Thinking about Music and Austin, Wanting You To Survive SXSW
Living in Austin, Texas in the weeks leading up to the South by Southwest Music Festival, it’s hard not to think about music.
A lot has been written about the musical offerings of Austin, with with even more articles and blog posts piling on as this year’s festival gets closer. Some of these things are even true.
When you are living in Austin, even when it’s not SXSW, oftentimes it’s hard to pick which shows you want to see, because there are so many artists playing here.
Sometimes shows are down the street from each other at the same time. It’s so extreme compared to other cities the size of Austin (say Asheville or Riga where all the music fans go to all the touring shows that stop in) that nearly every single day during band touring season, you have to decide between seeing a show, and going grocery shopping, or doing your laundry, or going to a friend’s birthday party.
That means while it’s painful for me to read the art and film listings in The New Yorker, it’s fairly easy to read the pop music section. After all, that same musical tour might even beat the current issue of The New Yorker to my mailbox!
I think about music a lot, even when it isn’t SXSW. During a mid 90s phone interview for an A&R job, I was asked what that was on the radio that I liked. My sharp response of “nothing” was not the answer the interviewer wanted to hear. At 25, I surmised that I was just too old to care anymore, not realizing that what was on the radio in 1995 was truly dreadful—and that I’d hate it even more decades later. After the magic of Nirvana turned into the awfulness of the Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam on an “alternative” radio, I mostly stopped listening to newer music for a while. (While Dave Ghrol seems like such a nice dude, if I see he’s got a drumstick in a project, there’s a good chance I’m gonna to hate it.)
Not long after Fun Fun Fun Fest a couple of years ago, I was explaining my concerns about a song I’d been hearing a lot to a friend who’d just graduated from high school, and who was starting her first real job at a BBQ stand. When I casually mentioned the complete misogynist, homophobic, patriarchal awfulness of a new Die Antwoord single, she looked at me in utter befuddlement.
I wasn’t surprised that she had no clue what I was talking about, as I’m used to that. She noted the irony that it’s grownup me who is out at shows, while she was the one sitting at home in the rocking chair, literally crocheting.
Rocking chair, rock festival. It’s all about where you feel at home. Clearly, age is just an effing number.
I’ve been going to South By Southwest since the second year of the festival. As the festival gets bigger, I get older and less able to cope with two weeks of not sleeping, eating badly and carrying around what oftentimes feels like an actual ton of camera gear. Yet my desire to do so only increases. Heck, I even covered SXSW one year while I was all stitched up after having just gotten out of the hospital.
Yet if you remember when Nirvana was on tour and you’re going to SXSW, remember to drink as much water as you possibly can every single day before you leave your house, hostel, hotel sofa or squat. You’ll be glad you did. Otherwise at the end of the festival you are going to be limping along like a shriveled up cricket, croaking to everyone about your misery, while underage bands trample you to death under their fabulous thrift shop boots.
Actually, if you are over 30 and plan on heading to the festival, you should already be on a water drinking, vegetable eating, probiotic consuming health kick. Get your body healthish now, so that it will still be speaking to you at the end of March!
Try and stay out of the hospital as well. The year I did SXSW just after getting out of the hospital after emergency surgery was no fun for anyone!