The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday May 28th


South by spring break: an Austin adventure

In a few more hours, spring break will once again be upon us. So far, my college breaks have been a little lackluster — sticking around Chapel Hill or Cary to work and see my family.

This year is bringing me a whole new beast: the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas.

I’ve been fortunate enough in the past to cover Hopscotch and Moogfest, but nothing on par with mega-festivals like SXSW.

SXSW was my first foray into music writing. As a senior in high school, I did three 10-question Q&As for AOL’s music section, Spinner. The assignment was to ask artists a list of 10 required questions, so the interviews weren’t that great.

But the taste for writing about music stuck, and I filed the festival in my “maybe someday” folder.

Fast forward a few years, I score a wristband to cover this year’s festival. Dream come true. Like Bilbo Baggins bursting out of Bag End, I thought, “I’m going on an adventure!”

In seeking advice and information on the ins and outs of SXSW, I got mixed responses. Lamenters bemoaned long lines and a hyper-corporate atmosphere, pointing to last year’s three-story Doritos display behind a main stage as a prime example of the festival’s downhill slide. But the good things were overwhelmingly good.

I heard tales of unforgettable times with friends, great food — and of course, the music. The festival features more days of film and other interactive activities, but the grand finale is the five-day music festival.

And like Hopscotch, the festival features scores of day parties that can either alleviate scheduling conflicts or add to them.

The question people keep asking me is, “Who are you gonna see?” The answers vary. There’s the Triangle delegation that includes Mount Moriah, Hiss Golden Messenger, American Aquarium and Spider Bags.

There’s the big ones like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and the first-timers like Night Beds, Aoife O’Donovan and Danny Brown.

And then, there’s the unmissables like Matthew E. White, Mac DeMarco and the notorious spectacle of The Flaming Lips.

The notion of seeing local bands “abroad,” so to speak, has been especially exciting. With a lot of local bands, I see the same folks at the same types of shows.

These shows feel a lot like family reunions; I don’t have to schedule social time with these people because I’m bound to run into them at a club somewhere in a week or two anyway.

But this festival is a whole new ballgame when it comes to crowds — there will be folks from all corners of the country seeing and reacting to these bands from the first time. These people can’t go, “Man, that one sounded so much better when they played the Pinhook.” For them, these bands are brand new.

Sure, I could see all of these artists at home for a lot less hassle, but from what I’ve gathered, the people watching in Austin will be as good as the bands themselves.

Hopefully I’ll run into some friendly faces from home, and who knows, even make some new friends. No matter where I end up on what nights, this foray down to the Lone Star State is guaranteed to be grand.

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