Monday, March 12, 2012

Gal's Guide to SXSW:

Each year, my job sends me to SXSW. My experience is a little different from some festival goers, since for me, it's a busy work trip, and not a week to float around and see whatever bands I please. From early morning when I leave the hotel to 2 or 3AM, I'm catching up with writers, spending time with our clients, getting to know potential clients, building new industry contacts, making sure our showcase runs smoothly, and running from venue to venue every thirty minutes trying to fit it all in. Sure I try to make time to catch up with friends I only get to see a few times a year and of course, time for tacos, but for me, it's a work trip, and not a "music festival" in the "chill out and watch some bands" sense.
Keep up with me during the week:
Instagram user: AlyssaDeHayes

These tips may not apply to everyone, but I've found these things helpful over the years:

What to pack:
- Say Yes To Cucumbers facial wipes. The grime that will come off your face at the end of the day...

- John Frieda volumizing or Big Sexy Hair dry shampoo

- Insoles make a big difference on your feet and back
- Bandaids in your wallet for blisters
- Grocery bags for dirty clothes
- Baby Powder
- Sunscreen
- Emergen-C
- Cardigan, scarf, button down, layers.
- Tights. I like to throw a pair in my purse in case I'm stuck away from the hotel when it cools off.
- Jacket. Two years ago it was brutally cold and windy by noon one day. The weather is unpredictable. Cover your bases.
- Business cards (don't laugh. people still use them.)
- Big purse BUT clear out unnecessary crap at home.
- Wallet that you can get your ID out of quickly. You'll show your ID hundreds of times by the end of the week.
- Skip the bulky DSLR if you are going to official events. Some official venues will search your bag, and you'll need a photo badge to use your big camera. 
- Sunglasses. Cheap ones. $10 ones. Two pairs. You will lose them/sit on them/break them.
- Ear plugs. I've been slowly ruining my hearing by going to shows every night. At SXSW, I usually forget to put them in since I'm never in one place very long and I'm making conversation, but it can't hurt to bring 'em. 
- Mophie Air case for iPhone (carries an extra charge for more phone life.)

- Put your phone charger in your purse. When I had a Blackberry, I bought a second battery and kept it charged in my purse.
- Pack some kind of granola bars or meal bars in your purse for when you can't sneak away for lunch. This year, I packed these:

Before you go:
- Get all your apps working so that you don't have to fiddle with them in Austin.
- Install the app on your smartphone. My username is teamclermontalyssa if you'd like to browse the day parties/unofficial events I've bookmarked.
- I like to keep my own contact info saved as an entry in my phonebook, so I can quickly text someone my info.
- Upload your photo for your badge so you don't waste time at the convention center. 

- Trusted lip products or a light gloss: I'm not a fan of "long wear" lip products in settings when I can't constantly check on it, since for me, they wear off unevenly, leaving a weird ring around your mouth, or long wear on your teeth. I feel more comfortable in a sheer shade I can reapply without looking and will wear off evenly during the day.
- If you wear foundation or moisturizer, go with SPF 15 or higher.

What to wear: 
For me, SXSW isn't the time to experiment with new looks. Tugging on clothes that aren't laying correctly or a skirt that's twisting or riding up while meeting new people and booking it to a different venue every 30 minutes is a drag. Wasting time in the hotel room in the morning wondering if I can really pull off this look isn't what I was sent down here for.

It's ultimately about what you feel comfortable in. For my schedule, sheer slip dresses (picture what it will look like once you've sweat through it,) heaps of jewelry (I usually skip necklaces, which just get tangled in my SXSW badge,)  heels and sandals aren't practical. I go for outfits that balance laid-back style with smart substance. I want to be stylish, but I want to look like I know what I'm doing. A chambray shirt is my best bet through unpredictable weather.

Pack a few pairs of shoes. Even the comfiest shoes will wear on you 9AM to 3AM straight. I've seen a few SXSW guides encouraging flip-flops, but that seems like a bad idea to me, for crowded bars where you'll get stepped on.

These are in my suitcase.
 On the hottest days, dresses serve me better than jeans. I go for something with pockets and a skirt that won't blow up and embarrass me at the slightest breeze.

I try to wear my practical items instead of my nicest, so that I'm not heartbroken when my shoes are trampled and suede items come home with drink stains and cigarette burns.

