Seven tips for SXSW newbies

Nour Al Ghraowi

South By Southwest isn’t something you figure out in a day. Rather than learning it the hard way, check out our list of tips for any wide-eyed newbies attending their first SXSW this year.

Pack your backpack

  • You’ll be attending back-to-back shows until well after 2 a.m., so pack thoroughly but lightly to survive the day. Take a purse, backpack or fanny pack with a water bottle and sunscreen. A decent amount of your SXSW will be spent waiting in lines or for bands to start their sets, so make sure to pack some snacks and a phone charger to get you through the wait.

Download SXSW Go

  • Browse events and speakers on the SXSW Go mobile app, and make yourself a daily schedule. The app can connect you to your friends to see what they are attending and alert you of show cancellations or delays. Try the new SXSW Recommends feature, which uses an algorithm and iBeacon technology to find nearby shows of interest based on your personal taste.

Dress comfortably

  • Celebrity sightings are rampant during SXSW, so look your best — but make sure to dress comfortably. Either wear comfortable shoes or bring some with you — your feet will thank you later. Don’t forget to bring a jacket because warm spring days in Texas often turn into chilly, rainy nights. 

Pace yourself

  • First-timers think they can do everything on the first day, but those expectations often end with stress and disappointment. Pace yourself. Plan a full day, but don’t overdo it with too many shows. Leave time to relax and grab a bite, and don’t get frustrated if a show gets canceled or delayed because, odds are, there’s another one happening nearby.

Check if shows are 21+

  • If you’re underage, double check to make sure you can attend shows before getting in line, because there’s nothing worse than getting turned away after waiting to see your favorite bands. Most shows inside bars are 21+, but if that information isn’t listed, call the venue.

Get there early

  • Get a good spot in line by showing up early. More often than not, dedicated fans start lining up hours in advance, so plan accordingly if you want to guarantee entry or prove your allegiance. 

Expand your horizon with new music

  • Skip shows with big headliners because lines are often so long that there’s a chance you won’t make it in. Explore new music and attend shows with acts you’ve never heard of — they might be your next favorite band.