Hitting The Trunk Road | SXSW Music Communal Experiences

On Tuesday evening, the Interactive portion of the South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Festival, the annual business boondoggle that takes over downtown Austin, Texas each March, will slowly morph into its music portion. Unlike traditional festivals, which take place on fairgrounds over a small handful of stages, SXSW is defined by its sprawl. Over a thousand bands from all over the world come to Austin and from noon to 2:00 a.m. play hour-long sets at every available venue, bar and open lot. Epitomizing the idea of an event where there is something for everyone, it would seem statistically impossible for two festival-goers to have identical experiences.

Nonetheless, besides aching feet and sleep deprivation, there are some communal experiences:

At some point over the course of the week, you will have a small mental breakdown and pitch a notable hissy fit due to the exhaustion and physical strain of standing for hours on end. You just need to hope it will pass quickly and offend the least number of people.

You will sit down on the ground in an area that is not designed for sitting. You will be so happy to get off your feet that you will not care about social convention. Someone will appreciate your initiative and sit down next to you.

You will see bands play spaces smaller than you are used to seeing them play. The Hold Steady will play Cedar Street Courtyard and Red 7, Lady Gaga will play Stubb’s and Coldplay and Soundgarden will play ACL Live at the Moody Theater.

You will go see someone from a bygone era simply because you can. This year, Gary Numan, Blondie and Spandau Ballet will be putting their years of experience on display. (In fairness, Numan has continuously released albums since the '80s and Blondie has a new album coming out this year).

You will gain a healthy respect for Lone Star beer. This will be unrelated to the little men Matthew McConaughey can make with the cans.

At least one band you’ve never heard of before will absolutely blow you away and revive your love and excitement of live music. At times, that band will be White Denim; at others it will be Brothers & Sisters or Built For The Sea.

Just because of their name, you will be tempted to see a band like Lindsay Lowend, Raw McCartney, Death By Unga Bunga or Ringo Deathstarr. Despite wondering why no one had the foresight to put Raw McCartney and Ringo Deathstarr on the same bill, you will not actually go see any of these bands.

You will eat a meal that has been prepared inside a truck and it will be one of the best things you have ever eaten.

Someone like Prince, Justin Timberlake or Kanye West will announce a show with little notice and surprisingly, you will have little interest in battling the crowds it will attract.

You may spend an entire week without being in the same room as a vegetable.

No matter how many bands you catch, there will be another two to three dozen you will regret not seeing.

David Schultz will be documenting his SXSW experience for a future Hitting The Trunk Road column. Follow along on Facebook for live updates from Austin. JamBase will present a pair of Les Claypool Duo de Twang "Pop-Up" sets on Thursday followed by our Official Showcase that night and a Day Party on Friday.

Written By: David Schultz

[Published on: 3/10/14]

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