmore going until dawn. Something about seeing Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne at 4am told me “I need to be more awake.” It took two tracks for me to realize “Jeezy Da Snowman” was preaching in front of me. This year I have to attack each day early and be rested and ready when performances start.
A girl from college explained hydration to me “if you’re thirsty, it’s already too late.” I wish I remembered her name but her tidbit stuck with me. Hydration is key and during SXSW it’s the door, lock and key. That’s an exaggeration, but when transportation and hydration are intrinsically linked, it’s of massive importance. Since I’m rarely in peak physical shape, riding around on a bicycle for a whole week is intense. I don’t know about everybody else but when I’m in asphalt assassin mode, the sweat is real. The ride home is always an arduous ascent that plays in your head like the plot of Vertical Limit. Exhaustion becomes routine and if not careful dehydration too.
Best-case scenario for SXSW 2015 is cutting back on the open bars and being at every possible event. I want to enjoy the delicious free food at tech events and see every surprise performance. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is the motivating factor in every decision at SXSW. Nothing will demoralize you more than walking out of an event, an hour before a surprise performance by Snoop. That will not happen this year, I won’t allow it. The game plan is simple, go for glory.