How to Get Through SXSW Without Dying

Categories: Helpful Advice

Yes, music lovers, it's that time of year once more where we pack our party shoes into our well-worn cases and fly off to Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest music "conference." (Really, people? Conference? If everyone was being honest, this thing would be called South by So Wasted.) As anyone who's ever been to this cacophony of chaos will tell you, shit can get pretty crazy at SXSW. Here's how to get through the next week without dying.

1. Give Your Liver a Rest Before You Go

We cannot emphasize this enough: do not drink for three full days prior to your departure, unless you are a full-blown alcoholic whose liver is used to such behavior. The second you reach Austin, you are going to be drinking and you are going to be drinking a lot. For five full days and nights. The last thing you need in the middle of Andrew W.K.'s midnight show on Wednesday is back pain brought on my a kidney infection. Start fresh so the deterioration of your physical well-being takes longer.

2. Be Flexible
Yes, there are about five showcases a day you want to go to. But it's important that you accept in advance that at SXSW, you only get to do about half (if you're lucky) of what you wanted to do before you got there. Before you get there, make a list of everything you want to see and everything you would go to see if you can't get into your first choice. Go into this thing hoping for the best, but retain the attitude that whatever you miss here, you'll catch somewhere else another time. Sorry, super-organized people, you're just going to have to roll with the punches a bit more than usual. This shit is chaos. Especially if you don't have a badge (and who can afford those damn things?). Something good is happening somewhere. Just stumble around 'til you find something you like.

3. Drink Water

The second you arrive in Austin, buy six huge bottles of water and scatter them around your hotel room, so one will be always be in reach of you when you wake up at 6 a.m. with a mouth drier than the Sahara and more foul-tasting the bottom of a bar trash can. When doing shots at the bar all week, get a soda back every single time. Those shotglasses of H20 are the only thing standing between your bladder and an extremely painful U.T.I. 

4. Eat Food, Take Vitamins
Now, we know the food thing sounds kind of obvious, but downtown Austin isn't all that magnificent for grabbing nutritious foods. Yes, that death metal pizza place on Sixth Street is handy, and yes, there will be free barbeque at a variety of events, but if you're going to get through this week without getting really run down and sick at the end of it, you are going to need to take cereal bars, healthy seedy snacks from Whole Foods you would never ordinarily purchase, and a backpack full of Emergen-C. Treat this like people who tour for a living treat their everyday lives. The vitamin-enriched snack is king, whether you feel like a hippie eating it or not.

5. Have a Stash of Emergency Booze
There is a wealth of free booze available at SXSW, but that doesn't help you out once you're having a 3 a.m. hotel pool party and there isn't an open liquor store in sight. Pack flasks (yes, plural), get those babies filled up, and leave them at the hotel so that (a) you have something to drink after you've spent all your money on death metal pizza, and (b) the hotel party remains an option, should you make some new friends.

6. Three Words: The Buddy System

buddy system.jpg
Ghost of a Thousand, Death Metal Pizza Backyard, 2010

According to Wikipedia's definition, the Buddy System is "to be used in dangerous or adventurous activities" so that one buddy "may prevent the other becoming a casualty, or rescue the other in a crisis." We couldn't have put it better ourselves. Last time we had the Buddy System in place at SXSW, nothing terrible happened... But that's only because the system prompted us to employ a variety of safety measures including force-feeding, lock-breaking, pharmacy-visiting and, at one particularly raucous Ghost of a Thousand show, human body-shielding. Love your buddy. Have fun out there.

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....and try not to contract Hipster poisoning....

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