While I've spent the past two years sucking the Tito's Vodka teet and getting wrist rash from paper wristbands that nonsensically have to stay on for four full days, I won't be heading down to Austin tomorrow to partake in the usual musical shenanigans befit of SXSW. Because of work schtuff on the home front, it's not happening for me this year. But, unlike previous years, this shit has become impossible to ignore, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who's frown-faced over every fashion blogger, guitarist and comedian in their feed mega-chillin' down south...even though the best portion of the week has yet to begin.
So, whether you're bummed to miss out on the show shenanigans or just sad you won't get to party alongside Olivia Wilde, here's how to survive all the braggy celebrity tweets, concert snapshots, and other jealousies that'll come your way these next few days:
Don't read Buzzfeed. Don't fuck with NY Mag. Don't even think about reading Pitchfork unless you're a complete masochist. It'll be tough to focus on, I don't know, fashion blogs and those long-form New York Times articles you never got around to reading, but even after taking a one-week sabbatical from the bloggier portions of the web, you won't miss anything important. Really, if your parents don't hear about it on the nighttime news or you don't get a cell phone emergency alert about it, it's not even really relevant or important. So, you didn't get to read the interviews between Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani for Burning Love. And hey,you didnt get to evaluate why Rachel Korine looks different and also like Amber Tamblyn every single time you see her. But you know what else there is to do? Catch up on Enlightened. Drool over the cast of The Mindy Project. Get deep in any non-Austin happenings on The Hairpin. Or, read my personal favorite form of archaic publication: magazines. They're months behind and won't have much of anything about SXSW in them! Consider your shackles unlocked.
Now that you're bumming around home, finishing your year's back stock of unread Vogue magazines and not playing freely on the internet, you're basically primed to want to scroll through Twitter or take a peek on Instagram.
DON'T DO IT. DON'T DO IT DON'T DO IT DON'T DO IT. DON'T. DON'T DO IT.
Approach this one with crystal meth precautions, people — you know better than to dabble in it, it's instantly damaging and most importantly, it'll completely ruin you. While you're slingin' copy at your desk, organizing spreadsheets in Excel or running errands for a highly demanding executive, someone else you're friends with or admire from afar is tucking into breakfast tacos or throwing back well margaritas before 2pm. So far, I've felt bad about not snuggling Grumpy Cat, eating carnitas with a table full of friends or seeing Passion Pit in a Taco Bell hut, despite the fact that I wouldn't have even been in Austin yet had I been going.
The solution? Zuckyberg. Cuddle up to Facebook, because it will be your week's Nicorette. Because their algorithm always throws in long-lost co-heads of college committees and the second and third girl in your high school to get pregnant, it won't be a brag scroll, and you'll at least get some sort of social media fix. You might encounter a smidge of Texan high times, but seeing people your age all on their freaky wife game or nincompoops commenting on The Bachelor three days too late will instantly cancel it out.
I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't experienced it firsthand, but the FOMO is even worse when you're there.
When I went to SXSW last year, I was working thousand hour days AND WAS STILL worried I was missing out on the good stuff. And worst of all? It wasn't the first time. Whenever I go, I'm always massively bummed out the third day because I feel like I made the wrong nighttime decision and everyone had the time of their lives without me, as seen through this major grass-is-greener mindframe.
What's really happening, though — unless you're a local just trolling for free Jack Daniels — is that it's a three-tiered clusterfuck of worry. Most everyone I've surrounded myself with is either stressed about work, stressed about access, or stressed about not having enough fun. Really, a lot of people are either holding headsets and yelling, clutching dead, service-less phones while trying to get them and two friends into whatever surprise last-minute show is happening at ACL Live, or bummed that you tried to see Alt-J, couldn't get in and missed out on sliding past the now-slammed door at The W.
Heres why: Badges and passes to the actual SXSW conference are maddeningly expensive, and once the sun goes down, the only shows that can be booked around town must be official showcases. If you have a nighttime showcase that isn't official and SXSW bands who are playing official showcases have a set at it, they can supposedly be pulled from the rest of their lineups. (Supposedly.) That's why all those big brand parties are either during the day or late-night, both surround the evening blocked-off time slots.
The fallout, though, is that the city turns into a real life color wars at nighttime as to who can hang out, and who's left kicking their feet around during dinnertime hours with the non-wristband holding locals, trying to figure out what to do until late night shows start up again.
Concerts are a complete shitshow to get into, lists are tight, lines are endless and everyone else is doing the same venue-sneaking, free food-eating, liquor-swilling thing as you are, even if it somehow looks more exciting through their updates. Fun should never be stressful, and here, it kind of tends to be.
