By Amy Schakel
Sitting on a bus with people you just met for 22 hours makes you quick friends. The group is a mix of musicians and people just along for the ride. Our destination is Austin, Texas for the South by Southwest festival. We get there at about four in the afternoon on Thursday, March 15.
We do not have much time once we get there to fix ourselves up and turn right back around to meet up with the rest of the crew from Fort Collins for the SpokesBUZZ party. Hosted by founder Dani Grant and the rest of the SpokesBUZZ crew, this is a time for the different bands and people to get their gears in check and relax before the Fort Collins showcase the next day.
After the party we disperse and wander the city to see what SXSW holds. It seems like the entire city is shut down for this event. Everywhere you turn there is a stage set up, some street performance, or live entertainment. I am in shock by the town and the sheer amount of people that are crowding Sixth Street and beyond. Every corner we turn it seems there are more and more people. They are walking around, they are stopping to check out the street performers, grabbing a snack, grabbing a drink and simply enjoying the music and atmosphere.
The following day we are up early and headed over to 512 Bar to set up for the Fort Collins showcase. Ready by 11am, the crowds start gathering and the music starts playing. The first to play on the two stages that are set up are Trichome and Swayback, followed by Post Paradise and the Patti Fiasco, and so on with eight other bands representing our beloved FoCo and Colorado. Not one of them disappointed. People flowed in and out of the venue and everyone was satisfied with a taste of the Fort Collins music scene, SpokesBUZZ, and New Belgium beer.
At 6pm, after the last two bands perform, we clear up and move on out, but the night is still young and we have the entire next day to ourselves before we return from our journey. Once again we are left to wander the streets of Austin and find whatever suits our fancy. We stop and observe some street performers. There is a jam band set up with a steel drum that was particularly fascinating. There was also a gentleman playing a guitar that was spread across his lap with a menagerie of odds and ends to make different sounds. We stopped to watch countless other talented bands of people performing for anyone and everyone.
To me that is what is so fascinating about SXSW. It does not matter who you are or what you are looking for. Walk around the city for any number of blocks, walk into which ever bar or park you choose and you will find something that you like. Drive a little out of town even and you find yourself in a furniture shop turned venue where the Lindsey O’Brian band played on St. Patty’s day. The music is not hard to find.
I did not have any expectations in going down to Austin. I was there to support the Fort Collins bands and SpokesBUZZ, but beyond that I did not know much else. For example I did not know who else was playing at this festival or what other things it would hold. I had heard things here and there from friends, like who was playing and who I should go see, but even they could not have imagined the magnitude of the event.
Upon returning to Fort Collins, I can say that I have come home with a new light on things. SXSW is an event that gets to you and it got to me. The massive party, the music, the people, the atmosphere, all gathered in one place for a common love, it has all been one outrageous and exciting experience and I would not trade it for the world. I could not be more thankful to have shared it with everyone that traveled down and represented Fort Collins and its music. The trip has certainly been one of the best experiences in my life.
So if you get the chance, make plans for the event next year. Take a vacation to Austin, Texas for one of the biggest music festivals around and see what it is all about.