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Austin

Based on years of observation and personal experience, I’ve realized that even the most motivated and well-intentioned people who start recreational lifestyle blogs about really anything (i.e. music, travel, home decor, marathon training, gluten free recipes) – they almost certainly end up de-prioritizing and neglecting their respective sites. Fresh ideas, dreams of grandeur and hopes of one day becoming America’s Next Top Influencer can be quickly squashed by the mere fact that blogging takes a long time and entails a lot of work.

I am the first to mock full-time bloggers – especially the Fashionistas and the Mommys – the ones who house online banner ads and receive random, but awesome endorsements from Estee Lauder or Dole Bananas – Why do they get all-expense paid trips to Manhattan to try on the latest pair of New Balances or get to give away gift cards good for 250 letterpress wedding invitations? Psh, I could do that.
 
Well, turns out I can’t. Technically, I could. But I don’t, so I can’t really judge. It takes me a long time to write posts, edit them, re-read and sometimes, re-write them. On top of that, uploading, organizing, captioning and embedding photos and multimedia is a time suck too. Deep down in the recesses of my subconscious I know that I will never meet my modest internal goal of posting once a week as I already struggle to find time to call my family or run errands with my full-time job. And when I do have free time to spare to enjoy a concert, finish a book or travel to a far-off land – the last thing I want to do is open my uncomfortably warm laptop and attempt to write something clever or coherent about said experience.
 
But I just concluded 10 whirlwind days of SXSW, and anyone vaguely connected to me would know that South By is my favorite week of the year. Every free, waking moment that I’m not earning a living is spent actively exploring my beloved city; watching my favorite artists; discovering new ones while shamelessly eating free tacos, drinking free Budweisers and unwisely collecting free tshirts that I have to carry around for the rest of the day. Though a true blogger with a press credential would probably be updating their sites on a daily basis; Tweeting and Instagramming in real time; and providing intelligent analysis about whatever shows they got to see – I’m secretly glad that I could just blissfully live in the moment without any obligation or responsibility to report. However, since it was such a fun, jam-packed week – I did want to write a follow-up post detailing my most notable adventures and share some photos I captured with my new iPhone 5s. Teehee
 
 
Most Energy: TIE between Travi$ Scott and Sleigh Bells
Travi$ Scott fucking killed it. In the span of 30 minutes, Travi$ Scott stripped off his shirt, crowd surfed and sprayed liters of water (dare I say, 100 bottles?) all over an amped up, over-excitable crowd at Fader Fort. One of the wildest shows I’ve ever witnessed – I anticipate a big future for this dude. You can watch a vid of him performing  “Upper Echelon” here on the Fader site.

Travi$ Scott at Fader Fort

Travi$ Scott at Fader Fort

I’ve seen Sleigh Bells several times; and I’ve always known they were heavy on the distortion, loud on the volume and epileptic with their lights, and though they’re not necessarily new or undiscovered, I couldn’t not include them on this list. Sleigh Bells always delivers a loud, rambunctious rock and roll show. Their double-bassing drummer is immaculate; Alexis Krauss’ stage presence is undeniable; her sex appeal is unquestionable and in the tiny confines of the Red Bull Sound Select 4 Days in Austin SXSW series – headbanging ensued.

Sleigh Bells at Red Bull Sound Select

Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells


Best New Discovery: Strange Talk
So I got to see these Australian fellows twice throughout the week in two uncrowded intimate settings and thoroughly enjoyed what I heard – I’d recommend them to anyone who likes Friendly Fires or The Rapture. Will definitely check out their new album when it releases at the end of the month.
Best Multi-tasker: Robert DeLong
So this kid isn’t necessarily a new discovery either; in fact, he was all over SXSW last year, but I will forever be impressed with the mere process of how he creates and performs music. One guy mastering like.. 27 technologies including a Wii, XBOX controller and an Atari – it’s just fun to watch.
 
Best Production: Chromeo
That leg keyboard gets me every time. First time I saw them, and definitely not the last.

Chromeo at the Fader Fort

Chromeo

 
Best Celebrity Sighting: Chromeo’s brother
I’ve had a stupid fan girl crush on A-Trak for as long as I can remember. He was just chillin’ and watching the Chromeo set at a Dell-sponsored event riddled with middle-aged Dell employees and business school grads. Given his approachability and cool demeanor, you’d never guess that he’s quite possibly the most famous DJ and producer in the world. I bet those Dell bros had no idea the “Barbra Streisand” guy was calmly standing right next to them.
 

