On the first day of covering South by Southwest 2006 I wrote of how the city seemed oddly different in spite of its appearance. One who has visited other major cities might not notice a vast deviation in look or aesthetic. Austin, at least during this monstrous festival, is like a world unto itself.SXSW (as it’s often referred to as) is like experiencing music in ways always hoped for, but never thought possible. Instead of an impenetrable wall between talent and fans, performers stroll the streets watching their own personal favorites. I happened to pass Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips on the street 3 times the first day.
People are oddly friendly too. Whether it was restaurants, department stores or venues, Austin’s local inhabitants jovially made small talk on a myriad of subjects. Some were just curious about background info, and others just eager to share their favorite bands. At the end of the third day I was shocked to discover a fan on the side of the street waiting for a cab actually owned one of the rarest (and best) albums I’ve ever known, Argyle Park’s Misguided. That same fan then offered to cover the cost of the cab ride if we shared the next cab. I responded, “Wow, that’s really kind of you.” To which he casually stated “Hey, that’s how we do it down in Austin.”
Flocks of admirers swarmed from venue to venue. With a badge, entrance to each show posed no problem. Unlike an average concert, the attendees all clearly either had some affiliation to the music industry, or had a healthy obsession with it. That made nearly every crowd brim over with enthusiasm. Artists were greeted with a maximum of appreciation, even if they weren’t initially perceived as exploding in popularity.
For shows at opposite ends of the city bike-taxis (literally carts hooked up to the back wheel of a bicycle) were plentiful. With no meter and a flexible donation-based rate, these lo-fi cabbies made it easy to get from place to place when in a pinch. And in addition to fuel-less speedy transportation, they were all eager to make conversation.
With all of this plus every venue style imaginable, South by Southwest took on a euphoric feeling of bliss. New friends, old friends and wall-to-wall bands made for an experience that I regret had to come to close. This is like no festival I’d ever attended. Austin and South by Southwest, I must say, absolutely got it right.