If there’s one thing that’s true about South By Southwest, it’s that much of it is based on access–the combinations of badges, wristbands, hand-stamps, and nods that get people into and behind the scenes of shows can be downright dizzying. To figure out what, exactly, it’s like to experience the festival with not so much as a wristband, we enlisted chief assumer (and former Austinite) Andy Beta to give us the outsider’s perspective. In his first dispatch, he notices some swarms and storms, as well as a few Swedish horsemen.
Having previously lived in Austin while enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin’s illustrious six-year undergrad program, I knew to avoid South by Southwest like the plague. Wholly built to entertain industry types from Los Angeles and New York, the two coasts converge on the state capital each and every spring break like so many drunken Kappa Phi bros on Cancun, to where the mass exodus takes on the properties of that of locusts.
And now that I find myself firmly ensconced on one of these coasts, the first thing to strike me when I touched down at Austin-Bergstrom Airport today is the amount of bugs they have down here. I never seemed to notice it before. Black crickets scoot across the linoleum at the terminal, while outside flies, mosquitoes, and these weird winged brown insects that I don’t recollect from childhood take to the air. And I haven’t even mentioned the flying cockroaches yet. Nor the downright biblical deluge wreaking havoc across the hill country upon my arrival.
Come evening time, the trees and power lines clog with the Hitchcock-worthy squawks of gathered blackbirds, drowning out talk on patios and verandas. And that’s nothing compared to the swarm of bats that tornado out from under the South Congress Bridge. Sorta feels like end times at South by Southwest this year. Luckily, I grew up riding a horse to school, and, in addition to the three white horses ridden by Peter, Björn, and John, I find myself side-saddle on Famine’s horse. And man, am I ever hungry for some BBQ at the Salt Lick.