Me and Trizzy

“Hey is that the Barbra Streisand guy?”

Best Event Lineup: SPIN at Stubb’s 
Disclaimer: This list was only based on the events that I attended. I did not have an official SXSW wristband or a Music badge. If I had greater access to more exclusive events, I’d guarantee that I’d have a very different answer.
 
This was my first time attending the SPIN SXSW party, and it might be a contender for my favorite event of the week based on an informal cost benefit analysis. Short line with non-existent wait time, uncrowded venue with two stages featuring a well-curated lineup of some really talented and diverse artists – none of whom I’ve ever seen before, but have always liked and respected. Temples, Warpaint, ScHoolboy Q, Cloud Nothings, Future – all of them were great – Q being my favorite of the bunch. Only downside was that free Tito’s wasn’t available until 3 pm, meaning I had to sip on free Crispin cider tallboys for a few hours. Felt like drinking a gallon of overly sweet and carbonated Mott’s apple juice.

Temples

ScHoolboy Q

FUTURE

 
Best Kept Secret: The COMPLEX
Complex is one of my favorite magazines – providing quality entertainment coverage about everything from technology to sneakers, not to mention hip hop. This showcase was small, obscure and surprisingly under-attended the two times I stopped by. The COMPLEX touted free drinks and good rap and DJ sets curated by good blogs like Green Label and Pigeons and Planes – it just had a chill vibe populated by lots of trendy people wearing camouflage print, fitted hats and some really fucking dope sneakers. I didn’t get to see any of these guys, but Childish Gambino, Pusha T and even Skrillex graced The COMPLEX stage. Definitely making a point to come back next year. Mental note: need to cop a pair of Nike Rosche Runs.
THE SNDCLSH - DJ Lupe Fiasco and DJ Sky Gellatly spinning at The Complex at SXSW

THE SNDCLSH – DJ Lupe Fiasco and DJ Sky Gellatly spinning at The Complex at SXSW

 
FOMO Award: Watch the Throne
Dammit.
 
 
Most Disappointing: Julian Casablancas and The Voidz
Stereogum put it best in their headline “Watch Julian Casablancas’ Unfortunate Show at SXSW Fader Fort.” After the aforementioned riot that Travi$ Scott incited on the final day of Fader Fort that eager fans literally waited 3+ hours in line for, this personal hero of mine was a total let down. I’ve seen him perform with The Strokes twice and the stage presence, showmanship and volume I so badly wanted to experience again simply wasn’t there. The lights were turned low, he was hunched into as awkward a fetal position that someone of his height can muster and he muttered his way through songs no one was familiar with save his Daft Punk collaboration “Instant Crush.” I’m assuming he was hungover. As usual.
 
Meh, you win some you lose some.

Best of the Week: Jimmy Kimmel

This could technically contend for Most Disappointing since this was the one and only SXSW experience I badly wanted to attend, but did not get to. However, I knew my odds of receiving access to one of Kimmel’s five coveted Austin tapings was slim to none – so no tears were shed. Fortunately, all of the content still lives on his Youtube channel and as you can see from this video – he totally embraced his time here and I hope he returns in 2015.

Worst of the Week: Car Accident on Red River

The tragic events on Wednesday night shocked and saddened every single person in this city. I read that in the 28 years of SXSW, the accident on Red River was the first ever fatality. With events of this size and thousands of people milling around, accidents are bound to happen. However, in this particular instance I firmly believe that the culprit is the single person responsible for this horrific event. Not only does my heart go out to the victims and their families (and in case you haven’t heard the third victim passed away in the hospital this morning), but that beloved part of town will always be tainted with sadness and bitter memories. The Mohawk is my favorite music venue in Austin and I’ve had countless euphoric musical experiences there. I hope everyone remembers to be safe, careful and responsible and to remember how lucky we are.
 
If you have anything to spare, please consider donating to the SXSW Cares Fund where all proceeds will go toward a community-based recovery fund for the victims. I will say the light at the end of the tunnel is how evil acts such as this never triumph over good. The entire Austin community has united to donate blood and financial aid for the victims. In mere days, Vans raised over $20,000 in proceeds toward the cause. A sweet 18-year-old girl who plans to attend UT this fall was serenaded by her favorite band in the hospital. These acts of kindness remind me that the world isn’t always the evil place we make it out to be. And I wanted to give a sincere thank you to all of the friends and family members who called, emailed or texted me at godawful hours of the night to check on my safety. I love you all and I am so thankful you’re in my life.

