Pre-SXSW Advice to Cheap Fucks
Don’t be scared. Don’t be anxious and irritable. It’s a wonderful time to be alive! What you need to do is drop everything, pour yourself a tall glass of Beam, drink it down and read what I’m about to tell you with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Today is the day you decide to go to SXSW.
Done with that Beam? Good. Now read.
Everyone knows that SXSW is the best damn thing since letting white tigers lick peanut butter off your balls. And like a white tiger grundle, SXSW can be expensive and dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, but don’t worry, dear reader; I have the answers you need.
Everyone knows that festivals can drain a bank account in a single weekend – SXSW included. The great thing about SXSW though is that cheap fucks can have a blast in Austin for cheap. Last year The Bartender spent only 250 dollars including gas money to drive down there. No joke, and with planning and cunning you can be a cheap fuck just like me.
I can’t promise you an experience like my own, but I would hope that my experience would inspire a trip just to witness the greatest musical spectacle on earth.
Getting a ride
The drive to Austin is pretty nice from whichever direction you come from. From Denver, it is fifteen hours of open road through cowboy country. The vistas of Southern Colorado, New Mexico and Northern Texas are beautiful, endless prairie. A seemingly endless road stretches out for miles like a daggar into the horizon. Of course the drive home is an equally long car ride with the worst hangover of your life.
The climate change is noticeable as well. I recall at one point in northern Texas on our drive last year, there was a line drawn on the landscape where one side was desolate, brown tumbleweed country, and on the other side was brilliant green grassland. It’s so refreshing to see living landscape after a harsh winter. Last winter Colorado received a freakish eight feet of snowfall in Denver and the metro areas, and even more in the southern plains. Escaping the winter is enough for me to commit to any SXSW road trip.
Plane tickets are out of the question for most cheap fucks, so it’s better to drive with friends. Finding a ride shouldn’t be too hard for anyone. Check your local craigslist postings for rides if you’re super desperate.
If you know a band that is playing, ride with them and offer to help pay for gas. (Going with a band may provide you with special access priveledges, because bands get special bracelets).
One important note: be careful in Texas, not so much from the cops, but the people. They are crazy, racist Republicans who have a long and horrible history of vehement hate towards blacks, jews, gays and anybody who is not a white male. Do not fuck with these people. These backwater hicks should only be viewed at a distance. If you need to ask for directions, be careful who you ask. You are not safe until you get within Austin city limits. I’m dead serious about this. Texas Chainsaw Massacre was based on a true story.
After you’ve found a ride down to Austin make sure you plan ahead, which involves getting a good impression of what to do during every day you are there. Download schedules of free shows and SXSW sponsored shows, even if you don’t have a wrist band or badge; you may want to pay to get into a show, or in some cases you may be able to get into an exclusive badge or wristband only show, which I will explain how to do in the following sections.
Go to SXSW.com for the sponsored show schedule, and showlistaustin.com for the free show lists.
It’s important that you scour the internet for parties and obscure non-SXSW events. And make sure you RSVP to them; the literally hundreds of free parties are your source of free food and booze!
Last year I got so drunk at the Paste Magazine party that I accidentally dropped a full plastic cup of red wine off the balcony and on to the people serving the wine two stories down. When I went down to apologize, I saw that wine had rained down little red droplets on pretty much everyone – “Everyone,” being nicely dressed hipsters and industry people who take offence at the slightest irritation. My slurred apologies didn’t seem to help. The Paste people were cool, though – they even gave me another glass of wine – white wine, of course.
Staying in Austin
Your stay in Austin will either be your biggest expense or your smallest expense, depending on how much of a cheap fuck you are. If you haven’t booked a hotel room yet, you’re not going to find anything within ten miles of the shows, but don’t worry – if you still want to do this, there are still rooms available for 40-80 dollars a night, and there is good transportation in Austin.
If you’re truly a cheap fuck, you will park your car in the convention center parking lot for seven dollars a day and sleep in your car. Austin is warm this time of year, and in the meantime try and make friends with people who have a hotel room near the action, and offer a little cash to crash on their floor or take a shower. Most hotels don’t seem to stress out too much about extra people in the room as long as they don’t get crazy, which is true at The Radisson Hotel.
Sorry, this advice isn’t very helpful, and may be the biggest deterrent from you going to Austin, but hey, sometimes you got to make sacrifices for greatness. Sleeping in your car or on someone’s front porch won’t be the worst thing to happen to you in your life. I can guarantee that. My only advice here is to check out craigslist.com for room rentals or even house rentals. Also, renting a house is another option for many people for throwing your own SXSW party with your favorite local bands or DJ’s.
Food and Booze
I always bring a handle of Beam, a giant jug of peanut butter and a 30 pack of road soda (aka PBR). Don’t forget to bring a spoon! Peanut butter has all the essential nutrients to keep you alive when on a four day binge of rock and booze. This advice I got from Tim, the bassist of Black Lamb. He also once carried around an old snare drum from show to show, claiming to be part of whatever band he wanted to see. Sound advice from a crusty drunken rocker.
