Living in Austin means that every year there's a unique opportunity to go on 'Adult Spring Break', also known as South by Southwest—an interactive, film, and music conference and festival that hosts more than 400,000 people over the course of 10 days. Adults like me spend the week attending sponsored parties, watching live music, and meeting cool people. My job this year was to interview musicians, cover events, and snap photos of the babes attending SXSW. The last five days of the festival is when the music happens, and even though it's my sixth year here I continue to be surprised by all the spaces that can be transformed into music venues. But it really shouldn't be that surprising since there are more than 5,000 musical acts playing throughout the city.
Sixth Street is the epicenter of SXSW. The street is shut down for several blocks, and police build a large barrier down the center to divert foot traffic and create a safe zone. There are all kinds of people hanging out, watching music, and walking around: the hipsters, business folk, families, tech nerds, musicians, and high school kids. All the bars transform into temporary live music venues with different acts every 15–30 minutes.
For locals, the most popular area to get drunk and see music is the Eastside – here you’ll find hot spots like Hotel Vegas, Yellow Jacket Social Club, and White Horse. Whisler's, a bar known for it's hard-to-beat cocktail menu, hosted the dFm's 'Roses & Keys' showcase of both art and music. Tyler Spangler posters covered all the windows throughout the venue, and Jahkoy was laying down some smooth vocals. Next to the stage, three TVs were screening digital art from Signe Pierce and Kidmograph.
SXSW also hosted a series of concerts at Lady Bird Lake, all free for the public. There Nordstrom partnered with the artist behind Radiant Human to shoot free aura portrait sessions; the handmade camera reads your electrical energy and reveals the energy you radiate as a second exposure on a Polaroid photo. I went with a group of friends and joined in a group reading. When the artist explained the meaning behind the colors in my photo, it felt like she was reading a transcript of my soul.
The other must-see area during SXSW is the South Congress district. Before I headed to the main event, it was time to meet up with the Suarez Sisters, Natalie and Dylana. We recorded a short interview, snapped a few photos, and then went to sip on some coffee and cola from Tom's. Hotel San José on South Congress throws its own SXSW event every year called South by San José, always and forever free. There's live music, good food, and perhaps most importantly, cool stuff to buy. Three local stores – The Fox Den, Laced with Romance, and Headdress – teamed up to provide an eclectic shopping experience where you could find one-of-a-kind knick knacks like a pharaoh bottle opener, the perfect vintage tee, or a new plant friend. Hunger hit me in the midst of finding something that needed to be mine, so I took a shopping hiatus to grab a pancake and a Shiner Light Blonde, as one does when they are on Adult Spring Break.
I headed to Austin City Limits Live to catch the last show on my list, a set from LA-based Grace Mitchell. She's a teenager with the chops of a seasoned 90s baroque pop star, and she attracted a fun crowd of fans. Before heading home, I stopped by Voodoo for some coffee and a chocolate-glazed doughnut. Every year at SXSW is a little different, but it's always guaranteed to have chic people, prime music, and choice eats. Until next year.