SXSW memorial on Red River

So this brilliant little infographic has been circulating on the Interwebs and Austin social networks over the past few days in humorous response to the influx of people flocking to the city and boosting our ever growing population count and property values – UT graduates who squat; Silicon Valley techies who seek sunshine and cheaper rent; actors or models who can’t make it in LA; and your general free-spirited folks from colder, less exciting parts of the country who either caught the Austin bug on their first visit or through word-of-mouth, and then impulsively decided to pack up their cars and head South.

I try not to be a hater. It does unnerve me every time Austin makes another Top 10 List for Best Places for Young People or Top Tech Cities in the U.S. because I know the long-term consequences of our ever-increasing population – higher rent prices, insufferable traffic, skyscraper construction – but I too am an implant who sought employment and permanent residency in Austin because the evidence is undeniable – Austin is a great place for young people and creatives and music lovers and foodies and hipsters and vegans and runners and hikers and bikers and geeks and gays and pet owners; it’s warm, welcoming and non-representative of the rest of the state of Texas. We can’t blame people for wanting to relocate and plant roots in Austin any more than we can blame engineers and developers who want to move to San Francisco; bearded hipsters who want to move to Portland or cocaine-snorting finance folks who want to move to New York. (that last generalization may or may not have been influenced by recently watching The Wolf of Wall Street)

However, I think there are a few other things that this illustrator left off that would even further deter a prospective resident from moving here so I thought I’d list a few extra contributions:

  • Heinous allergies: This time of year is absolutely miserable for a huge chunk of Austin residents and the dry weather in the winter months makes it worse and worse each year. The cedar pollen count levels are astronomically high and every morning I suffer from a terrible mix of symptoms that are impossible to abate. In fact, the clouds of pollen coming off the trees were so enormous that some residents thought there was a forest fire.
  • Mopacalypse – the traffic on I-35 is included in the infographic, but I think the traffic on MoPac is worth mentioning. MoPac is the only other major freeway in the city, and traffic will get exponentially worse as construction workers plan to expand the freeway and transform it into a toll road. I believe a recent article stated that an Austinite with a 30-minute commute will spend an average of 83 hours a year in traffic, a soul-crushing, life-sucking data point and a truth that I’m realizing very slowly and painfully.
  • Homeless people – Sure, there are homeless people everywhere; in a lot of sexy cities too – NY, Chicago, San Francisco – but many hobos migrate here during the winter months because of the warm weather. They are getting harder and harder to avoid.
  • Franklin Barbecue – People wait in line 3 hours for barbecue, and don’t get me wrong it tastes fantastic and is probably the best barbecue in Austin. But three hours? THREE?  Waiting that long for anything is so excessive and unnecessary and unappealing and I would never recommend that anyone go there unless they had a week day off and got there right when the restaurant opens. I’ve only ever tasted Franklin once in my life at a private rehearsal dinner that rented out the space, and I don’t ever plan on going back. (Which is a shame because it’s delicious)
  • You’re still in Texas – Austin is the diamond in the rough and unrepresentative of the rest of the state. It is liberal and vibrant and there are always protests campaigning for Pro-Choice legislation and gay marriage and all sorts of politics that I support. BUT we are still in Texas. There are still TONS of rednecks, racists, Bible-thumpers, drunk Dodge Ram drivers and idiots in office (ahem Rick Perry and ahem Ted Cruz) that live in Texas. There is a smaller percentage of these folks in Austin per capita, but Texas is a proud state that tried to secede from the Union at one point – so there it isn’t completely fair to compare Austin to places that legalize gay marriage or marijuana or abortions. Plus other than lakes and hill country, Texas is flat, dry and ugly in a lot of places, and it takes about 13 hours to drive across from point to point. If I ever left Austin, I’d probably have to leave Texas. Though I’ve lived here my entire life and love being from Texas – the more populous cities like Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston and San Antonio have their own charm and personality, but are ultimately utterly uninhabitable.

I hope that dissuades any of you outsiders from entering our city limits. And I really do need to reiterate – it does get really fucking hot here.