SPEAK Shares Secrets On How To Best Navigate SXSW

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Hailing from Austin, TX, we could think of no better band to walk us through SXSW 2015. Having attended the show as both performers and fans for years, SPEAK holds the time of year close to heart. Below they provide their advice on how to properly navigate the colorful, vibrant and addictive waters of one of North America’s greatest music events. Read on and catch them playing live at The Yard – get your RSVP here.

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Even if no one played shows here the rest of the year, for SXSW alone would Austin richly deserve its oft-cited reputation as “the Live Music Capital of the World.” Of course, this is not to deny what it offers the other 51 weeks: the local scene is vibrant and diverse – and for a city of its size Austin gets more than its share of touring acts. But SXSW is unparalleled.

Every space with standing room for more than a dozen people becomes a “venue.” Sound engineers and stage hands from Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio all relocate here for the week; same with taxi drivers. Restaurants are packed to the gills and many – including our favorite pre-show spot, Koriente – offer special SXSW-only menus to feed the insatiable crowds. (Prices may be higher, too – but if you play your cards right you’ll more than make up for it with all the free food and drink served throughout the week.) And thousands upon thousands of musicians, whether “official” South By artists or not, all converge on the city – filling floorspace and couches across Austin.

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This adds up to more music than you could listen to in a lifetime, all in the span of just a few days. As Austin natives, this is an exciting challenge: the whole musical world is at our doorstep, we just have to puzzle out how to make the most of it. This year will be our seventh run through the festival and while we’re still perfecting the art, we have learned a few things about how to do SXSW right.

Find DUBS Acoustic Filters onsite at The Yard, SXSW

First, take advantage of all the free stuff. We took this lesson very seriously in the early going, and spent the first couple of years at SXSW camped out at the Artist Lounge drinking as much Miller High Life and Tito’s Vodka as our livers could handle. Even if you’re not performing there are always enough new liquor brands or tech start-ups launching to keep you appropriately soused.

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Still, if you take it only this far, you’ll be missing out the most important part of the festival. So my second recommendation is to see as much music as you can. RSVP to every showcase, every party you can – even if you can’t make them all (you can’t), you’ll be happy your name is on the list when you find yourself walking past a club and hear something amazing coming out. As a musician, SXSW is infinitely inspiring – we get to see what all our friends and heroes are working on, and everyone is taking notes. We often use the festival as an opportunity to work on new music or revamp our set; in fact, this year we’re planning to debut the first song off our embryonic third album. The more you see, the better chance you’ll have at catching something unforgettable.

SXSW is infinitely inspiring – we get to see what all our friends and heroes are working on, and everyone is taking notes

Now, if you take these two pieces of advice in isolation, your ears (and feet) will be bleeding and you’ll be suffering from a crippling hangover. So my last recommendation is to pace yourself and to plan ahead. Don’t burn out on the first night and miss everything else the festival has to offer. And make sure you know what you want to do and see – you can have a great time wandering aimlessly through SXSW (in fact, I’d recommend spending some time doing this, especially if it’s your first time), but to make the most of the festival you have to put yourself in the right place at the right time. This goes for fans and musicians alike: you can’t be passive and expect SXSW to serve you up the perfect experience. You have to go out and find it. You’ll be exhausted, sore, maybe even sunburned – but you’ll never see anything else like it. Happy SXSW! 

– SPEAK

Find SPEAK at The Yard this year alongside fellow Wind-Up Records acts and more – RSVP here.