When my hair's at its greasiest and I'm short on time, milk maid braids seem to fool unsuspecting complimenters into thinking it looks nice, Bonus: hair off the neck for hot Texas afternoons.

 While you're there:
 - DRINK WATER. Day drinking is fun, but (I would hope) most of us aren't used to a drink an hour noon to 2AM. Space it out with some water. Even if you feel sober, it's tough on your body when you're already tired, sweaty, and eating irregularly. People joke about the post-SXSW cold everyone comes back with. My company goes right back into the office as soon as we get back, so I try to balance the beer with plenty of water and an Emergen-C every morning.
- Don't be afraid to go to a party or showcase alone. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to people while you are there. SXSW is a conference. People want to meet you. I've made some friends because we were both standing alone at day parties, and asked each other where we worked, what else we were going to go see that day, etc.

Be Safe:
I'm all for women being tough, and while in an ideal world, a woman should be able to walk alone late at night... in the world we actually live in, it's not always safe. Sometimes I find myself at an event I need to be at for my job, late at night, and no one is walking home in my same direction. That said, you'll hardly find yourself on a street that ISN'T packed with people (especially 6th,) but stay in touch with your coworkers as the night winds down. Mosey back to the hotel together if you can. I've heard people suggest hiding your badge when you walk home late so you aren't marking yourself as a tourist with cash. I personally feel more comfortable carrying pepper spray (checked in my suitcase, then zipped discreetly in a purse pocket) and I usually have a pocketknife on me because it's handy.  Whatever you do, be safe.

A few events from my schedule:
- Aquarium Drunkard day party
- An Evening With Sacred Bones Records
- Hometapes Friend Island
- Team Clermont/Fire Records/Critical Heights showcase
- ATL Gets Weird 2

Band to Watch:
- Bear In Heaven

My friends Sibel and Candice offered some tips of their own:

1. If you drink alcohol, do NOT plan on detoxing BEFORE the festival. detoxing will actually decrease your tolerance and will transform you into a bona fide trainwreck. In fact, I create a "drinking workout plan" that I start usually about a week before a festival, incrementally increasing daily.
2. If you feel like taking a nap, TAKE A NAP.  if you're going to stop by your hotel room and don't have a lot of time for a nap, put a cold wet towel over your eyes for about 20 minutes. It makes all the difference in the world and totally makes you feel like you took a two hour long nap.
3. Clif bars are awesome to carry in your purse for snacks between shows. They're small enough but super filling.
4. Cosmetic essentials: dry shampoo, make-up removal wipes (can substitute with baby wipes), tinted moisturizer, and Boots Liquid Matte, which can be purchased at Target. The latter is a LIFE SAVER for keeping your makeup fresh to death while you're sweating.
5. If you paint your nails and/or toenails, use black. Seriously.
6. Don't buy Tevas EVER. That's just dumb.
7. Free sh*t is free sh*t. And free sh*t is nice. But keep in mind that you're going to have to carry other things in your purse for the day so don't take it unless you will want it later.
8. There are a lot of great iPhone apps in which you can customize where you are that are synced with local taxi companies. USE THEM.
9. Keep a phone charger in your purse

1. Light layers! Weather is always weird down there, sometimes its super hot, and then it cools down a ton at night. I always bring a pretty big bag and stuff a light jacket or cardigan in my purse for later.
2. Sunscreen! I got sun poisoning one year.
3. Emergen-C and Goody's Headache Powder for hangovers.
4. Eat breakfast. You run around a lot and finding time to eat during the day is sometimes hard. If you go somewhere during the day and drink, it's good to have SOMETHING in your stomach. Some hotels offer breakfast in the lobby. Otherwise, grabbing a bagel or buying a box of granola bars (even to keep in your purse during the day for a quick snack) is good too.
5. When day-drinking, alternate booze with a water so you're not blackout by 5PM, or do what I do, and try not to drink anything alcoholic until after 4PM.


  1. handy travel tips! enven though it's a work trip for you, hope you get to see some of the sights + sounds of austin. hear it's an awesome town!

    1. Thanks so much! I got to finally explore a few of the less touristy areas of Austin this year, and even got a few sit-down meals! Hoping to put together a few posts tomorrow in between work!


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