South by Southwest: What was once a matchmaking meet-up for unsigned bands and record labels has become an all-out hipster hajj, and even if you had five clones, they wouldn’t provide enough manpower to take in every party, panel, or performance that Austin’s beloved festival has to offer.
To help both newcomers and repeat attenders navigate the radical nexus of ideas that makes up SXSW’s 3 big arenas—Interactive, Film, and Music—we’ve broken down the festival into several need-to-know areas.
And a tip from a veteran? Keep as many toiletries as you can in your bag or pockets—you’ll be surprised how “just one party” can turn into 24 hours of mayhem and couch surfing.
1. Film premieres, world and otherwise
While the film portion of SXSW features a host of up-and-coming filmmakers who will soon become familiar faces and names, certified stars now consider the festival a can’t-miss stop on their press junkets. This year’s festival lineup includes 69 world premieres, 14 North American, and 5 U.S. Premieres. Check out our top red carpet picks below.
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”: Slated as the opening night film, the comedy is stocked with star power including Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Olivia Wilde.
“Much Ado about Nothing”: Joss Whedon’s clever, contemporary interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic.
“Spring Breakers”: James Franco dons a grill and cornrows, Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez don little else than fluorescent bikinis, and together they rob a fast food joint. Need we say more?
“Drinking Buddies”: Learn a tip or two on holding your liquor from Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston.
“Reincarnated”: Follow the journey as Snoop transcends Dogg-dom and reemerges a lion. Yes, that’s the plot.
2) Panels that pique our interest
While SXSW’s Interactive component is no stranger to throwing parties on par with its Film and Music siblings, we do recommend taking the time to nurture your mind (and give your poor liver a break) with some of these more titillating topics.
Tina Eisenberg, a.k.a “swissmiss”: She’s become a major personality in the blogosphere due to to her design-centric website and hands-on communication with her audience (a mere 1.3 million monthly uniques).
TacoJournalism: Revenge of the Taco Blogger: Because if you take away anything from Austin, it should be how seriously we take our tacos.
LGBTech: Where We Are and Where We’re Going: The fight for equality is no different when it comes to the tech industry, and professionals discuss how they ban together for progression.
Pop (Up) Culture: Strategic online experts talk selling experiences with temporary restaurant and retail outposts in a less than stellar offline economy.
100 Year Starship: Interstellar Travel & Beyond: Because who doesn’t want to go to the moon?
3) Prudent party prep
During SXSW Music, giant companies spend gazillions of dollars to quite literally take over entire neighborhoods, setting up stages, bars and kitchens for partygoers. On the flipside, local Austin outposts also step up to the plate, offering conference-goers more easygoing alternatives to the big-brand scene.
The Spotify House: Spotify transforms Cenote, one of Austin’s most beloved coffee shops, into a bright green party house for a week of surprise shows, dance parties and food trucks.
Fader Fort: The party that everyone wants to be at requires a Fader wristband or SXSW badge, and the Fort’s surprise guests are always on point.
Google Live from the Lot: You’ll have to follow the omnipresent company’s Twitter to get the scoop
South by San Jose: Minimalistic southwestern design, the most refreshing sangria in town and local roots music offer asylum to those burnt out on the downtown scene.
Music by the Slice: Arguably the best pizza in Austin, Homeslice opens its patio to local bands and hungry music lovers.
4) Bonus material
During the week of SXSW, Austin benefits from a plethora of ancillary activity.
SouthBites: For those who’ve tired of convention center cellophane-wrapped sandwiches or grab-and-go hot dogs, SXSW offers an official food truck food court curated by “Top Chef” winner Paul Qui.
Free Shows at Auditorium Shores: Kindly, SXSW didn’t forget about the badgless legion of visitors and residents, and compiled a free series of lake-front shows, featuring The Flaming Lips, Divine Fits, Robert Randolph and more.
The Neighborhood: This fashion-focused venture runs alongside the Interactive conference and it’s free and open to the public. All are welcome to listen to Q&As from the likes of American designers John Varvatos and Billy Reid, as well as shop the marketplace.
Let us be clear: This list is by no means exhaustive (lest we forget Stevie Nicks’ recent addition to the schedule), but it sure was exhausting to compile. Consider it a means to cut through the clutter and get your bearings around town. Godspeed you, brave badge-holder. Have fun, and learn a thing or two while you’re at it.