Advice For Out-Of-Town SXSW Attendees

2010 March 10

Welcome to Austin!  SXSW is a crazy bag of silliness, and many visitors are eager to see what Austin has to offer.  Allow me to humbly offer some tips to make your stay a pleasant and gracious one:


  • Tip well.  Wanna support the local music industry in the live music capital of the world?  Tip.  The downside of an awesome live music scene is that supply far outstrips demand.  So that awesome band rocking your face off one night is slinging you pizzas the next or pedicabbing your ass around town because gigs pay so little.  Lots of folks hold down service industry jobs to get by before they make it big, help keep the dream alive.
  • Tell us about that awesome show we don’t know about.  Got a tip about an awesome no-name band or under the radar party?  Fill us in.  We’ll reciprocate by telling you where to get the best breakfast tacos and how to sneak into Stubb’s.
  • Look at our eyes, not our nametags or your iPhone.  Hey, I’m up here!  If you’re checking your texts or gauging our importance by our name tag while we’re talking to you , we’re less inclined to want to tell you about those tacos.
  • Chat.  We’re friendly.


  • Buy a faux-trashed cowboy hat and wear it attempting to blend in.  This is the equivalent of wearing a black beret in Paris or a conical straw hat around Vietnam.
  • Disparage Texas or “flyover country” while standing next to us.  We’re not all Republicans, and we’re not all assholes.  Obama got more votes in Texas than in Illinois.  And regardless of political differences, Texans get along together.  Go to a Willie Nelson show and try to figure out who voted for who.
  • Say Austin is “just like (insert-coastal-city-here) but cheaper”.  No, it’s not.  That’s why we live here.

In return for adhering to the above basic rules, lemme fill you in on some of the best things to hear and eat during your stay here.


  • Tacos at Taqueria Star (the orange taco truck at S Congress and Riverside).  Open til 3am or later, Carlos and his family have the best salsa in town.  Both the green and red salsas are creamy, smooth and delicious.  The migas tacos are incredible and only cost $1.50.  Get them on corn and split the heaping of migas into both tortillas to turn one to two.
  • Kerbey Lane or Magnolia at 2:15am.  No better place in the world for people watching or pancakes.  The Neptunian landscape at Magnolia fills you up with cheesy, gooey, lemony potatoes for like $4, and Kerbey Lane’s gingerbread pancakes and ginger sesame salad dressing rule the world.
  • Fried pickles.  At greasy spoons and bars throughout town.  I don’t understand why this delicious combination of salt, friedness and ranch dressing hasn’t taken over the entire world, but they’re mostly an Austin thing.  Try ’em.
  • Sugar Mama’s instead of Hey Cupcake.  While wandering down south congress (which is only called SoCo by asshole real estate developers, btw), the temptation to patronize the cutesy little cupcake trailer will be overwhelming.  Don’t do it!  The cupcakes are dry, bland and expensive.  A few blocks away, Sugar Mama’s makes amazing desserts.  The smores bar rules, and the Marilyn Monroe is the most amazing cupcake you’ll ever try.
  • The Snack Bar has an awesome patio, great sangria, and nice snacks.  It’s right in the middle of south congress, and is a great place to grab a drink while listening to their bands and watching the scenesters.
  • Gordough’s. Gourmet donuts, mind bending iterations.  Open ’til 2am, right across the street from The Highball.
  • Pizza? Perhaps I can suggest a place…I go there sometimes…it’s alright. 😉


  • The Movits! – A Swedish swing-hip hop group.  You won’t be able to understand them or avoid dancing.  Playing at Homeslice’s Music By The Slice.

  • Quantic – I’m not really good with remembering names of various kinds of electronic music.  So I’m not sure if he’s up-tempo, dub-step, trip-hop or ambient, but his music straddles the line of being chillable and danceable at the same time.
  • The Lonesome Heroes – Their website says “psychedelic country music”, mine says they’re just great.  Grab a lonestar and give ’em a shot.
  • Lonesome Heroes “Don’t Play to Lose” Music Video from Daniel Stolzman on Vimeo.

  • The Saltworth Sundries – Another local band that’s hard to shoehorn into a genre, but I’d say punk-rockabilly with a banjo and trombone.  They jump around a lot, and since no one’s heard of them, you can jump around with them.  They’re playing at The Snack Bar next Saturday.
  • See music you usually don’t see.  Don’t fly to Austin to hear the bands that play in your neighborhood all the time.
  • In general, my advice is to avoid the big name events unless its your favorite band ever, and pick one area (south congress, red river, etc) and just walk around until something pleases your ear.  When it starts to suck, go next door.  You can run yourself ragged trying to catch that half-set of that band you’ve already seen before, but you’ll be exhausted.

Also, drink lots of free beer, it’s good for the soul.  Check out this meta guide to SXSW food guides for more searching, or just follow your nose to the nearest food truck.  Anything glaring I left out?

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. 2010 March 10

    Haha nice line about SoCo. Those same developers like to call my neighborhood SoLa

  2. 2010 March 10

    I LOVE THIS!!! I was cracking up, why? Because it’s ALL true.

    I am stoked that someone else loves Taqueria Star as much as I do. I used to enjoy breakfast there all the time when we were across the street. Now I stop by late nights on my bike for some of the best pastor I’ve had in this town. Also, what you said about Sugar Mamas vs. Hey Cupcake is RIGHT-FREAKIN-ON! I don’ t know why anyone buys stuff from HC. Ugh-if I wanted Duncan Hines, I’d go buy my own damn box!

    Maybe you and I will run into each other at Gourdoughs during SXSW!

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