THE CASE FOR SXSW
we’ve all heard the rap: After 28 years as the nation’s coolest arbiter of indie rock, SXSW has become a gridlocked corporate nightmare. The lines are too long, the hipsters too smug, and no matter how many hands you grease, the odds of seeing the band you discovered on Pitchfork’s “Best New Music” lineup are slim to you’re-out-of-your-mind. But here’s the reality: SXSW is still one hell of a good time. The cynics are just doing it wrong.
SXSW continues to attract thousands of yet to be discovered acts hoping to make a splash in the spirit of festival breakouts like John Mayer and the White Stripes. But, more important, the event still draws throngs of people from around the world who are simply looking to party their faces off and catch some shows along the way.
The best way to make SXSW 2015 an experience worth your time, money, and liver is to resist the urge to jump into the rat race. Sixth Street—the festival’s epicenter—is what frat pledges envision when they ponder the afterlife. Avoid it. If you can smell “Dirty Sixth” or see a savvy hobo hawking down-to-earth “street wisdom,” you’re too deep in the heart of downtown darkness. The farther you venture from SXSW’S festering nucleus, the easier it will be to justify your hangovers. In just about any establishment within a five-mile radius, a way more enjoyable version of the madness is in full swing. Day parties are the heart and soul of the festival, and they’re everywhere. An afternoon boozing, flirting with hipster girls, and watching still-emerging indie bands is well worth the trip. East of downtown, true blue dives offer an aggressively grittier take on SXSW, while a five-minute cab ride north will put you near University of Texas, where local watering holes cater to a more Austin-y crowd.
Only after midnight will you want to venture downtown. Bars in Austin close at 2 a.m. But Barbarella, the most raucous Pbr-fueled disco this side of Oakland, stays open until 3 a.m. That’ll give you an extra hour before heading across the street to cap off the night with Roppolo’s pizza, the breakfast of a true SXSW champion.
It’s still the best party in Austin. But do it right: Ditch the meathead-heavy, Pr-infused, urine-soaked main drag and head for the outskirts of town.