In a small town of about 843,000, two weeks of the year are set aside for educational panels, new films, and live music. Mostly, though, it’s just two weeks of ideal opportunities for brands and companies looking to up their cool factor. They’ll team up with hip bands and blogs with much less money, pay for shows, drinks, and food (if you’re lucky), and have their name plastered everywhere. If the brands are lucky, the band will even shout them out. Austin, Texas becomes one of the very few places you can overhear two strangers bonding on a bus ride over the prospect of free tattoos at one event and then two hours later hear someone say “Oh yeah, I ran into Lady Gaga and Coldplay yesterday,” as you look on in awe eating free tacos and drinking free beer. Visitors can pay $625 for the cheapest music badge and make it all up in booze, food, and swag, or RSVP to just about all the shows for free, hear free music, drink and eat for free. Free. Free. Free. And that's exactly what I did.
Day At The Museum
Event: Pitchfork Day Party
Food: All Hostess products. Especially Twinkies. Many Twinkies.
Drink: Red Bull
What kinds of people show up to a Pitchfork afternoon party on the lawn of the French Legation Museum with Sophie, Cashmere Cat, and DJ Rashad scheduled to play? Lots of parents with kids looking to spend a sunny afternoon picnicking outdoors listening to badass electronic, so obviously Hostess was the perfect sponsor. Early afternoon ravers went for the Red Bull.
Perk Scale Rating: 5/10
Event: Huf House Gathering
Food: BBQ Chicken sandwiches, French fries, biscuits, vegetable crudite
Drink: Boxed water, orange juice beer, champagne
Walking up to a house party where a bouncer was carefully putting on wristbands at the gate, I was expecting nothing less than a Project X throwdown. Instead I got the most delicious homemade lunch available in Austin, unlimited drinks, a preview of the new HUF line and, yes, free weed socks. This was way better than any ecstasy filled house party.
Perk Scale Rating: 10/10
Broke Magazine Party
Event: The Paste Party
Drink: Snuck in a boxed water.
If there was no proof before that magazines don’t make money, I now know for sure. Paste didn’t spare an extra penny on the goods. Lucious is a fun new band with a great live show, though.
Perk Scale Rating: .5/10
East Austin Vibes
Event: Hotel Vegas Showcases
Further east from all the tourist riff-raff, the crowd at Hotel Vegas was much more “Austin,” which is basically “Portlandia” with a drawl. I heard they were selling $1 Camel cigarettes and on line for the *free* bathroom I saw two white dudes from New Orleans rap about bisexuality, so that was worth my $5 beer.
Perk Scale Rating: .5/10
Friendly Austin Photographers
Event: Lumiere Tintype Photobooth Party
People in Austin are so nice that it makes a New Yorker like me uncomfortable. But walking away from the Fader Fort having been turned down from seeing Little Dragon, all I wanted was a free beer. Like manna from heaven, I happened upon a sign reading “Free Beer.” It was a photography studio where the owners decided to throw a party for anyone walking by to drink beers, meet new people and play the open drum set and guitar. It was like the game Rock Band, but live and with new friends and free beer.
Perk Scale Rating: 9/10
International DJ Heaven
Event: Warp x LuckyMe x SXSW
Drink: The extra beer I snuck in from the photography studio.
The worst part about Austin is that the city too strict with crowd capacity codes. The best part is that Sophie, Cashmere Cat, Kelela, Future Brown, and Jacques Green played back-to-back in one night, in the same place, on the same stage. This is what dreams are made of.
Perk Scale Rating: 1/10