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SXSW Tales: Power To The Badgeless

March 18, 2012

Today is the final day of the SXSW Festival. If I ever attend this event again, I would do two things differently: I would come to the music festival without a badge and I would most likely skip the Interactive festival altogether.

Don't get me wrong -- the SXSW music festival is a marvelous event. But for someone like me, who prefers to discover exciting music at the fringes and a bit by accident rather than lining up for hours to catch an act that already has several platinum-selling CDs and a bazillion video videos on YouTube, buying a pass for SXSW is, quite frankly, a waste of time.

Many of the events that I enjoyed the most this week, such as Roger Greenawalt's ukelele Beatles marathon at the Hickory Street Bar & Grille (pictured) or Boston singer-songwriter Sarah Blacker at Austin Java, happened in coffee shops and bars where I only had to show ID to get in. No one cared whether I was an official festival attendee or not. And the venues I frequented which bothered to scan passes upon entry were all open to non-badge holders too. The only difference was that the people without passes had to pay a little money (e.g. $15-$20) to get in.

I think this "a la carte" system would on the whole suit me better next time around, even though this would mean missing out on some interesting panel sessions at the convention center. If I hadn't had a SXSW pass, I would never have heard Paul Williams sing or seen images of naked decapitated fat men gracing the front of heavy metal albums, for instance. There's food for thought.

I'm off to New Orleans tomorrow for a musical adventure of a different kind.

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