In just a few weeks central Texas will once again become the hipster capital of the world, attracting thousands of music fans, old guys, posers and wannabes for the big bacchanal called South by Southwest. Officially SXSW is a conference for people in the music bidness with a bunch of “official” events supposedly showcasing new and emerging talent for record label types, radio station types, music writer types and so on.
But let’s face it – the week that usually coincides with Spring Break in Austin, Texas, is about the stuff that goes on beyond the “official” confines of SXSW. I believe this festival stopped being about showcasing emerging new talent a few years ago, now it’s a massive tourist draw for the city of Austin. Don’t get me wrong – the event does manage to preview some breaking new talent but more and more that task falls to the unofficial shows, which have exploded to eclipse the main event.
Let me try to explain – officially SXSW sponsors conferences and “showcases,” short (around 30-40 minutes apiece) sets in a number of venues around town where acts can play. (In addition to the music festival, there is also an interactive event and a film festival, but we’re not talking about that here.) There is usually a mix of new stuff, established artists with a new album coming out and big names who just want to drop in and share the vibe. This year, about 2,000 musical acts will play in 80 spots around Austin.