SXSW is still worth it for up-and-coming bands, but not for the reasons you'd think
Editor's note: As she has in years past, Kalyn Heffernan from Wheelchair Sports Camp will be sending us dispatches from the band's trip to Austin for SXSW.
Courtesy of Wheelchair Sports Camp Your author, demonstrating the importance of down time (and creativity) at SXSW.
An Austin blog asked me to, "describe SXSW in 15 seconds." I did it with only two words: shit show. But that's not the big question, the one that kicks on my door every year. "Is SXSW worth it for up-and-coming bands?"
The biggest blow of going to SXSW is that no one makes money doing it. Well, probably the city of Austin and a small handful of bonafide hustlers. For us, the goal is just to break even. Which is much easier said than done.
The plan was to come down here primarily to busk, sell merch, and come home with loot. But we only made that happen for a brief time before our showcase Friday. I linked up with world-class beat-box badass Ashley "Saywut" Moyer, who laid down a beat, and we rocked a couple covers and originals on the corner of 6th & Trinity. Thanks to all the b-boys and onlookers who stopped and gave us dough.
This is my third SXSW and I'm beginning to feel like a seasoned veteran. So many of us come down to SXSW with so much to do and majority of the time don't get a chance to do half of it. We're all exhausted, and we didn't even "turn up" as hard as we could have. To make it through SXSW you have to take time to do nothing, and I noticed a lot more people doing that this year.
The trick to SXSW is coming in with zero expectations, because not much ever goes as planned. Some people make the best of their week without doing anything official, just hitting all the day and house parties.
Still, the Colorado Music Party we played was a super blast, and our official showcase with the Strange Famous Family popped off as anticipated. There are a few advantages to playing the official showcases: getting on the SXSW website, being able to say you're an official artist, having access to all the official shows and getting the opportunity to release a video through SXSW. Most of the networking happens at other people's shows, which makes having a wristband worth the while. Being official also helps with the press train.
But the unofficial stuff can be just as fun and packed if not more than the official stuff. All of Austin is SXSW, and there are no shortage of dope shows going on everywhere.
I realized this trip how funny it is that so many of us make the huge trek down here to play super short sets that is usually cut even shorter because of set up time (shouts to my five piece band holding me down this trip. Rubedo, Mike Brown on bass and Everai). It usually takes about three times the amount of time to find parking and lugging gear than playing an actual set. Typical sets are about 30 minutes and there's no room to start or end late. Those who come down with huge bands and loads of gear that isn't on wheels end up killing themselves.
We were enjoying my wheelchair magic at St. Vincent on the VIP balcony at Stubb's, when it occurred to me that the terrible crash that killed two and injured many more happened just a block or two away. I'm still surprised nothing has happened like this in the past. There are so many wasted people down here every year. Just crossing the street is scary biz.