My SXSW Experience

It only took me a million years, but I finally made it to SXSW. And it was everything I thought it would be, and more.

The City

Austin is, in a word, AWESOME. A beautiful blue oasis in the red state of Texas, Austin is a sanctuary for everyone from artists, techies, musicians and other creative souls. SXSW is a great way to purposefully wander around Austin. The festival takes over the downtown area, starting around the convention centre where the tradeshow was taking place, down to Rainey Street, and beyond. I spent days just walking from venue to venue, taking in the bustle of the fest along with the cool charm that only Austin exudes.

*photos by Liz Gareri

Getting Around Austin

When I first arrived I discovered that Uber and Lyft were no longer operating in Austin. My first thought was panic; how would I get around!  But true to Austin’s innovative nature, a variety of rideshare options have been developed to help fest goers get around town. I exclusively used  Ride Austin. A rideshare with a heart of gold, RideAustin provides the option to round your fare up and donate the difference to a charity. I wish we had this back home!

The Conference

I arrived in Austin in time to take in the SXSW 2017 conference.  It featured a stacked tradeshow with a multitude of start-ups, not for profits, international trade associations and more.  I mean, NASA was one of the main sponsors, so you know it’s cool. I wandered in and out of panels, pitching sessions, networking events and lounges, meeting interesting people and hearing fascinating stories. From wearable tech to gaming, health and wellness to the height of advanced technology, I was in awe of some of the bright ideas around me.

The conference actually spread across multiple properties in downtown Austin. My favorite discovery was the TFQ’s Girls Lounge. Every woman at the festival was taking about place, and it was easy to why. Hosted by The Female Quotient, this female focused space was a sanctuary during the insanity that is South by. Softly lit, filled with drinks, snacks, samples and swag, you could grab a glass of wine, a seat on a sofa and listen to amazing speakers share their stories.

*photos by me

The Parties

With all the different partnerships that SXSW has cultivated over the years, there’s a lot of great experiences that come together as a result, and usually some great music that comes along with it.

From Gibson Guitars joining forces with Neiman Marcus to put on the SXSW Style Kickoff Party to to the Rolling Stone and Levi’s hosting the Levi’s Outpost, the soundtrack was the real star of the night.  Shelters, Emily Wolfe (one of my favorite disoveries of the entire trip), Midland, and Francis and the Lights performed at these cool shindigs. Check out some snaps by me below:

The Music

While SXSW may have expanded across many genres, music is still the original cool.  We celebrated the start of SXSW’s music portion at 6th Street institution Maggie Mae’s. The lineup was stacked to the surprise of no one, with Lemon Twigs holding court on the main floor and !!! (Chk Chk Chk) rocking the rooftop.

*photos by me

 

On Wednesday Night I explored Austin staple party area Rainey Street. A former residential neighborhood, Rainey is lined with bars that have taken over houses, including the former residence of guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan.

 

Because SXSW hosts thousands of people, it means that one of the most common activities you’ll be partaking in is waiting in line. I spent over 2 hours trying to get into the Dine Alone Records party at Bungalow, to no avail. But a back door discovery lead us into Lustre Pearl, whose lineup included Minus the Bear and vocal powerhouse Bishop Briggs. To round out the night, we wandered down the street to discover that Sleigh Bells were about to play at Bangers, where they scorched the stage.  The lesson? When it comes to SX, go with the flow. You never know where you’ll end up but you’ll discover something awesome along the way.

*photos by me

PLS&TY will be a household name in EDM imminently. Crafting indulgent and addictive beats, combined with classic RnB and hip hop, PLS&TY knows how to move a crowd. The Kingdom was packed with dancing bodies as the DJs set went on, everyone throwing themselves into the music of PLS&TY.

*photos by me

Heading over to Canada House at Swan Dive Red River and 7th, past a full on DJ party in a parking lot (with at least one infant present), I had the pleasure of watching three amazing Canadian acts show Austin how it’s done. First up was JJ Shiplett, whose folky country music stylings could easily be found in Texas but for that unmistakable Canadian character.

Manitoba’s Mise en Scene  were up next, and all I can say is WOW. Having hung out with a couple of the band members, I knew that they were awesome people but I was not prepared for how rad they were live. Fronted by Stefanie Blondal Johnson, an absolute queen of rock, MES completely blew me away.

I couldn’t leave Swan dive without supporting my faves Les Deuxluxes in their SXSW debut. I told anyone who would listen and several people who wouldn’t about how awesome they were, and they did not disappoint. Sexy as ever with the best hair in the biz, Anna Frances and Etienne rocked Canada house as only they could.

*photos by me

From Canada House to the British Embassy, I was thrilled to catch one of my latest musical discoveries She Drew the Gun live. Their quirky indie rock tunes are catchy and unique, and beautifully excecuted by frontwoman Louisa Roach and company.

My weekend wrapped with one of the most surreal musical experiences I’ve ever had. Hanson played an incredible 2 hour set at the Bungalow on Rainey Street. Brothers Taylor, Zach and Isaac blew the crowd of mostly 30 something women away with their country rock stylings. And yes, they even played “Mmbop.” And yes, it was amazing.

*photos by me

I had a fantastic SXSW experience. I fell in love with Austin, encountered some amazing people and took in some even better music. Looking forward to next year!

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet. Nadia has written for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada, and was a weekly columnist for Don't Believe a Word I Say. She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine. Nadia is the co-founder, Managing Editor and resident Music lover (and editor) for Addicted.
Nadia Elkharadly
Nadia Elkharadly

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