SXSW will soon descend upon the trendy but laid-back college town of Austin, TX, the state's capital, bringing with it a massive mix of musicians, industry folk and ravenous music fans.
To survive in the SXSW clusterf-ck, you need the help of a local. That's why Fuse spoke with Bryan Richie, bassist for the Austin-bred stoner metal outfit the Sword. As someone who's lived there since he was three months old, Richie gave us the expert lowdown on everything from late night eats, BYOB bars and how to get around during the insanely congested traffic. But be warned: There's no way around waiting in those lines unless you're in the band.
Austin's Best Tex-Mex
"Man, Austin does Tex-Mex very well. You can't beat a good taco here. I’m really fond of this place called El Nuevo Mexico. I’m into any place that makes the tortillas right there. That really turns it up to the next level for me. Anyone can make a delicious sauce, but to make your own tortilla? As for downtown, Polvos is great, too."
Tastiest Late Night Eats
"Magnolia Café and Kerbey Lane have the best late night food. Kerbey Lane, though, is only good in a pinch if Magnolia is really packed. Because Kerbey Lane late at night is notorious for having sh-t waitstaff. But the food is awesome. Upscale sandwiches, but not expensive: Just fresh, tasty ingredients. Kirbey Lane presents itself as a little higher than Magnolia, but Magnolia is just as delicious. Everything about Magnolia is delicious. Chips and salsa, salad… everything."
Also, you can’t go wrong with Casino El Camino on 6th street. The burgers are awesome, the beer is delicious. The atmosphere’s right: It’s dark in there. It’s cool."
Dive Bars: Proceed With Caution
"During SXSW you’ll pretty much be body to body everywhere. But any other time of the year you can go to this place called the Poodle Dog Lounge for a quieter time. I think it’s BYOB [for liquor], so you bring whatever you want. It's the kind of place where they serve Lay's potato chips at the bar. It’s a pretty dingy place though: People get stabbed there. It's no joke. Sometimes it's a little f-cked up.
Otherwise, there's a place called the Horseshoe Lounge. It’s nicer. It’s got shuffleboard. It does have Pearl beer, though, which is nasty swill. It's the cheapest of the cheap. It's basically water with a little bit of yellow dye. Don't drink the Pearl."
Get Ready to Hurry Up and Wait
"Be prepared to wait. Once you get inside a venue, you're usually fine because they're staffed up and they want to turn over people to get the next dollar in. But in terms of getting inside places, be prepared to wait. If there’s a show you really want to see, I would go there and scope out at least two hours before it starts. You really never can tell. I’ve tried to get into places at the last minute and showed up to find a line down and around the block."
Be Warned: Even Foot Traffic Will Be Congested
"During SXSW, you’re not going to be able to walk down 6th street really. So as much as you can, try to avoid that. But really, it’s going to be packed everywhere. Austin doesn’t have multiple neighborhoods with enough things going on. There are a few bars up north but they're not en masse together. They’re trying to do some new stuff on East Riverside with Emo's being over there, so it would be interesting to see if that area tries to turn itself into a new downtown where people can do multiple things within walking distance of one another. But the downtown area, that's really where all the sh-t is."
Best Local Live Music Joint
"The inside stage at Red 7 (seen left) is great, it’s a good place to see a band. The sound is great and everyone can see the show because there are no blind spots inside."
Hot Phone Charger Tip
"A solar charger for your telephone would not be a bad idea, because you're going to need it. They make charger packs you can buy on Amazon for twenty bucks, so why not? The sun's free."
Temperatures May Vary
"Since it's Austin, you have no way to gauge the temperature. It could be up in the 90s, if not the 100s. I thought for a while they weren't reporting how hot is was because they didn't want to scare people. Two summers ago it was 104 degrees. Sh-t got real."
P.S. The Sword are opening for a (very awesome) secret headliner Saturday night at SXSW. Keep your ears open, because you won't want to miss this.