"SXSW is thoroughly enjoyable, but not kind to the feet," says David Bartholow of go-to music blog Gorilla vs. Bear. The native Texan breaks down who to see, where to see 'em, and how to escape during the music fest, which kicks off today, March 13th, and runs through the 18th. Comfortable shoes a plus.
Acts and Artists
Schedules are hectic at SXSW. Though you can't be everywhere at once, try to track down these artists: Grimes, Charli XCX, Nicolas Jaar, Peaking Lights, Schoolboy Q, Girls, Taken by Trees, A$AP Rocky, Jimmy Cliff, Korallreven, White Denim, Danny Brown, Pure X, Tennis, Boy Friend. You'll be glad you did.
MWTX (Mess With Texas 2012)
It's an always reliable afternoon/evening affair on the emerging east side of downtown. There's a great bill this year with some of our favorite acts performing March 15th, 16th, and 17th.
Baby Blue Studio
If you’re still on the east side after Mess With Texas, consider stopping by this super rad studio owned and operated by beloved Austin musician Bill Baird. On the 17th: Tennis, Javelin, Young Prisms, and Baird’s own work will be on display during WNYU’s This Feels Nice — The Party! showcase. As far as SXSW musical tourism goes, experiencing Baby Blue Studio will possibly provide the most authentic glimpse into Austin's music underground.
Yours Truly x Gorilla vs. Bear
Co-curated with our good friends at Yours Truly, our SXSW showcase (504 Trinity Street) will be headlined by Jimmy Cliff and include tight sets from Theesatisfaction and Korallreven.
Hype Hotel by the Hype Machine
Like MWTX2 2012, the blogcentric Hype Hotel (which we’re co-sponsoring with a number of our best blogger friends) also features a super thick lineup of many of SXSW’s coolest acts.
Unequivocally revered as Austin's best small-size venue. Great stages outdoors and in, as well as a thoroughly accommodating VIP patio.
Club de Ville
Possibly our favorite bar/venue in Austin, and conveniently next to The Mohawk. If nothing else — the massive limestone wall serves as the most unique and captivating backdrop for any band at any small venue anywhere. We've witnessed a number of very special shows here over the years.
Empire Auto Garage
This up-and-coming autoshop-turned-music venue (604 East Seventh Street) has quickly become one of the coolest rooms in town. Expect great studio vibes and plenty of space to chill between sets. I can't speak highly enough about what Empire brings to the proverbial music table.
Food and Drink
People may cry foul over certain omissions, but this list is as abridged as we could make it given the city's distinct, you know, culinary heritage.
A classic South Austin Mexican spot we hit up every year. It's reliably and authentically local. With awesome salsa, enchiladas, and drinks. If there’s a wait, consider walking down First Street towards the gourmet food truck lot that has become very popular with the kids.
Maria's Taco X-press
We frequented this taco stand on South Lamar often when we lived in Austin back in the day. Great selection, patio, and statue of Maria.
Our personal favorite spot for a Mexican breakfast.
The Mean-Eyed Cat
Buried among new development on Fifth Street, a little west of downtown, lies this charming, Johnny Cash-themed bar, a now legendary local David-and-Goliath triumph which always seems to be serving the coldest Texas beer in town. Weirdly, it is located in the very shack where the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed. So, yeah, by all means, go observe Johnny Cash and Leatherface together in perfect harmony.
The lines will probably be absurd, but you can’t go wrong with this South Congress coffee stand for a tender morning cup of brew after a long night of music.
If you have any semblance of curiosity about what good gluten-free can taste like, track down baker Karen Morgan's pastries and see if you can tell the difference.
The Salt Lick
When you burn out on music and want to tap a truly classic Austin experience, convince someone to drive you out to Driftwood for BBQ. Promise they won’t be even the slightest bit disappointed.
One of the great wonders of the Texas hill country and worth every bit of the trek required to experience it. This epic swimming hole, about 30 miles outside of Austin, features a cascading waterfall from a vast granite overhang, a “beach,” and warm aqua blue water.
Sculpture Falls / Barton Creek Greenbelts
A super chill double-dip waterfall and recreational stomping ground for all walks of Ausitn life. Hit up Sculpture Falls at the unique Austin greenbelts, just a short hike off Highway 360, southwest of downtown.
Can't make it to Austin? Catch Gorilla vs. Bear on Sirus XM every Thursday at noon EST.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
See Fathom's Austin Guide for vintage shopping, a 72-hour food tour, and so much more.
See all locations for this story. (Google Maps)