A Guide to SXSW for Barack Obama
Every year the hippest influencers, tastemakers, and brand-launchers flood into Austin for SXSW. This year, the festival has lined up tons of cool label showcases and panels. South By has hosted some notable guests in the past like Mark Duplass, Lena Dunham, Matthew McConaughey, and Snoop Dogg. Last year they even had Win Butler and Paul Krugman on the same panel! This year is no different, and South By has landed what is arguably one of their biggest keynote speeches ever: Barack and Michelle Obama. But SXSW can be overwhelming for first-timers, which is why we put together this helpful guide for Mr. and Mrs. Obama so they don’t miss anything while in Austin! So, Barack and Michelle, here’s everything you need to know to keep Austin weeeeeird…
First of all, the lines are AWFUL. Expect to be waiting on those for AT LEAST 45 minutes to an hour. You’re gonna get hungry waiting that long. Defs have Michelle hold your place while you go get tacos. Don’t expect anyone you don’t know to hold your place for you because they’re not gonna do it. Also, don’t hold a place on line and then have like, ten friends come and cut everyone. They will get piiiiiissed.
As far as lines go, here’s another tip: Make sure you get a badge and not a wristband. It’s pretty much impossible to get into anything good if you don’t have the best credentials. Don’t even bother trying to just show up at the door for any of the big showcases if you don’t already know how you’re going to get in, or you’re gonna spend your whole night watching VIPs cut you in line. Honestly, you’re really best off if you can get on the list beforehand or know an organizer you can text to help get you past security. If you don’t know anyone, maybe text us and we’ll try to hook you up? Remember: at SXSW, it’s all about acting like you’re super important. Who knows—you could be the VP of A&R at Domino Records looking to sign the next Porches! They wouldn’t want to piss that guy off!
Bro, three words: tacos and margs. South By is the place to catch up with others in the industry while also having fun, and there’s nothing more Texas than tacos and margs. If you haven’t already heard from a couple label publicists about meeting for tacos and margs, maybe tweet that you’re going to South By just to let people know you’re gonna be in the mix.
BRING BUSINESS CARDS! Don’t forget to pack these. It’s the best way to get your brand out there. They should look cool but be simple. Just have your name and whatever your title is underneath. (Feel free to embellish! Everyone at SXSW says they’re a CEO or Founder or Vice President or whatever so go for it!) At the bottom, put your Soundcloud link and maybe your Twitter handle. Speaking of…
We were just checking out your Twitter profile and it is like, SUUUUPER helpful that you’re verified. Good job! No one cares about unverified randos at South By. That little blue checkmark will open doors for you, TRUST US.
But remember: Building a brand takes time! Don’t assume that you’re gonna waltz into your first South By and make it into Brooklyn Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People at SXSW list. Try to make friends, network as much as you can, and go back next year and hopefully you’ll have made a strong enough impression that people will remember you.
Food trucks, food trucks, food trucks: Trust us, you’re gonna want to try out Austin’s HUGE array of delicious food trucks. The ones right by Sixth Street can get a little pricey, but if they’re outside of your budget, head farther out toward the East Side, and you should be able to find some killer nosh for just a few bucks. Nom nom!
It’s easy to forget, but dress comfortably and make sure to hydrate! Austin has a little motto that you might wanna remember: Keep Austin Weird! We noticed that you wear a lot of suits—ya might want to lighten up a bit and let your freak flag (as opposed to your flag pin) fly. This is your chance to show off a cool look that might get you on a street style blog or even on an Urban Outfitters mood board, not to mention help you connect with other hip influencers from around the country. Plus, Austin is pretty warm in March (gotta love that weather! like 80 degrees!), which means you could get sweaty walking around all day in pants and a jacket. Pack shorts!
