SXSW is starting in eleven days and I’m absolutely shitting my pants terrified in complete denial.
My brain simply does not want to admit the reality that this behemoth is descending upon us like Godzilla with a bad case of diarrhea over Tokyo.
The South by Southwest Interactive/Music/Film festival is so big, they can’t even narrow it down to one category. It has to be three. And not just three rinky dink categories, but three of the largest in the world! SXSW has become a festival like no other. Everyone and their Mom visits Austin and the city functions in a mass state of chaos for ten days until every collectively blacks out.
How big is SXSW you ask? Well, according to the official SXSW website, last year alone there were almost 2,000 musical acts, 300 feature and short films, and 500 interactive events. These are just the official events. What makes SXSW unique is that, unlike many other festivals, there are equally if not more unofficial events surrounding the festival. Patios turn into sound stages, homes turn into screening rooms, and the streets become littered with folks you didn’t think existed outside of the show Portlandia. Last year there were close to 37,000 SXSW participants and again, that is not including all the folks that come into town just for the free stuff. ConsideringAustin is becoming the hot place to visit/live/play, I have no doubt that the number of visitors will be even larger this year and our town will turn into ONE GIANT BALL OF TOMFOOLERY.
SXSW has been a cherished institution in our city since it first began in 1987. The festival initially started as a musical conference, but added the blossoming film and interactive portions in 1994. Now SXSW is one of the city’s leading moneymakers having “directly and indirectly inject approximately $99 million dollars into the Austin economy” in 2009. SXSW has become a sort of unofficial holiday in Austin. Thousands of people take off from work, or can’t get to work, or arrive late to work, or show up drunk to work for ten days straight.
This will be the third SXSW I’ve experienced. Well, the other two I experienced more in the way that someone experiences standing outside the gates of a party they’re not invited to. Or more like voluntarily standing outside the gate shooting venom-licked words at anyone who walks past. Or maybe more like a rabid dog trapped in a cage of their own making, nipping at fingertips and drooling all over themselves. Like many events in Austin, the community’s participation and enthusiasm is so overwhelming that it’s easy to go from “Hey! I’m having so much fun!” to “Dear God! Did a garbage truck of drunk people just drop from the sky!?” Austin gets excited about chickens taking dumps on bingo boards, so we’ll celebrate anything and that ardor is infectious to outsiders.
During past SXSW events, I would get myself all geared up for the four million screenings, parties, and concerts during the festival and then end up standing in the middle of my living like a deer caught in headlights for hours. My brain swimming with where to start and what to do. I would then typically become exhausted from my indecisiveness and fall asleep into a disgusted slumber where I wake at 2AM to the sounds of exuberant party-goers walking past my window and me cursing myself for having temporary social anxiety.
This year I vow to make a change from my behavior in the past. This year I will have a badge that gives me access to the entire festival and I look forward to finally experiencing SXSW as one who lives in Austin should. I will be talking a lot about the festival on the blog- what bands are playing, what movies are playing, street fashion, etc.- so, I hope you’ll share this adventure with me. Lord knows I’m going to need all the support I can get.
Are you participating SXSW this year? What are you most excited about?