Consider this week to be your own DIY health retreat. No one's having more fun at home than people in Austin with their day drinking and oft-swiped corporate cards are, so make your reality for the next five or six days based around some sort of self-improvement. While they worry about how pale their wintertime thighs look in jorts next to Toro Y Moi hangers-on, you can spend all weekend doing back-to-back Pilates and kickboxing classes like you live in LA and need to get jacked for next week's audition.
Really, your sad staycation is a blessing in healthy disguise. Everyone else is shoveling in BBQ niblets and jugs of Red Bull-Vodkas while you can be detoxing on kale chips and a basket of fresh produce from Whole Foods. You see everything in that photo up there? That's shit I actually ate for meals last year. A potato, egg and chorizo taco the size of my face. A doughnut covered in fucking bacon, for sustenance. With their tricked-out food, never-ending parade of food carts and Taco Bell's inescapable presence, Austin starts to feel like the world center of obesity and confusing sources of protein. I once ate a bean burrito at Hype Hotel and got so instantly sick that I couldn't stand up straight for the duration of a Miike Snow show. (Jealous yet?!)
So, take a moment to enjoy the easy, little things in life: Not sweating inside a pair of jeans. Air conditioning. Not feeling your body fat jiggle on the back of a rickshaw. The ability to not schmooze for 18 hours a day. Book a yoga class, meet a friend for lunch, wear a baseball hat like you're a pimp and get ready to approach next Monday like you just stepped off a plane from Canyon Ranch. You'll feel great, look even better and it won't have required sucking down any overpriced green juices.
Because really, as my boyfriend keeps telling me: you're not missing anything.
If you haven't come to full acceptance yet of the fact that you're not at the biggest party of the weekend, here's a case-by-case scenario that'll set you straight. Consider this your cheat sheet of sanity, if those other blurbs up there haven't saved you yet:
"But everyone's having the time of their lives without me!" Alright, so you clearly didn't follow Step 2. But that' okay, because I'll let you in on a little secret. Like having the Coachella sweats, being unable to bring your drink out from any VIP area at Lollapalooza and other festivals' endless Port A Pottie piss pool, no one's taking pictures of the bad stuff. Like, the never ending lines outside venues that ensure you'll never get in to check out the band you've been dying to see. The wristbands you never seem to have. The futile VIP lists that counted for nothing and split you up from your friends. The venue thats running 90 minutes behind and fucked up any assemblage of a schedule you had. That BBQ with a glossy Instagram filter looks good — despite you breaking rule #2! — but when it's the first meal of your day and you feel like you're gonna fall over and still need to walk aaallll the way back to a show on the other side of town that you're probably not going to make in time, it's not so seamless. All in all? It has its incredible moments, but there's not a steady flow of 'em.
"But I want to hang out with famous people!" Trust me homie, so do I. But, standing two steps from Alexa Chung's spaghetti legs isn't the gateway to becoming her best friend, which is all you really want anyway. Celebrities at SXSW are forced to walk around city streets like the rest of us commonfolk, meaning they're getting harassed, confronted, accosted and photo bombed from the second they get up to the second they go to sleep. You might get a good Facebook photo out of it, but you won't be able to make a real connection, even if you do slyly suggest that Anthony Bourdain goes to Takashi with you and you terrify the poops out of him.
"But I want to see a band in a tiny venue before they get massive-huge!" I know! I hear ya. But, the good part is you still can. Tour routing through Austin usually brings a ton of bands to the rest of the West Coast or the East Coast a few weeks after the festival, so anyone you really wanted to catch you can likely see in a venue close to your home, if the mapping works out in your favor. You won't be able to cram in Youth Lagoon and Unknown Mortal Orchestra into a 90-minute period on the homefront, but it's a close second. And you know what? It might even be better. I saw Haim last year (pictured above) at a miniature bar and everyone spent the whole time talking; I saw Kanye two years back and couldn't see anything past the people in the crowd taking iPad pictures. (I no joke watched a four hour concert by way of sixth row iPad.) Add to it that bands are doing back-to-back-to-back interviews and press and shows and sets, and are likely strung out and tired as fuck. Ruminate on that, and holding out for a venue show won't be so tough.
"But I want to network my way to a dream job!" Granted, walking down the main drag in Austin or bumming around the Driskill is a great way to quickly say hi to all those business people you never see and don't like enough to get one-on-one drinks. But, it's pretty Hi-and-Bye situation up in there. Everyone's chatting with so many people that the connections never really stand up in real life, and most of the time when you happen to randomly meet someone important, they'll most likely forget which person you were and never respond to your email. Harsh, true.
"But now after reading this, I don't even want to go!"...Send me your plane ticket? Sigh.