A veteran’s tips and tricks for SXSW

By Carlye Thornton

The sun is shining, and Texas is gleaming with early signs of a long, hot summer. It must be time to load up the van with your best pals and head down to where it gets weird. South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Festival is in full swing in Austin, but soon we’ll be feeling the blues of the fun that came and went too soon. You need to have a blast to push through these last few weeks of the semester. Here’s how:

First and foremost, get on Twitter and follow @SXSW, all your favorite bands and the members in those bands attending the festival. @SXSW is always posting about the cool hangouts and secret shows you won’t want to miss, as are the bands you know and love. And I know you’ll want to meet the cute lead singer of that indie band you found on Spotify, but it’s unlikely you’ll meet them before and after the set. If you’re following them on Twitter, you can see where they’re hanging out and meet them there. Not creepy, just resourceful.

Be sure to look in on the #SXSW2016 discussion, too. It’s likely you’ll stumble upon a picture of a place you want to experience. Don’t be shy. Message the account and ask how to get involved. You won’t be sorry and – bonus – you’ll make a new friend or two.

Wear comfy shoes. It’s highly unlikely all the artists you want to see are in the same area. You’ll be running to and from different venues all day. Don’t get stuck with blisters on your heels or in between your toes, because it’ll certainly make for a painful weekend. I stick with Vans the whole time and am all smiles.

Parking spots go fast. No matter how late you stayed out the night before, get downtown early to grab a spot that’s not a million dollars. Realistically, it’ll be about $15-$30 in the downtown parking garages, but it’s worth it and will get you closer to the popular venues. Plus, several vendors offer free coffee and breakfast items to ease the annoyance of being awake at 8 a.m. on a Saturday.

Which brings me to my next tip: Don’t always plan to eat out; save your money. Local restaurants have jacked up their prices for the festival. The ticket to SXSW alone is a small fortune; why pay for nourishment when you don’t have to? Free food and drinks can be found everywhere. Companies like Time Warner Cable and Spotify want to get you in their doors. The mutual solution? Free sustenance (and Wi-Fi—usually).

If you’re feeling cranky mid-day, small patches of grass can be found to take a quick snooze. My personal favorite place to siesta is the Capitol lawn. I’ll let you borrow it just this once.

Lastly, free coffee and drinks are a blessing, no doubt. But please (for the sake of our beautiful bodies), drink water. This is Texas and it gets toasty quick. Don’t get caught fainting during your favorite band’s set. Bring a water bottle and stay hydrated.

Lastly, lastly: have fun, laugh a lot and keep Austin weird.