Every March, when the SXSW Music Conference comes to Austin, capping off a week of the SXSW Interactive and Film Conferences, the city embraces, and braces for the hordes of attendees and massive traffic snarls in and around downtown. At Texas Highways, with our offices just a stone’s throw from the epicenter of downtown, where the conference takes place, and South Congress Avenue, where many free music events occur, we feel the effects of the SXSW tsunami, from press releases touting SXSW-related events to courier delays from our prepress vendor due to the gridlock. Music from the day parties can even be heard in our parking lot. The aural lure combined with sunny, mild spring-like weather can tempt even the most dedicated worker to distraction.
Thursday afternoon, after carefully coordinating deadline schedules for the May issue, I took an extended lunch with my daughter, Lucy, to one of the many free, no badge/wristband showcases. We saw a couple of bands, including an indie-pop trio, The Antlers, on the grounds of the French Legation, an historic museum on the east side, and an unlikely venue for rock music, but typical of the unusual performer and performance space pairings found at SXSW. We helped ourselves to the free Izze carbonated-fruit drinks offered, and discovered free Torchy’s egg-and-cheese tacos around the corner at another free music party.
As my car crawled through traffic getting there and back, it allowed me a chance to observe the human groundswell walking and riding bikes to the various venues. In the hilly streets with the city skyline as a backdrop, it seemed to resemble what Haight-Ashbury must’ve looked like in the Sixties. Even the clothing and hairstyles of the mostly twenty-somethings would’ve been right at home in that era. It took a huge mental shift for me to get back into workaday mode, but made for an energizing respite.