Here's What I Learned at My First SXSW
I'm sorry, Macklemore. We both know what I said on my blog once. I never thought I'd ever run into you ever.
Last year, I was not a rapper and I didn't know what "South Bye" was. When Chippy (Nonstop, my BFF/fellow female rapper) came back from last year's festival, I watched the documentary on herself she'd posted on Facebook, and assumed it was a cool thing that would probably destroy my fragile body if I ever tried to brave it on my own. Come October, I played shows at CMJ and my manager and booking agent used the promise of "South Bye" to console me through my inevitable post-show sobbing.
"Festivals aren't ALWAYS this bad!"
"Don't worry, they'll like you better at 'South-Bye'"
Another misleading factor was the content of my Twitter feed over the past month—everyone I've ever played a show with suddenly sending each other their schedules so we can "HAVE FUN!" Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.
It's taken me a few days to recover from my first SXSW experience, but now that I have, I'd like to share a few tips for artists heading south/southwest for the first time. Hopefully I'll spare some young fool a few tears and hundreds of dollars in hotel rooms.
YOU HAVE YOUR OWN SHOWS
The cool part of SXSW is the fact that everyone you've made friends with in The Industry is going to be there and they're all going to be tweeting at you nonstop. "Come to my show! Come to this party! Come wait in this toilet line outside IHOP!" The sad part is you have your own goddamn shows and if you miss one, people get really mad. On one hand, it's like, "You should be glad you're missing another one of my 800 sweaty, half-assed performances." But on the other hand, fans are important or whatever. Just go to your shows. If nothing else, someone there will probably feed you liquor.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A PLACE TO SLEEP
When my cuter half (Hot Sugar) and I stepped off our 13-hour Greyhound bus from Mexico, it was 6 am on Wednesday. I'm not going to say I TOTALLY blew my only task—finding us a place to stay for the week—but I had partially blown it and our only viable option was to wake up our friends from Anamanaguchi and force one of them out of their beds. Because they are the world's most generous (and talented) people, they let us stink up one of their rooms for a few hours before press day started, but I felt so irresponsible that I ended up dropping stacks on rooms of our own for the rest of our stay. Little did I know the only hotel rooms left in the MIDDLE of SXSW are the bourgie ones, so if you don't want to blow your entire new-weave-fund at the Hyatt like I did, find a place to sleep where everyone already expects you to be. Bonus points if it's not a van or under an overpass (shout out to whatever Hot Topic-core band I met in the lobby of the La Quinta).
FIGURE OUT HOW TO LOOK CUTE AHEAD OF TIME
There is no way to say this without sounding like a douchebag, but everywhere I went at SXSW, I ended up in a photo. It's not just because I'm the most adorable/talented/hilarious rapper of our generation; it's because everyone at the festival is scouring the city for people to photograph for Tumblr notes. I was stupid enough to glue iPhone jewels on my face and pour glitter on myself every morning, so I was basically a walking REBLOG button. Judging from my Twitter mentions these past few days I should have sparkled less and antiperspirant-ed more because holy shit apparently I get pit stains. Either way, expect to have a million awful pictures taken of you every day by people who probably only vaguely know who you are, and if you're one of those people who cries over bad photos online, make sure you plan out your look beforehand. Practice the following looks in the mirror: sweaty, dirty, sore, tired, and carrying 40 pounds of free stuff that you don't really want.
YOUR AUDIENCE MIGHT SEEM LIKE THEY HATE YOU
I am admittedly biased here—I hold within me the most carnal and innate sense of how to get a bunch of people to hate me at the same time, with equal intensity. However, I threw straw wrappers at quite a few audiences over the course of the week and noticed one common denominator of every SXSW crowd; they were either drunk, or trying to be. Those who weren't drunk on alcohol were drunk on sun or exhaustion, and by the end of the festival, nobody cared where they were as long as it was shady.
Don't fret if your audience seems like they want you to shut the hell up (and don't yell at them, like I did). Their tired faces may not even muster the strength to smile approvingly at you. And if you're playing a party where someone's giving away free shit, they probably don't even know who you are. Do as you are expected—play the damn songs and stay clear of the giveaway tables.
YOU MIGHT RUN INTO SOMEONE YOU MADE FUN OF ONCE
I'm sorry, Macklemore. I never thought I'd make it backstage to the MTV Woodie Awards, but alas, I stowed away in Danny Brown's van and found myself there. There you were, getting ready to headline the whole shebang. There I was, pounding free tequila sunrises and flexing my DMX t-shirt to some A$AP guys for street cred. We both know what I said on my blog once. Lights on Tegan and Sara's greased-down hair and everything that makes you wonder. The booking agent we share whisks me away from you, Skywlkr starts laughing, I start laughing. And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.
YOU MIGHT RUN INTO SOMEONE YOU THINK IS REALLY COOL
Mr. MFN Exquire came to one of my shows (I like to think he would have been there even if he wasn't performing right after me) and pulled the ole butter-her-up-and-get-her-to-embarrass-herself immediately after my set. I don't remember the phrase he had me say on camera, but it made him and my manager laugh and shake their heads, which can only mean it's probably not supposed to leave a white girl's mouth. The moral of the story is, don't get your knickers in a twist because you might end up acting like a total moron. The beauty of SXSW is that we're all uncool together. Except Justin Timberlake. He's still a cut above us all.
Kitty Pryde is still recovering from a 17 million-hour car ride. Console her on Twitter - @kittaveli