Seriously, nearly every free day show has free food and booze. It’s possible not to buy anything at all. But if you do want to chill out and buy a decent meal, go to Jaime’s or Sysco’s. I don’t know the address to these places, but they offer cheap and good tex-mex. Ask around for directions.
Getting into exclusive/badge only shows:
Now this is tricky, but last year I had great success in getting into every show that I wanted – sometimes I got into shows that even badge-holders had to wait in line for. The key to this is opportunity. Every great thief knows that a great steal needs to present itself with an equally great opportunity. Getting into an exclusive show is very much like trying to rob a bank, but instead of money, you are stealing the experience of seeing your favorite band rock out – and don’t forget that you’re also stealing the experience away from a badge-holder who might not make it into the show because the club is at capacity.
The feeling of skirting the SXSW badge policies and rocking out to your favorite band while badge-holders are still waiting to get in is nothing short of amazing. Your chest will swell with pride and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction will cause you to enjoy the show on a level never experienced before. You may pee your pants just a little bit. Try not to smile too much.
I’m going to tell you one of my tricks for getting into a show that’s not dangerous or even illegal. You won’t have to know anybody, or be an insider; if you are an insider you won’t need my advice anyway. Best of all, you get to be a hero for your badge-less friends, and a badass to all your badge or wristband-holding friends.
Before I tell you my story, there is one rule: don’t be a dick. If it doesn’t work out, move on to another show and try your luck there. The worst thing you can do is piss some bouncer off who will never let you in for the rest of the festival. One more thing: try not to piss off the badge and wristband-holders either; they paid a lot of money to get in, so just lie low, be nice and have a good time.
On the first night of SXSW 2007, we arrived to a vibrant, buzzing Austin with tons of people and parties everywhere you looked. When my friends and I dropped off the luggage at our ridiculously close hotel, The Radisson, we immediately walked over to 6th street to find our friends.
Within a minute of catching up with our friends outside of the Langhorne Slim showcase, we recognized our dilemma. In so many words, our badge-holding friends said, “have fun, we’re going to see Slim and good luck finding a show to go to, suckers,” and laughed heartily while we sat outside listening to the faint sounds of the show from the street. I think most of us felt pretty shitty, but despite being tired from the 15-hour drive from snowed in Denver to warm and breezy Austin we, the badge-less, decided that nothing was going to stop us from going to a show.
We all settled on Les Savy Fav, one of the greatest live bands to see: fat, hairy, sweaty rock. They were playing at Red Eyed Fly – a badge and wristband-only show.
We wandered over to Red Eyed Fly, where Les Savy Fav was playing and Thunderbirds Are Now! was opening. We had no plan on how we were going to get in. A badge and wristband line was already forming. I decided to check it out – to see if an opportunity would present itself. The opportunity presented itself in the physical layout of the bar itself. Split into two sections: a bar and a stage area, the layout was such that Red Eyed Fly was allowing the badge-less public to mingle in the front bar while closing off the rear stage area to the badge-holders. A narrow hallway separated the bar and stage, and made it so the badge-less people could stand in the hallway and listen to the band.
And for the entire Thunderbirds Are Now! set we watched from this vantage point while mingling with the bouncer who was ushering badge-holders in and out to use the bathrooms, the bathrooms being located in the hallway where we were standing, not the stage area.
During the set, I saw a few people try to sneak past the bouncers, none were successful. This maneuver is not very smart and hard to pull off – plus, I was with two other people. We couldn’t all sneak in.
Before I continue, I must tell you that besides bartending, I’ve worked as a bouncer on and off at the Larimer Lounge in Denver for almost four years. Sneaking in is damn near impossible unless the bouncer is drunk or stupid. Watching out for assholes sneaking in is what he or she gets paid for. One thing I have learned is that the secret to getting into sold-out shows is that every bouncer has his price. I’ve been offered everything from blow-jobs to drugs to hard cash to let someone pass through at a sold-out show, and let’s just say every bouncer has his price.
While we were standing and chatting with the bouncer at Red Eyed Fly, I learned the he was only a seasonal worker, picking up shifts during SXSW. This was no hardened bouncer. Too easy, I thought. I offered him and the other door person a shot to let me and my friends in. He didn’t even give it a second thought. He acted like he was checking our wrists so the other desperate badge-less people wouldn’t get angry and he let us through. I made his shots double Beams, we shook hands, and for the rest of SXSW I had a friend at one of the better clubs in Austin.
Sweet victory. We reveled in our cunning. I texted my badge-holding friends who were in the line waiting to get in, and full of crazy bravado, I upped the ante; I bet them a cocktail that I would get inside before them. Needless to say, we won the bet. We saw Les Savy Fav while badge-holders were waiting outside to get in – all for the price of two double beams, which I made back on my bet.
Some might say that we got lucky, but there was no luck about it. I saw that at Red Eyed Fly, like nearly every club in Austin during SXSW, they hire seasonal security to watch their doors. You may not be able to buy a bouncer for only a shot of beam, but keep this tactic in mind. A bouncer has absolute power over who gets in, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Now, use this information wisely and enjoy yourself, you cheap fuck.