You seem like a real new music hound, so you’re going to LOVE discovering new bands at SXSW. Not only are there lots of showcases at night, but there are tons of really cool parties during the day. This is a great chance to cram a whole year of listening into a single week! Everyone from Songkick to Stereogum to JerryGarcia.com is going to be putting on shows full of up-and-coming buzz bands and hot new artists. Our tip? Stick to one showcase so you can see as much as you can and minimize your time spent standing in line. And stay ‘til the end! Sometimes there are even special guests, like the guy from Phantogram or Wiz Khalifa. You wouldn’t want to miss out on that. Just be careful: A lot of these have free booze, and it can be easy to go overboard at the open bar.
As fun as South By’s showcases are, that’s just the beginning. The action doesn’t really heat up until late, when the afterparties get going. And when it comes to after parties, there’s only one place to be: The Illmore! That’s where all the famous rappers go to hang out. You could go, and, like, Kid Cudi might just be walking around. Skrillex, Lil Wayne, and Chance the Rapper are just some of the artists who have performed here. But here’s the catch: It’s super secret, and it’s realllly hard to get a wristband. But we have a buddy who can probably hook you up. Give us your name and let us know if you need a plus one and we’ll see if he can put you on the list.
One thing that’s inevitable about South By is you’re gonna get worn out quickly if you don’t take care of yourself. We recommend having an afternoon where you don’t do any of the typical South By stuff. Instead, rent a car (or just Uber it!) with some friends and go to the legendary Franklin Barbecue. Most SXSW-goers who don’t really know Austin never get outside the 6th Street area, and that’s a big mistake. Franklin Barbecue can be a long wait compared to the food trucks downtown—one time they even turned Kanye away—but trust us, it’s worth it. There’s so much to do in Austin!
Pro tip: FADER Fort usually gives out free custom Converse shoes (you could put a bald eagle on yours, or your friend Joe Biden’s face, the sky’s the limit, really), but make sure you get there early or they’re probably going to run out of your size, especially if you’re like a nine or a ten or something common like that. They don’t even hold those for Pitchfork editors.
Speaking of brands, we cannot stress this enough: uhhhh, swag, baby! Sweet, sweet swag! SXSW is full of free stuff! You’re a chump if you pay for anything, honestly. Vans, Spotify, Pandora, Samsung, Doritos, Monster Energy, Taco Bell, Red Bull, Mazda, Deloitte Digital, Capital One, Grenco Science (makers of GPen): If you’re not scoring at least a few beer coozies from these cool companies you’re missing out. Maybe you can even get a free GPen. Vape one!
Eat at the death metal pizza place on 6th. We can’t remember the name of the other pizza place there but it doesn’t matter because it suuuuucks. The death metal pizza dudes are kinda dicks but that’s kinda like, their “thing.” Tell Rick we sent you (long haired dude, always wearing a Power Trip shirt), and he’ll hook you up.
If you’re looking for something a little fancier for a nice night out with Michelle, Dai Due has set the food blogosphere ablaze. Their hyperlocal riffs on Italian butcher shop classics is sure to please—just make sure you get a reservation, like, now. It’s gonna be SLAMMED.
Keep your phone charged! What are you using, iPhone or Android? Well, either way, it’s gonna die really quick. All your new networking contacts are gonna be BLOWIN YOU UP to meet for tacos and margs. Bring your charger and hopefully you can find an outlet to plug in. If you can afford it, we’d definitely recommend a Mophie for extra battery life.
Parking: It’s gonna be packed. Make sure you budget accordingly—with both your money and time. Expect to pay, like, 20 bucks minimum at a downtown lot, and be prepared for heavy evening traffic. You may want to opt for Uber instead, but be forewarned: Surge pricing will be out of control! Like maybe even 6x or more.
Look, Barack, SXSW can be a real slog if you don’t play your cards right. But the truth of the matter is it’s a place where you can connect with some of the coolest people from all over the world and make friendships that will last forever. Sure, it’s gotten pretty big and corporate in recent years, but you can still have a good time if you know where to look. Just always keep in mind the most important tip of all: Remember to have fun.