By Deirdre Saravia
Practice makes perfect, and on my fifth visit to Austin’s South By Southwest music festival (SXSW), this was certainly the case.
The event is gigantic, with masses of people hurrying and scurrying, and all appearing to know where they’re going.
Driving into Austin from San Antonio flows smoothly until you see the Holiday Inn hotel on your left. From there on, cars inch along until finally you leave the highway. Traffic is moving, but part of the reason for that is that there’s nowhere to stop and park. So, last week I spotted a hotel parking lot, paid the fee and escaped the car. The Convention Center was right around the corner. No hunting around for a street parking slot this time around!
Registration for badge holders takes place in the Convention Center. Once again, I encountered a tsunami of people, but all was amazingly quiet and organized. Volunteers are strategically placed everywhere, and love to be questioned. They are there to make your visit is as good as it can be.
Despite long lines of registrants, we processed rapidly and were issued our rectangular press passes, complete with photo ID. These are hung around the neck and clearly identify you as a bona fide professional, musician, or someone with a lot of money. You need these badges to access many sites at SXSW, although there are many free and open to the public events going on simultaneously.
The weather in Austin can be an issue, last year was freezing and raining, and for bands hauling around masses of instruments, the weather was somewhat daunting. However, another year the temperatures soared into the triple digits and that was even worse. This year was warm and cloudy, no complaints.
If you’re unfamiliar with Austin, it is difficult to anticipate distances, and time especially if you’re on the wrong side of IH 35, so finding artists and places to interview can be tricky. Fortunately, the organizers of SXSW alleviate this conundrum, by allocating interview rooms close to the Convention Center. So this means that efficiency is the name of the game, and everyone’s happy.
The performers come to SXSW from around the globe, and for many of them, at their own personal expense.
For these modern day troubadours, it appears that ‘depending on the kindness of strangers’ for a bed is an absolute necessity. Indeed, a bed would be a luxury—many settle for floor space.
Despite the discomfort, these young--and they are mostly really young—musicians are happy, excited and open to the great adventure of SXSW.
I saw two pairs of artists from central Europe who bumped into each other in the Convention Center line. They became instant friends and were planning to spend the evening together. They were unrepresented by any agent or PR person, and I was so happy that they found each other.
For the third year in a row I interviewed Marianne Dissard, and I look forward to seeing her each year. Born in France, now living in Tucson, she writes very poignantly about some very personal subjects. Dissard is a dynamic and creative young woman who appears to be fearless. She travels around the world, often alone, and finds inspiration everywhere.
I guess the one thing that strikes me so intensely, is that these young people from enormously diverse cultures share such love of life and respect for each other. They are open to different points of view, not just open but embracing the difference between us.
The world will be just fine with our future generations as found at SXSW taking over the reins of power.
Finally a comment on the fashion scene--after all, SXSW now has a daily fashion show!
Last year, many young men were seen in pants so tight they appeared to have been sprayed on. This is not a good look for anyone, and most definitely, not for those with a few extra pounds.
This year the trend for females appeared to be non existent skirts, skirts so short accompanied by enormously high heels, the entire ensemble appeared painful to wear.