And as the last few bands wrap up their sets in small, crowded bars full of tired legs and drunken eyes, South by Southwest, otherwise known as “South by” or SXSW, concluded its festivities for 2014. South by exhausted? South by free food? South by program pamphlets? Yeah, the South by jokes don’t end.
Being a freshman attending my very first South by, I didn’t completely know what to expect. Sure, I heard it was this grand “Disney World for adults,” but what does that even mean? For those of you who have never heard of South by Southwest, I suppose the best way to fully understand its wonderful and complex marvels is to look it up online. Basically Austin, Texas hosts the festival every March – miraculously almost always during Syracuse University’s spring break – to promote three major segments: interactive technology and media, film, and music.
All week long, industry leaders talk at their panels, bands perform, new movies premiere, and sponsors hand out free swag like no other. Casual celebrity appearances are the norm and food trucks are your new diet. The adrenaline is at an all-time high due to the limitless options of stuff to do and places to go. Starting early in the morning and running into the wee hours of the next day, you attempt to see all of your favorite artists or attend conferences without dropping from exhaustion.
So what did I make of my first South by experience? Overall, I’d give the entire week a 7.9 out of 10 (very specific… I know.) I’ll try my best to break it down for you in case you wanted an opinion as to whether you should give South by a shot. As a side note, I feel inclined to comment that every SXSW experience is different, so what I may have loved, another could have found as a nuisance.
PROS: The size – I loved all of the options, the variety of musicians and genres, the mix between interactive, film, and music; the available food trucks and restaurants to ensure that a snack was ready and nearby on every block; the free phone charging stations; the variety of people who attended, where I observed kids in strollers and old men with white hair; the handy dandy pamphlet that laid out all of the activities going on for the day; the range of artists; the city of Austin itself (absolutely gorgeous, authentic, glowing, and young); the length of the festival; the timing in terms of aligning with SU’s spring break; and the open bars at a few places.
CONS: The transportation system was difficult. My friends and I rented Austin B-Cycles for the week for a whopping $25 (compared to the $80 inconsistent shuttle). There were “petty cabs” (bike cabs) everywhere and the free Chevy rides were cool, but everything really did suck up your money; the size (yes, I know it’s a pro as well), since our hotel was quite a hike and we even had to cross a bridge to go to a few concerts, so everything was sort ofoverwhelming; the +21 age restrictions at almost every venue and bar; and the expenses of the food trucks could be a little startling considering that I bought a slice of pizza for $7.
All in all, I thought that South by Southwest was a really neat experience that everyone should consider going to at least once in their life! I was able to see artists just breaking the surface, like London Grammar and Panama Wedding, as well as bigger acts like Childish Gambino, Wiz Khalifa, and Steve Aoki. South by recommended.