Whether you're a lifer who has made the springtime trek down I-35 to South by Southwest for decades or you've just recently decided to see what all the fuss is about, the festival is worth the trip.
Now, SXSW has changed -- "grown-up," some might say. But remember this: Its attendees have grown up, too.
Maybe we're a bit balder than we once were. I'm now 41, and I've come up with a plan to act my age and attend several days of concerts at SXSW.
Doing day parties the right way
For years now, day parties have been slowly taking over as the true attraction for SXSW's music dates. That's not a secret, nor the tip we're offering here. When looking at one of the many helpful day party databases, it's easy to be lured into visions of hopping from one storefront to another, catching this band at 1:15 p.m, then catching this other band down the street at 2 p.m. with casual ease. But beware, it rarely works so smoothly. The crowd struggle is real, and lines for beers and bathrooms are long, especially on prime streets such as Sixth and Red River.
You're better off picking a show-intensive area -- South Congress Street, for a fine example -- and narrowing your targets to a couple of spots. If you're in town for more than one day, you can rest easy knowing that the other bands on your must-see list will likely be playing somewhere else tomorrow. You don't have to pound the beer you just waited in line for.
Discovering new bands
When you decide on which day party to hit first, don't just catch that one band you wanted to see at 2:10 p.m. Get to the party at 12:45 p.m and see the one you haven't heard of. Stay for another after.
There's no better way to stumble on a killer band than by slowing down. Just take an extra minute and listen.
Away from the craziness of the main avenues, many of Austin's best breweries and restaurants will feature day-long schedules of shows. Oasis Texas Brewing Company, with scenic views of Lake Travis, and Austin Beer Garden Brewery, complete with its award-winning pizza, should both be high on your list of choice destinations.
Threadgill's on Riverside, with a spacious backyard-style music area as well as an intimate indoor stage, has non-stop tunes and endless plates of its famous chicken-fried steak. The new Yeti flagship store, the only one of its kind in the world, not only has a permanent bar and stage built inside, but each day during SXSW, plates of some barbecue will be available for just a few bucks. And Waterloo Records, Austin's best-known record store, has its usual impressive lineup of well-known acts on a massive parking lot stage.
Because we're 40, you might also want to know: Record stores are generally safe places to bring your kids during SXSW.
Avoiding the hassles
While you discover new bands, keep stress at a low-ish level by skipping bands you can see anywhere else, any other time. SXSW attendees with badges or wristbands will be allured by the bigger shows at Moody Theater or Stubbs. But the biggest free-to-attend parties with the Roots, Weezer, or Gary Clark Jr., will usually not be worth the inevitable hassle you will endure. You're far better off by catching Neko Case or Mastodon when they swing back through North Texas for a non-festival show.
Follow @kellyrdearmore on Twitter as he explores the sights and sounds of SXSW.