My experience with SXSW has drastically changed since my first one in 1999. The last few SXSWs, I have spent a few hours of a couple of days out and about as opposed to morning, noon, and night partying my face off. I take a lot of flack for turning my back on my previous party girl ways. Feel free to peruse my old Myspace blogs for further tales of infamy. I admit, I do take myself too seriously sometimes and could use a little more relaxation. However, I do not miss the wild nights out. I do not miss waking up in weird places, forgetting where my car is, the excruciating hangovers, the random bumps & bruises, or any of the other embarrassing moments. I don't regret anything that I did, but I do not miss it either. I can still enjoy myself without getting falling down drunk or getting into THE coolest party.
Sure I was a little bummed out that I did not get to see Prince, Justin Timberlake, or Nick Cave. But I did get to see Prince's 2004 comeback tour at the SBC Center, I did see Nick Cave in 2006 at Stubbs, and I did get to see Nsync at the Alamodome in 2002 so I really can't complain. I got to meet Maddie the Coonhound, I saw Billy Bragg again, and I had a veggie dog from Hot Dog King. Sure SXSW is a lot of corporate bullshit, but that's what keeps it going. We have to take the good with the bad. I used to say I was never doing SXSW again. Now I just accept it as something we participate in every year like Halloween or 4th of July.
I did have fun this year nonetheless. I did see some really cool bands and I did talk to some nice people and catch up with old friends. All in all, it was a low key week. One of my favorite things about SXSW is the people watching. Most people either put in a lot of thought into their outfit or they're still wearing the same clothes from the day before. Both options make for great people watching and at one time I was guilty of both. I spoke to a fellow Austinite who transplanted from the Bay Area many years ago. He traveled downtown on the Metro Rail. He commented on how crowded it was on the train (it's usually a ghost train) and that how it's ALWAYS that busy on the BART. He said something that really stuck with me:
The city is just growing up and we just need to get used to it.He is absolutely right.
We are lucky to live in a wonderful city that hosts one of the biggest media festivals in the world. We are lucky to live in a city that people actually enjoy visiting. SXSW generates so much money for Austin and we should really appreciate that. We live in a cool city! Why else would Robert Plant want to live here? Or Steve Niles? Or Richard Linklater? Austin cannot stay our little secret forever. Like every other living breathing entity, it will grow. The choice is: whether you will grow with it. Of course I complain when we get stuck in Kite Festival traffic on the way to brunch or have to take a detour to the comic book shop because of a marathon. It is inconvenient, but at least we have the option of these events to attend if we so wish. Not many big cities like Austin are as community oriented.
The worst part is that I know people who have lived here for 3-5 years and have never really experienced this city. They tend to stick to their five mile radius of Round Rock, South Austin, East Side, Cedar Park, or whatever neighborhood they live in. When I first moved here nearly fifteen years ago, I rode the bus everywhere. This gave me the opportunity to truly explore Austin. How can you complain about a place you have never really explored? I know people who have never been to Eeyore's Birthday Party, Mount Bonnell, eaten at Tamale House, gone roller skating at Playland, been swimming at Barton Springs, or even had a sno cone from Casey's. I feel sorry for the people who stick to the same sad Chili's and Panda Express in Pflugerville. It's true some of the iconic mainstays of Austin are long gone. Like everyone else, I too miss Sound Exchange (I REALLY miss it), Libery Lunch, The Dobie, and The Alligator Grill. But I look forward to the new memories and new places to make my own in Austin.
I hope everyone enjoyed their stay in Austin. Respect our city, respect each other, and most of all respect yourself!