Austin, Austin Java, Body, Cincinnati, Coffee Shop, Contacts, Crowds, daughter, Directions, Drinking, Dutch, Experience, French, Go Girls, Hangover, Hotel, Lyndon B. Johnson, melissakotlerschwartz, Minute, Mom, Museum, Music, Musician, Not moving to Austin, Ouch, Perform, South by Southwest, Stoned, Stranger, strangers, strangersihaveknown, Suzanne Vega, SXSW, T-Shirt, Texas, Thumping, Traveling, Trip, TX, Young people
I spent last week with 30,000 strangers under the age of thirty. People may be having fewer children in America, and for that matter all over many parts of the world, but when it comes to hearing music and seeing films the young who can pull it off are at the South by Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. So many languages were spoken—I heard Spanish, Dutch, German and French.
My daughter, a seventeen-year-old musician, attended SXSW because she was selected to play with Go Girls, an independent women’s music venue, at one of the Austin Java coffee shops. Of course, I had to come along. And, of course, her nana flew in to watch her perform.
Afterwards, the two of us tag-alongs did some serious people watching, which made us feel really old. E-cigarettes everywhere, tattoos galore in some painful parts of the body (just in case you didn’t know, big trend: necklace design tattoos on women, when I look at them, I think “ouch”, my décolletage), and sightings of numerous gauges on men that I just don’t get. Lots of drinking and drugs, of course—this is a music festival. Ambulance sirens blasting every half-hour or so, unnerving my mom and I. Everywhere you go, people talking to friends about their hangovers. Not to mention the hotel shuttle we couldn’t take last night because the driver warned me that someone had just thrown-up in it. My biggest worry: the stoned people that ambled straight across streets, oblivious to traffic coming at them at twenty-five to thirty miles an hour. If I felt outdated, my mom must have thought she was part of a museum exhibit, but she handled it really well, moving slowly but with intention through the crowds. My favorite sighting was a man in his fifties with a t-shirt that said, “I’m not moving to Austin.” I wanted to get a matching one.
There was no relief from the music, and even in our hotel room you could hear a thumping raucous bass pounding away from early afternoon until the wee hours of the night. I found it so irritating that I’ve never been so grateful to own a pair of headphones, so I could hear myself think. Music is a pleasure, but not at 1 a.m.—and not ALL music.
My daughter, on the other hand, loved every minute and used every second. She sold CD’s, handed out hundreds of business cards, and made some great contacts. She even met Suzanne Vega at a workshop and Suzanne is now following her music.
I’m so happy for her. I’m also glad not to be waiting an hour for a cab anymore, only to find one with a cab driver who has only been in this country for a week and doesn’t know where the Lyndon B. Johnson library is. (Which, by the way, is a phenomenal Presidential Library. Worth the whole trip! By the way, hardly anyone was there.)
To add to my exhaustion, I’m giving out directions to the cabby as we weave through bicycles and pedicabs—you know those bike taxis in which two people get carted around, often by someone who is struggling so hard to breathe you think he will die from a heart attack pumping them up a slight hill.
I was very tired when I returned to Cincinnati; so was my mom when she went back to Florida. Am I glad I went? Yes. SXSW is not an everyday experience. And now, two days later, I’m just emerging from the overstimulation. Oh, to be that young again…
Click here to view the photos from the Rolling Stone “48 Best Things We Saw at SXSW 2014.