SXSW: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Categories: SXSW

Erik Hess
See more photos from our 2012 SxSW coverage.
Did you read Monday's Onion story "SXSW as Cool and as Real as It Gets, Reports Marketing Associate?"

Once again, the satirical site takes aim and takes down its target. South by Southwest mania is upon us, and chances are your social-media channels are already being inundated with dispatches from the Austin music festival. A good friend of mine who works in the industry actually went as far as to "pre-apologize" for it all: "On behalf of the music industry (myself included), I'd like to apologize for just how obnoxious we'll be this week while at SXSW. Extra apologies for any and all usage of the term 'killing it,' gratuitous name-dropping ('Oh, hey, [insert celebrity here]'), photos of long lines into parties, and whining about how tired we are. That said, I have to read your sports talk, and this is our Super Bowl, so we're even."

So, is SXSW really "our Super Bowl?"

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Nate "Igor" Smith
These are famous people that Igor Smith saw at SxSW Interactive 2013. See more.
I don't think so. It would be "our Super Bowl" only if the Super Bowl was attended solely by coaches, collegiate players hoping to get in to the NFL, and industry sponsors like Nike and Gatorade. Though I'm sure they exist, I've never met anyone who was unaffiliated with a band or a component of the music industry who made plans to travel all the way to Austin for SXSW. Many regular music fans typically wait for the band(s) they like to travel through their town, especially around this time of year, when most noteworthy bands are making their pilgrimage to the showcase.

Don't get me wrong. South by Southwest is great. I've been numerous times since 2006 and have always had a good time playing, networking, and feeling perfectly at home within a community of fellow musicians. I've had the opportunity to see some of my favorite bands in very intimate settings. I saw Vincent Gallo walking around once and Billy Bob Thornton another time. But let's face it: There's something compulsory and seemingly obligatory about the decision to go to SXSW, at least in regard to unsigned bands. Every year, more and more bands travel to the musical mecca, hoping to get signed by a major record label or to play a show for Jeff Tweedy that will prompt him to take their band on tour with Wilco.

The reality is somewhat more masturbatory. Here in Arizona, and this is the case nationwide, I'm sure, a group of bands will annually put a mini-tour of sorts together, complete with an unofficial SXSW showcase representing their local scene, and make the 16-hour trek through the desert and high plains to essentially play and get drunk with the same bands they play with on a weekly basis back home. In a different state. There's an underlying air of -- I'll try to tread lightly here -- a misplaced self-importance, I feel, in the delusion that anything other than the aforementioned playing and drinking with the usual crowd will take place.

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Vincent Gallo never attended SxSW. The writer may have been seeing things. Vincent Gallo is the coolest of them all


You hit the nail right on the head with this one. This is the best description of SXSW I've ever read. Nicely done, dude!

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