Why SXSW is Worth it, Even if You Have No Plans and No Access

Categories: The Overserved

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Marco Torres
Because you never know.

Every year something happens that nearly prevents me from going to South by Southwest. This year was no different. A professional obligation on Thursday was threatening my travel plans, and I was considering giving it all up, joining in the chorus, of "It's too crowded," or whatever and staying in Dallas.

But then something absurd happened, like it does every year, and my need for the three hour tour to Austin only became more urgent. With one show announcement, Red Bull Sound Select's Thursday Master P performance, I decided to figure it out.

See also:
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-What You're Missing at SXSW: Missed Connections and Crappy Free Crap
-The Five Biggest Sellouts at SXSW
-50 Important SXSW Music Questions

As a teenager I was obsessed with No Limit Records' brand of slow southern style. A young and budding hip-hop and pop devotee, I steered towards No Limit at a time when a more astute pupil would have been delving into UGK. But the heart wants what it wants.

These kind of absurd time-travel opportunities are what I love most about South by Southwest. I knew hearing the opening beat of nearly any No Limit song would bring my teenage self to life. Sure, seeing Icona Pop first and secret Justin Timberlake shows bring their own flavor of excitement, but absurdity is the lesser discussed experience at South By Southwest, and I wanted my serving mixed with free vodka.

In the middle of the night on Wednesday, I was in a car headed south.

I had already decided, even before 35 Denton, that I wasn't going to let "festival season" get to me. At the end of the day it's a lot of parties and free booze -- hardly ingredients worth complaining about, but the crowds and manic RSVP'ing and connecting for the not-so-secret and faux-exclusive after parties can take its toll on you if you let it. This year I had a clear goal: Master-fucking-P, the rest would be icing on the No Limit Cake. And sometimes when you stop looking for the adventures, they come looking for you instead.

A late phone call to my colleague and frequent accomplice, nail-artist Vanessa Quilantan lead to an early nail appointment with Audra the Rapper. Part of the Maybach Music Group imprint and Rick Ross approved, Audra was preparing for a weekend of showcases. At the hotel, she has her mother and two girlfriends in tow; they have just made the drive from New York City and Virginia respectively. I was admittedly tagging along. We assured them the gas station tacos are safe. We all started plotting ways to end up at The Illmore later that night. I have seen a lot of shows and been to a lot of festivals, but these kinds of experiences are the ones that increasingly intrigue me. The ritual before the show, the petting and brushing and adjusting. We listened to her tracks; she reveals a set change to her mother as she assembles both her look and her entourage for later that night.

Her nails were wet but it's time to leave. Like any good girlfriend, one of hers helps her with her shoes so she will not smudge the paint before they take off for North Door on East 5th. It all happens rather quickly, but just imagine your favorite artists' best friend zipping that dress or adjusting that hat before they go onstage. These tender moments of process are hidden away in hotel rooms, but they exist and feel significant. Audra put on a flat-bill hat that yells, "MOBBIN," across it. "Will we see you guys later?" she asks sweetly. "Yeah, we will let you know about The Illmore," we tell her. "Just go girl, just Mob," she smirks.


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