Music festival novice experiences SXSW for first time

I have a confession to make. For the first 16 years of my life, I have been a terrible excuse of an Austinite. I’ve never been to a local music festival. No ACL. No Fun Fun Fun Fest. No South by Southwest. It’s amazing that I’ve lived in the Live Music Capital of the World my entire life and never taken advantage of it.

But here’s the thing: I’m a junior in high school. Pretty soon I’ll go off to college, and that college might not be in Austin, or even Texas for that matter. This year I decided I was going to fit in my festival fix while I still had the chance.

There seemed no better place to start than with SXSW. There were tons of free/inexpensive events to choose from, but I eventually narrowed it down to two: the Foster the People concert in Butler Park and one of the live KGSR broadcasts at the W hotel. Both happened to be within 24 hours of each other, so I rallied a group of friends for a fun-filled excursion.

On the Friday afternoon of the Foster the People concert, we arrived at Butler Park at 3 o’clock. The music didn’t start until 6, but we wanted to make sure we were able to get in. We bought some cotton candy and settled in a spot about 50 feet from the stage. At about 5:15, everyone suddenly stood up and rushed the stage for no discernible reason, so we had to stand and wait for the first opener for about 45 minutes. The crowd slowly began to swell, and by the time the music actually started, all personal bubbles had been popped. I ate more hair and touched more butts than I ever care to again. I can’t really complain, though; getting there so early had guaranteed us a spot really close to the stage, which was incredible considering the park was brimming with thousands of people.

Foster the People was amazing. I’d seen them once before when they performed at the Backyard in 2012, but being so close to the stage made them even better. We got to hear songs from their then unreleased album Supermodel. Overall, I considered it a success.

We headed back to my friend’s house for a sleepover and set our alarms for 5 the next morning. The KGSR broadcast started at 8, and since the capacity was 500 people, we wanted to be some of the first in line. It was a little hard getting up so early, especially since we were exhausted from the night before, but our excitement eventually kicked in and acted as a stimulant.

There were eight artists lined up: Birds of Tokyo, American Authors, Wild Cub, Jetta, Vance Joy, The Wild Feathers, Suzanne Vega and Ingrid Michaelson. Each played one song, did an interview with a KGSR correspondent and then played another. It only cost $5 to get in, and all proceeds went to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a win-win scenario for everyone involved. It was a great way to see up-and-coming artists in an intimate setting, and I will definitely be going again next year.

After my first SXSW outing, I’ve finally had a taste of Austin music festivals. I can’t wait until fall so I can check ACL off my list. Too bad I’ll have to save up for that one.