“Do you taste a good as you look?” uttered Leslie, Austin’s famous transvestite-hobo (who also runs for mayor on occasion, mind you), to me while I made my way down chaotic 6th Street. To anyone else that instance would be enough to keep you away, but for me, it epitomizes what has brought me back to Austin time and time again for the biggest festival in the world; South By South West or SXSW.
The epicenter of SXSW is 6th Street. Most times it is just a normal chaotic street in a college city, but during SXSW, the thrift shop clad and musically pretentious sect of the music counter culture make it their playground for five days straight. It is five days of pure, sin-filled debauchery. SXSW is overwhelmed with parties, VIP roped-off tents and enough booze to intoxicate everyone within the city limits. Also, free everything. Free liquor, free food, free shirts and even, free love.
Of course many different weird occurrences happen, but that is the beauty which embodies SXSW. Let me give you a rundown of my own. First, Tricky, the rapper and actor who was also in “The Fifth Element” as “Right Arm”, waved and talked to me, whilst he ate a BBQ sandwich. I’ll just say the past 10 years have not been good to him. Kanye West, who is the “voice of our generation” (cough, cough), bumped into me and I told him in not-so-nice words to watch where he was going. I did not realize it was him until after he decided to make an impromptu appearance on stage with Eryka Badu. Other things that happened would be: I slept under a car for an hour waiting for my friend to come pick me up, I talked to a bunch of foreigners pretending to be a foreigner myself, ate copious amounts of giant pizza, saw two guys dressed up as bears roaming around and went to a metal show where every song was about Satan, revenge or crushing something beyond dust. Not to be outdone, Playboy bunnies ran rampant, marching bands played discordant jazz and some guy who was dressed up as Optimus Prime made himself seen and loved. A hundred languages were spoken, many hearts were broken and plenty of fashion faux pas happened in one single place. And of course, with the weird, comes the ugly: port-a-potties were always disgusting, judgmental types judged and being shanked by a delirious homeless person was always a possibility.
Essentially, SXSW is an international musical freak show that ends much too quickly. I’m already counting down the days until the next one, and hopefully, I’ll have even more stories to share, even if Leslie poses the same question to me again next year. I’ll make sure to answer it then.