What Some Locals Have To Say About SXSW

Travel Blog  •  Sophia Dembling  •  03.20.09 | 3:56 PM ET

Twitterers are all a-twitter about the fun they’re having at SXSW in Austin, and the party is only just getting started. But are long-time locals having as much fun being descended upon by the hipster masses? I polled a few of my Austin buddies about the fun they’re having ... or not.

Ruth Pennebaker, a blogger whose work often appears in the Texas Observer
I go to the film festival only and try to fit in, even though everybody else is taller, thinner, younger, dressed more hip (layers and scarves this year—lots of both). The high-rollers also wear official badges around their necks, which are the social equivalent of having balls, I believe. I have a lowly pass, but that’s better than being in the line to buy an individual ticket, so at least I get to feel superior to a few people.

Last year, the film festival overlapped the music festival, which I always try to avoid. I roamed around downtown, secretly pretending I was the original Mrs. Willie Nelson, the wife who sewed him into a bedsheet and beat him with a broom for coming home late and drunk. It made me feel much better—as if I had a colorful past much better than the lackluster present. Hey, at least I was close to the right age.

Kellye Rila, a bureaucrat and former DJ
I always look forward to SXSW because lots of my friends, the ones I already know and the ones I’m gonna meet, come to town to play. I am always profoundly grateful when it’s over because they go home. This year will be bittersweet because there are a couple of very big holes. Not seeing Danny Roy Young on Saturday morning just doesn’t make any sense at all, and it will never be the same without Chris Gaffney. I am looking forward to seeing what streets and highways the City of Austin decides to close this year to make it really hard to get around—always an adventure!

Karen Reiter, curmudgeonette
Twenty years ago, before I lived in Texas, I came to SXSW for the first time. I had good time. It was more of a regional event ... ya know, South by Southwest.  But now Austin’s full of half-built condos and too much traffic and SXSW is a circus that takes over the city, making it a lot more fun for visitors than residents.

I hate crowds, therefore I hate SXSW. There’s never anywhere to park near the “happening” areas, therefore I hate SXSW. Frequently even people with wristbands and badges can’t get into the “important” “official” showcases (who does get in?), therefore I hate SXSW. And the people who run SXSW do anything they can to squash any little event they see as competition, which is a damned good reason in and of itself to hate the whole thing.

On the other hand, it gives me an excuse to stay close to my happy home in South Austin where I can pretend the whole thing’s not happening. And all those attendees bring beaucoup bucks to the city, so something good does come of it.

This year (because my significant other is performing) I am being forced to attend an all-day (basically outdoor) event. At least it’s not in a “happening” area, so there should at least be reasonable parking, and some really good bands are playing so I will most likely enjoy myself despite myself.

But much as I hate SXSW, I would never deny the joys of it to those who want to participate. Maybe it really is just more fun when you’re the out-of-towner.

T. Tex Edwards, musician
Sorry, I was TOO BUSY to reply!

(I guess the above about covers it for me ...)

& it sounds like Ms Kritt (aka Karen Reiter) already covered the subject aptly ...

Helen Anders, travel writer
We’re leaving. I’d like to say it’s to avoid the hordes, but we’re headed to South Padre Island to cover spring break. Woo. Hoo.

We were home for SXSW last year and caught a couple of free shows. Like most people in town, we can’t afford the showcases. The biggest problem is the influx of cars in a town that has no parking.

John Anders, retired newspaper columnist
We go eat hamburgers at The Tavern, one of the good, reliable non-venues where we’re virtually sure no one will drag out a guitar—for that weekend, at least.

Our musician friend Pat Whitefield, who sat alphabetically next to Charles Whitman in class at UT (“nice, nerdy guy who let me cheat off him on chemistry exams,” says Pat), has been an Austin musician for 40 years. He hopes to get out-of-town gigs during SXSW.

“It’s hard enough making a living in this town,” says Pat, an upright man on upright bass. “So now you have the place flooded with musicians who fall in love with Austin over the weekend and suddenly want to come here and live. Which makes the competition to make a living in music even fiercer. All the local musicians hate South by Southwest. Can you blame us?”

Sophia Dembling

Dallas-based writer Sophia Dembling is co-author of the Flyover America blog and author of "The Yankee Chick's Survival Guide to Texas." She would love to hear your tales of America, so drop her an email.

2 Comments for What Some Locals Have To Say About SXSW

Elizabeth 03.21.09 | 1:06 AM ET

I’m so fed up with SXSW this year that I found this page by googling “I hate SXSW,” just to see if I’m the only one. What a relief to know that other Austinites are just as irritated. My fiance is deeply involved in this year’s festival, and I am attempting to be supportive… Yeah…

Sophia Dembling 03.21.09 | 11:19 AM ET

It just sounds like too many people to me.

I went to the second and third Austin City Limits Festival and had a great time but then that got too crowded for me too.

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