Here are All of the Feelings I Felt at SXSW
Rage. Confusion. Reflection. Love?
South by Southwest is a rollercoaster of emotions. Everything about the overwhelming and hotly hyped Texas festival leaves visitors reeling: you have to run from one showcase to the next in an attempt to keep up with 20-minute sets that seem to end before they even begin.
For three straight days, I was up early searching for free brunch, out all day melting under the blazing sun, and then out all night dancing and searching for cabs. The body naturally reacts with a cycle of fleeting emotions and thoughts that burst from places hidden deep inside your psyche. You realize that you actually have no control over anything, and you're giving up everything that keeps you sane in order to hear some bands that you could see in New York City next month anywyas. I catalogued my feelings as a case study of the effects of SXSW on the human mind. I felt:
This is the base state of consciousness for any SXSW attendee. It stems from the knowledge that there's so much to do, but very little time to accomplish it; so many people, but so little space; so much free beer, but so little water. If I described SXSW in one word to anyone, it would be overwhelming.
After landing in Austin at 1 AM and finally drifting off to sleep at 3 AM, I woke up at about 10. Badge in tow, I headed to the Spotify House, which had a line snaking around the corner. Once inside, I found another line at least 50 people long, all of them waiting to order drinks at the bar. A meager dozen bodies lingered awkwardly on the dance floor. Machinedrum's afternoon set just might've been hotter than the Southern sun. Here, I had my first SXSW epiphany: no one was here for the music—they came for the free drinks and Spotify tote bags. I should have known.
I had never really listened to any of the artists scheduled to play the Harvest Records showcase, but decided to trust my friend and follow her there anyway. I'm glad I did, because that's where I found Glass Animals, and that's where I decided Glass Animals is the best new band of 2014. I also met someone who would later invite me to a Ryan Hemsworth set at an animal shelter later that week, which is further proof that succumbing to peer pressure is a good thing after all.
The only reason I came to SXSW was to see Numbers signee Sophie, and I mistakenly thought he was scheduled to appear at Pitchfork's day party at 2 PM. I was waiting for the bus at 1:30 and the 40-year-old Texan next to me wouldn't stop talking. I started sweating profusely thinking about how I might miss Sophie's set and how stupid this stranger sounded.
Thankfully, I had gotten the time of Sophie's set wrong, and made it just in time to see him take the stage at 2:30. "Bipp" might just be the best thing that's happened to me in the past nine months, so I was stoked to finally see its creator in the flesh. The tall, skinny ginger behind the boards did not disappoint: his set was an unbeatable combination of hip-hop with tween girl pop, plus a few unreleased Sophie jams. Just wait for his song "Lemonade." You're going to freak.
The aforementioned Ryan Hemsworth gig went down early Thursday morning at the animal shelter Austin Pets Alive. Listening to Hemsworth play "Who Let the Dogs Out" to a chorus of barks made me feel like this was the only place in the world I was supposed to be, with these very people and animals. Young & Sick and Mahaut Mondino then played an acoustic set as dogs sat in a circle cuddling with handlers. I've seen few sites so beautiful.
I ended up at an A3C rap showcase, where rapper after rapper yelled "turn up" and ripped his shirt off. Then, out of nowhere, the MC for the evening jumped on the mic and quieted down the crowd to call for a second moment of silence for those who died on Ninth Street the day before. For the first time all week, the noise settled and there was 30 seconds of legitimate, pure silence on the Austin rooftop. For that brief interlude, we were more than just a mosh pit.