My SXSW experience

AUSTIN, Texas – My spring break story begins on Saturday, March 11 in Austin at 11:30 a.m. I had decided only two weeks earlier to travel there for the South by Southwest festival and was on something of a budget. I made a deal with my parents to pay for the airfare, but I only had about $600 to spend for the week. The student pass for the festival was $225, and I needed money to eat and pay for cabs, so I figured that I just wouldn’t be able to drink at night.

Thankfully, though, there were lots of parties free to SXSW participants with open bars and no cover. Various corporations such as Google, Blogger and Red Bull sponsored many of the parties – all with top-shelf liquor and expensive beer. Needless to say, I indulged.

On my second night in Austin, we decided to go to one such party that was being sponsored by the makers of a new film being showcased at the SXSW film festival called “Air Guitar Nation.” It’s a film about these people that take air guitar (the act of pretending to play a guitar without actually having one) really, really seriously and have national competitions for cash prizes – people actually make a name/living off of this!

The party featured something called “Aireokee” – a spin-off of Karaoke, except you would choose a song, go up on stage and play air guitar to the song. I was dared to participate by my fellow Hatchet reporters, and I agreed on the condition that I would need to drink heavily beforehand. I signed up under the stage name “Katrina the Dirty Whore” and chose to rock out to the song “Rock you Like a Hurricane” while wearing a shirt that said “ReNew Orleans” on the front.

After that night, I realized that Austin was a very cool city. After all, there are moon-towers all over downtown. (For anyone who has seen the movie “Dazed and Confused,” you know what a moon-tower is.) Apparently the locals don’t really like it when intoxicated youths yell on the street, “Party at the moon-tower!” Oh well.

If you’re a live music junkie like me, Austin is your ultimate fix. I stumbled upon a restaurant called Stubbs on Red River Street famous for its live music and barbeque, where Matisyahu (see story, p. 9) recorded his live album. Turns out, Matisyahu was actually playing that night, except the show was sold out – but that didn’t stop me from trying. I was able to sneak downstairs and listen to him from a side door, where I happened to meet a guy who claimed to be the former owner of the place. After talking for a bit, he let me walk past the bouncers into a crowd full of pot smoke and Jewish reggae music without having to pay a dime.

The following night I went to another free open-bar party in an old, abandoned produce warehouse. After a few drinks, I heard the loud sounds of an all-female rock band. I looked over my shoulder only to see Slater Kinney playing on a stage at the other side of the room.

I came to Austin without a plan or itinerary of any kind, and I left with a feeling of amazement – great music, free beer and all. I can’t wait for next year’s drunken debauchery.

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