SXSW 2010: An Alcohol Diary
Photos by Nina Barry.
After many years spent professionally entangled in the music industry, this was the first time I caved in and made the pilgrimage to Austin for SXSW. As a virgin to the festival, the one thing I was expecting (based on the yearly debriefings I received from friends and colleagues) was an face-smashing amount of free alcohol and food.
Given this deluge of booze, I thought it may be more interesting to build a journal around my alcoholic intake rather than my live concert calendar. Here you have it, then–a tribute to the brain cells which died compiling this piece:
Wednesday, March 17th:
- Things begin on a somewhat sour note (and tragically, not the whiskey kind) as we miss our flight. It gets us into Texas later in the day than we’d hoped. With what we hope lies ahead of us, we aren’t paying for any booze at the airport. We secure a backup flight and make it to Austin in the afternoon.
- We’ve arranged transit to our hotel on a New Pornographers-themed bus sponsored by Matador Records. They’ve promised an advance listen of the Porno’s new album… and a full bar. After a short wait, the converted, wildly painted school bus pulls up, and I see an acquaintance from a previous life (now a Matador employee) stick his head out of the window and drunkely shout out, “This is real!!!” I consume two plastic cups filled with champagne as well as a very generous serving of whiskey on the rocks en route to the hotel. Champagne: 2. Whiskey: 1
- With our belongings safely stowed away from my already sloshy reach, we head down to Paradise to watch Horse Feathers put on a lovely set. Angora Holly Polo generously buys me a Magic Hat. Champagne: 2. Whiskey: 1. Beer: 1.
- When I pick up my press wristband, the volunteer mistakenly gives me an artist’s band, which ensures passage into lounges throughout the town. I pop in to a musician welcome area at the Convention Center and score a Miller Lite. Champagne: 2. Beer: 2. Whiskey: 1.
- In the Convention Center’s main area, some technology company is giving away lots of swag. I think it may be AOL and then pause to realize that they may, in fact, still exist. In either case, they are dispensing bottles of Drifter Ale, gratis. Thank you, America Online. Beer: 3. Champagne: 2. Whiskey: 1.
- Of all places, we wind down the evening at a semi-ritzy gathering at City Hall. (Wouldn’t you know, their printer malfunctioned and they couldn’t print out copies of the final guest list.) Conservative douchebag Reihan Salam is in attendance, but having a vodka soda in one hand and a tasty piece of quail in the other keeps me from punching his smug mug. Beer: 3. Champagne: 2. Whiskey: 1. Vodka: 1.
Thursday, March 18th:
- We begin the day by leveraging connections and attending a brunch sponsored by music publishing organization SESAC. The swag factor is high–Stetson cologne, branded USB flash drives–and the spread is one of the nicer ones we’ll find. Pictureplane is DJing and unidentified bands are lounging about, but we’re here for the Mimosas. I knock down three and then we head out in search of tunes. Champagne: 5. Beer: 3. Whiskey: 1. Vodka: 1.
- Somehow, there is no line for the NPR day party where Smith and Westerns are winning over the crowd. There are free tote bags (of course, this being NPR) and free PBR (which also kind of makes sense if you don’t think about it too much). Champagne: 5. Beer: 4. Whiskey: 1. Vodka: 1.
- Wait, what? How did we end up next to this pool at the Hampton Inn? And why do they have an area on the second floor filled with free, self-serve nachos, Chex mix, and draught beer? I somehow consume a Shiner Bock, a Miller Lite, and a Lone Star (for that authentic TXperience). Way to rally, beer! Beer: 7. Champagne: 5. Whiskey: 1. Vodka: 1.
- Time to duck into the Artists’ Village for some free pizza, burgers, and a Miller Lite. Thanks, wristband guy! Beer: 8. Champagne: 5. Whiskey: 1. Vodka: 1.
- How did we get on this side of the highway? Is that the Fader Fort? Is this a private party? Just act like you know what you’re doing and safe passage is assured. They’re serving up free, big pours of Southern Comfort on the rocks. This is when the idea of free booze has officially lost its luster. Is that Mayer Hawthorne performing? Does anyone else remember how Hawthorne Heights was supposed to have changed the music industry? Beer: 8. Champagne: 5. Whiskey: 2. Vodka: 1.
- Oh, thank god for this mini artists’ lounge on 6th street! I was beginning to worry that I would never experience a cocktail comprised of vodka and SoBe. Beer: 8. Champagne: 5. Whiskey: 2. Vodka: 2.
Friday, March 19th:
- After seventeen drinks in about a 30 hour span, my blood alcohol level decides to start taking things a little more slowly. There were no puking incidents or hangovers to speak of–just a glimmer of common sense. Nevertheless, we pop into Billboard Magazine’s little corner of Austin (again, pausing to contemplate the fact that–like AOL–Billboard still somehow exists) for some catered Tex-Mex and a rum and coke. Beer: 8. Champagne: 5. Whiskey: 2. Vodka: 2. Rum: 1.
- Across the street, the Mile Hi-Fidelity party is showcasing some of Denver’s finest acts. I pick up a free Lone Star and watch most of Houses’ set, then realize I can see these bands anytime I want. Time to move on. Beer: 9. Champagne: 5. Whiskey: 2. Vodka: 2. Rum: 1.
- I wonder if the artist’s area in the Convention Center is still happening. A Miller Lite later, I can vouch for its continued existence. I feel as though beer #10 should come with some sort of special prize, like a Sub Club punch card. Alas, all it comes with is a growing sense of remorse. Beer: 10. Champagne: 5. Whiskey: 2. Vodka: 2. Rum: 1.
- But not that much remorse. On the way back to a hotel pit-stop, I check in at the Artists’ Village, score some more grub and another Miller Lite. I finally understand what it means to life the High Life. Beer: 11. Champagne: 5. Whiskey: 2. Vodka: 2. Rum: 1.
- The evening concludes at two tremendous showcases. First up is the Friendly Fire Recordings event, where Oh No Ono are magnificent and the label owner (an old DJing partner of mine) buys me two vodka sodas. (Thanks, Dan!) Across the street, we catch Kid Sister, VEGA, Telephoned, and Theophilus London at the Fool’s Gold/Mad Decent soiree. Beer: 11. Champagne: 5. Vodka: 4. Whiskey: 2. Rum: 1.
Saturday, March 20th:
- Looking at myself in the hotel mirror, I ponder what I’ve become. Am I still drunk or is the world just a little too sober?
- There isn’t much time for these thoughts, though, as we high tail it over to Hometapes’ amazing Friend Island party. This was a highlight among highlights–excellent live music, delicious (free) pancakes, nachos, and the experimental flavors of Mike’s Hard Mango Punch. Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta. Beer/malt liquor: 13. Champagne: 5. Vodka: 4. Whiskey: 2. Rum: 1.
-The weather is kinda shitty, so we retreat to the hotel hot tub for a stretch. Invigorated, we head out to Rachel Ray’s massive party, which featured slightly sub-par catered food and perfect cocktails. I have a couple of margaritas before realizing that the spicy bloody mary is where it’s at. Beer/malt liquor: 13. Champagne: 5. Vodka: 5. Whiskey: 2. Tequila: 2. Rum: 1.
Were there drinks after this? It’s hard to say. I mean, it’s hard to say how I wound up back here in Denver, typing away at this keyboard. Was it all a dream–a glorious, alcohol fueled reverie? Maybe. I did see that kid from 500 Days of Summer.
Was that real life?