Okay so in Part 1, you learned to keep your expectations within reason, but to come up with a list of five bands you REALLY want to see, so you have some goals. Next up is planning and preparation.
STEP 3: Outline your plan of attack.
Here’s where the planning bit comes in (which I love, because I’m a big nerd). Once you have your five must-sees (and a handful of it-would-be-awesome-to-sees, for good measure), figure out where and when they’re playing. Make sure you note the location, the time, and the other bands and artists on the bill, so you have a list of all your options.
- Use the Official SXSW Schedule to find the band's official showcase. (It'll be super important to note the other bands on the bill here, because if you try to pay to get into an official showcase, you'll probably be staying put and you want to make sure you're paying for a good show.)
- Visit the band's website or myspace to find out about any other parties or showcases they might be playing.
- Check out Showlist Austin for unofficial day parties and free/alternative nighttime parties. It's an AMAZING resource for all of the unofficial stuff, and it's super easy to do an "edit: find" on the page to look for the band of your choice.
- Austinist will usually have a helpful party tool as well when we get closer to the festival.
- Donewaiting is another excellent resource for SXSW party info.
- I believe that SXSW2009.sched.org has plans to launch a schedule-planning tool soon as well.
Once you're done, you should have a list of every opportunity you'll have to see your top 5 bands, as well as those it-would-be-awesome-to-see bands you'd like to try to fit into your schedule as well.
STEP 4: Prepare accordingly.
There’s nothing you can really do to increase your odds of getting into an official showcase before you get to Austin (even if you know the band, it’s hard to get on the guest list for the show, because most of the time there is no guest list), but there’s a bunch you can do to make sure you can get into the other parties you think you might hit. A few things to remember:
- Most of the free day parties are 21+, so if you aren’t legal, maybe you shouldn’t be making the trip this year.
- RSVP, RSVP, RSVP! A lot of the parties are “guest list only,” or at least they pretend to be. Do your research and find out whether they’re free and open to the public, or if you have to RSVP. Some of the larger parties will have forms on a website you have to fill out, while for the smaller ones you’ll usually have to send an email to someone (and in both cases, most of the time you don’t get a confirmation). If there’s even the SLIGHTEST chance you might end up somewhere, just go ahead and RSVP for it anyway. And make sure your friends RSVP too.
- Figure out where everything is in advance, so you know where you’re going and you know how far away it is. SXSW Baby has links to a bunch of great maps that I’ve used for the past two years. Print out a copy to stick in your pocket or bag and take with you. And then print a few extra copies to stick in your suitcase in case the first copy gets crunched up or soaked in beer.
- Always have a backup, no matter what. Even if it's free, and even if you're RSVPed, there's no guarantee you're getting in. . Usually if you're there early enough, you're good to go. But alllll kinds of stuff can happen at SXSW, including schedules getting swapped, venues getting packed, you getting drunk and distracted, etc. etc. So make sure you know what else is going on if you can’t get into that killer party you wanted to check out. There’s a good chance you can just wander up the block and find something else that’s cool, but it never hurts to be prepared. So jot down some other parties that look cool, and RSVP for them too, just in case.
Coming up in Part 3 - attack!