Don't Have SXSW FOMO
You’re not as cool as you think you are, and neither are the 60 people you’re sharing a hotel room with.
I’m pretty sure I’m over festivals. Like, all of them. Just call them what they really are: camping. And I don’t like to camp. I consider peeing in public restrooms to be camping. Central Park Summer Stage is camping. So put me in a festival, and I’ll feel like I’m on Survivor. I know that SXSW is technically not of the festival ilk, given that you’re dropped off in the middle of Austin, Texas to wander the streets and find “emerging” acts. But there’s easier ways to find “emerging” acts if you want to, outside of the nine days down in Austin. I’d rather skim the internet and find my “emerging” acts there without the presence of a Port-O-Potty. I don’t even want to see Kanye West and Jay Z in Austin, Texas, I want to see them at Madison Square Garden like every other agoraphobic New Yorker who hasn’t left the area since Hurricane Sandy.
But SXSW is a different kind of annoying, maybe one that comes from being in my 30s since I remember “the good ol’ days.” There was a time, years ago, when nobody really cared about SXSW. And by nobody, I mean everyone in hip-hop, pop, EDM, and basically any genre that wasn’t indie rock. To me, SXSW felt like Austin’s answer to Seattle, where people would travel there in loosely threaded flannels and asymmetrical haircuts and congregate around a single cup of coffee while listening to some dude at an open mic. Now I know that couldn’t be further from the truth, but the analogy is more rooted in purity, purity of an event that really existed to give a bunch of music lovers a chance to love music. Now? It’s “South By,” the thing your blogger friends ask you if you’re going to ad nauseam like it’s the Met Gala. It’s an opportunity to go fuck up someone else’s city and come home and act like you need to be in a body cast for a month because you’re “sooooo beat up” from “South By.” You’re not as cool as you think you are, and neither are the 60 people you’re sharing a hotel room with.
Austin’s also become the acceptable place to be homeless for a week, proudly returning home and describing your couchsurfing experiences just to be near bands or rappers that you can probably experience in the city you reside in. You didn’t fight in Vietnam. We don’t need your war stories. This isn’t the Rihanna Plane, where you’ve been held against your will and denied nutrients for a three second pageant wave from Robyn Fenty. As someone in music industry, I couldn’t be less enthused about traveling to George W. Bush’s home state to see the same people I see in New York only drunker just to watch/interview artists I’ve already watched/interviewed or will be watching/interviewing very soon. That might make me sound like an asshole, but I’m just being honest.
We’ve taken the communal aspect of the festival and turned it into an outdoor frat house, where everyone rushes, everyone’s at the mixers, everyone gets pledged, and everyone gets to cross—only, the entire experience is one continuous Hell Night. Trucking it over to Austin for “South By” or Indio, California for Coachella or even fucking Belgium for Pukkelpop is not the badge of honor that it used to be. Not when everyone else is there now too and the whole point in going has been relegated to a popularity contest. Not when music took a back seat to coolness. Not when plebeians have been replaced by patricians. Not when the newbies got swapped for the vets. It’s just not the same, and call me old as fuck or some snarky curmudgeon, but it’s just not for me anymore. That doesn’t mean it’s not for you, but as someone who used to attend these recently converted shit shows, I say this to you: travel out of state for music festivals to experience the music in a brand new environment. Don’t go to dick around or drunk drive and demand street cred. You won’t find it there. What you will find is a reason to get alcohol poisoning and maybe a penicillin prescription. You could’ve gotten those party favors at one of your boys’ benders back home. Think before you book.
Maybe I really am just too old for these camping trips. Or maybe I’m just hating.
Could be both. I still love music though. Do you?
Kathy Iandoli was asked to cover SXSW by four different publications this year, but she opted to stay home and get paid to write this. Follow her eternal winning on Twitter - @Kath3000
Follow all of Noisey's SXSW 2014 coverage.