UTG @ SXSW 2014: Survival Tips From Your Favorite Artists

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Closing out our 2014 preview series for SXSW is the UTG annual survival guide. This year, instead of our staff members rambling for 1,000 or more words on why it’s important to check out bands you’ve never heard of, why you should go easy on the booze until after sunset, or what to do when you go broke half-way through the week, we decided it was better you hear it from your favorite artists…because all of those things don’t just happen to fans.

Musicians spanning all genres and scenes, including Murder By Death, The Venetia Fair, Alesana, The Architects, Davey Suicide, and Dr. Manhattan, have helped weigh in on what they believe is their biggest key to surviving SXSW as an artist and as a fan. Follow the jump to gain all of the knowledge (and some pretty funny stories about strip clubs and drinking too much) you need to survive SXSW 2014.

If what you want is to play some music, hear some music and party with people from all over the world, then welcome to SXSW in beautiful Austin, TX. If what you want is to get blotto in any town other than your own…might I suggest Wichita? — Brandon Phillips, guitar and vocals, The Architects

Do not get hammered after your first show…if there is a possibility that you will be playing a second. At our first ever SXSW, we drank way too much after we played, not realizing we were playing a second show. During our first song we played the same part twice and our buddy Kyle from Drop Dead Gorgeous had his nose accidentally broken when he ran on stage. Good times. — Shawn Milke, vocals and guitar, Alesana

It’s hot, it’s awesome, and it’s crucial to have a charged cell phone. Always have a cell phone charger that works with all outlets (wall, car, USB etc..). Can you really afford to miss your favorite band because you have no phone GPS? No. Not at SXSW. — Corey Gross, bassist, Avian

I have a very “love/hate” relationship with SXSW. I love the idea of the festival, the shows, the parties, the panels, the business, and most of all the fact that everyone comes together to share the same interest and love of music. I hate that my poor body can’t keep up with all the action and needs to occasionally re-charge itself with some sleep. In the numerous years that I’ve attended, I’ve approached it with various mentalities. One year I RSVP’d to every event I could get my dirty little hands on, organized a calendar, planned everything from panels to free shows to free food and free drinks. It was amazing, but also exhausting and felt much like one of those “parent planned” tourist vacations (but obviously more fun). I also attended one year not planning the slightest and just walked around, meeting up with friends and bands, randomly. That obviously was a great time; but gave me a slightly unproductive feeling. Lastly was a year where I had 8 or 9 showcases lined up to perform at in 3 days, which was awesome in the way that it was a balance of accomplishing a lot in a few days then having the other 3 or 4 days to party.

Work hard, play harder…ya know?! Overall, I’m grateful to get the opportunity year after year to take part in such a rapidly growing musical event. Cheers to all the hard working bands and people who make it all possible. See you soon! — Mike Abiuso, guitarist, The Venetia Fair

Figure out what kind of experience you are trying to have. I learned to play one show every other day. That makes me happiest; so I can enjoy Austin and be a part of other people’s shows, rather than have to run around like crazy trying to get back and forth from mine. Some folks just go for it and play multiple shows a day — but don’t expect it to be any fun or to sleep, if you do that. You never know though; maybe that right showcase gets you in front of the right person. You are one of 7,000 bands playing there, many of which are more hyped, more experienced or better than you. Small steps toward growing your band can be made at SXSW, but rarely are folks given something for nothing. Be realistic about your expectations and try to have fun. Bring merch! Don’t be lazy! Money helps. Hang out. Meet people. Don’t be a sleaze or schmooze, just be social. Don’t route down. You’re competing with EVERYONE, and free drinks!!! — Adam Turla, vocalist and guitarist, Murder By Death

Take care of yourself! Get a lot of sleep and drink a lot of water. I know you’re going to want to party, and even if you don’t — Austin is HOT. Don’t forget to make friends and have fun, too. That’s what you’re there to do; but if you’re not hydrated and you’re not sleeping or eating well, you’re going to be worthless to yourself. It’s just a music conference and some shows with some bands and some very important industry players, so don’t fuck around and lose your chance to make an impact. Running around like a chicken with your head cut off is way number one to make sure you have a fruitless experience. — Dillion Teague DeVoe, vocalist and guitarist, Mime Game

Imagine Mardi Gras with a thousand bands playing. Get there early and be mentally prepared for one of the biggest clusterfucks of your life. Davey Suicide

Bands: Bring your gear! This sounds like a no-brainer but you wouldn’t believe how many bands will show up without it assuming everything would be back-lined. Use the back-line if it’s there but always have yours available. — Micah Schnabel, frontman, Two Cow Garage

Careful scheduling and extra socks. There are so many great bands, you’re going to miss something. Cut your losses by checking out the artist schedule, mapping out who you want to see and leave some extra time to randomly discover acts you didn’t know about. And bring extra socks. It’s hot, you walk a lot and they definitely start to smell. — Michael Hanf, drummer, San Fermin

It’s having a hotel room before getting there so you don’t sleep in your car [laughs]. And having money for the strip club! Dutch Newman

Figure out where you’re going to sleep long in advance. SXSW is…basically like the Internet. Everyone is there, they are promoting something and they’re doing so nearly 24 hours a day. Austin isn’t a very large chunk of land and the hotels get booked pretty far out. If you can, book one a year early. If you have a friend in the area, book their couch a year early. You’ll need it because those couple of days in Texas feels like a full tour. Adam Bird, vocals and guitar, Those Mockingbirds

Hydration is the key! They say it is possible to drink too much water and die, but that doesn’t count for SXSW. The heat is unescapable! You’re either outside in the sun drying up or you’re shoulder to shoulder, belly to back, packed in a humid venue. If you’re like us you’re forcing drinks down the whole time, too. That may be a big factor in the necessity of water. Which is why whiskey waters are a good choice. Or tequila waters for you Texans. Also, attempt to get enough sleep. No matter how much you get, you will feel exhausted. ut watching bands will keep you awake and raring for more! — Billy Chevalier, drummer, Tiny Moving Parts

The main advice I would give is to take that schedule you worked for hours on and throw it in the trash. Just enjoy the bands and beers that are nearest to you and see something new. — Trae Vedder, vocals and guitar, Death On Two Wheels

The key to surviving is knowing it’s a week long. Lots of clean socks and underwear. Most people want to bring their discman…but it’s like, “hey leave it at home, there’s plenty of great music already there.” Also make sure you don’t drink too much water, you don’t want to over-hydrate. Get into as many elitist parties as possible and only talk about your band or your friend’s band, and how the new stuff is so much better than the old stuff; but when some one asks you about a chart-topping band you like, make sure to answer that old stuff is so much better than the new stuff.” – Sean Lenart of Victorian Halls

Bring a backpack. Fill it with booze. — Mike Tomala of Victorian Halls

If youth is on your side, live it up. If you are an old fart, you must pace yourself. Also…if a white van with tinted windows says “free candy for artists,” beware. — Josh Benash, guitarist and vocalist, Kiss Kiss

Just go for it. You know when notable shit happens? Not at 9 a.m. in line for a free breakfast burrito; it’s at 4 a.m. at some weird house that you don’t even know how you got to, but you’re pretty sure it’s haunted, and Adam Green, or someone who says he’s not Adam Green — but you’re pretty sure it is — is playing a Moldy Peaches greatest hits set by the fire, which you’re totally into when you’re not engaged in various sexual escapades with some randos in the woods. So yeah, whoever tells you, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” doesn’t believe in you like I believe in you. Just go for it. It’s only 4 days. But you should also probably hydrate and get some sleep occasionally, so you don’t look all Dallas Buyers Club’ed out the whole time. — James Wells (aka Clark Westfield), The Gay Blades

You’ve got to be super flexible. Whenever you hear something’s happening, you’ve got to be able to go and check it out. If you’re looking for surprise shows, or anything going on in Austin, you might only get a little whisper from somebody. Maybe it pans out, maybe it doesn’t. The coolest stuff I’ve seen is something I’ve overheard at a bar or concert. Get all the information you can and put the pieces together. It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle. A plan can kill you. It’s one of the few events that you need to throw your plan out the window. Have a good idea of what you’re going to do when you get there; but when you subscribe to the philosophy of being flexible you’ve got to let that plan go and let the SXSW gods take you where they want to take you. Oh, and bring extra socks. — Aaron Haynes, drummer, Larry g(EE) and Dovetail

Don’t spread yourself too thin. SXSW is a great opportunity to make connections, see lots of great shows, and get your band in front of some people who can further your career; but playing 100 shows in 1,000 degree heat on 5 minutes of sleep isn’t going to help you much, either. Instead of playing a bunch of okay shows, focus on playing the few shows you have really well. No one is going to want to talk about the mediocre band that were drunk off their ass and boring the crowd half to death — they’ll want to talk about the band that killed it at the few shows they had. That’s the real key to not only surviving…but thriving at SXSW. Also, water. Drink all of the water. — Nick Vombrack, drummer, Dr. Manhattan

Avoid lines. “If I go get you some food/coffee/red bull/drugs/insoles/Xanax can I cut the line when I get back?” will work a million times better than “I know so-and-so. I’m friends with so-and-so. I am in whatever band.” Do not waste anyone’s time with name dropping. Get straight to the point and provide goods or services that the overworked door guy/gal may need. Get drunk. Lots of the events are sponsored by alcohol companies. Find out where they are and go there and drink for free. Repeat as necessary. Stay healthy. Eat some food and drink some water every once in a while. It may not seem to make as much sense as shoveling b12 powder and baby laxatives up your nose at 4 a.m. but it will treat you better in the long run.

We recommend the food trucks all over town. The King of Hotdogs and the Vegan Yacht being the staples of our Austin trips. On seeing the bands you want to see: go see them when they are on tour in your hometown. SXSW is a horrible place to try to see band you actually like. No band sounds good in a parking lot at 1 p.m. with no sound check and a 10-minute change-over. Just get drunk and have an adventure. Trying to plan anything in this shitstorm is a waste of time. Be a good guest, be nice, friendly and fun. Do not act like an asshole. And do not move to Austin. They don’t want you.


If anyone can get tickets to the Willy Nelson show at Austin City Limits the Saturday night of SXSW, hit up the W/IFS Facebook page. — Rebecca Schlappich, violen, and Greg Daly, tour manager, The World/Inferno Friendship Society.

This feature was composed by Music Editor, Matthew Leimkuehler (@callinghomematt), White Girl Dance Corner Columnist, Tarynn Law (@tarynnjanine), and News & Review Writer, Adrian Garza (@adriangarza_), with special help from Mike Abuiso of SwitchBitch Noise.

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