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Riley Breckenridge's 'Everything In Its Right Place': Making S**t Up About SXSW

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Hey, did you guys know that South By Southwest is happening this weekend? #sxsw

Do you have any #sxsw friends who are going to #sxsw this year? #sxsw

Did you hear that proto-chillwave glow-fi neo-folk octet Goose Museum is playing an acoustic set and giving away beard tonic at the Sriracha booth? #swsw

Have #sxsw you #sxsw seen #sxsw any #sxsw blurry #sxsw photos of #sxsw BBQ #sxsw beer #sxsw or #sxsw bands #sxsw lately? #sxsw

#sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw #sxsw

Ugh.

I’ve only been a part of the South By Southwest experience once. Thrice was lucky enough to play a Hopeless/SubCity Records showcase at The Red Eyed Fly in 2001 with Samiam, The Selby Tigers, Scared Of Chaka and others. The show was an “important” one; a chance for a young band on its first legitimate tour to make a mark on a slew of industry folks who could potentially help us make the transition from glorified-garage-band-with-a-small-local-following to a full-time touring band. Or at least that’s what was implied. Band managers, business managers, booking agents, publicists, A&R folks and music critics far outnumbered fans in what was a dishearteningly scant audience. It certainly wasn’t our biggest show from an attendance or venue standpoint, but the stakes were high. And we knew it. As someone who struggled with stage fright, I’m not sure I’d ever been more nervous. And as a tour novice, I’m not sure I’d ever been more underslept, overstimulated and unfocused. It’s a fair assumption that my bandmates were in a similar boat.

Naturally, we dropped a steaming turd of a performance onstage that afternoon. We played a brief, sloppy and disjointed set, rife with tempo problems, missed notes and unflattering stage presence. Thanks to the power of selective memory, I’ve managed to erase most of the details of said turd, but remember talking to a few people after the show whose general response to our performance was, “Eh ... yeah, that was a rough one.”

Oof.

To be frank, living that experience once was probably about all I’ll ever need. (Warning: Curmudgeonly “get off my lawn” grumpasaurus take on South By Southwest forthcoming.) But it’s not so much because of the disaster of a show that we played, rather it’s because of the disaster of a four-day weekend that South By Southwest is, was, and will always be.

If you’ve been there, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t, just imagine debaucherous band dudes, debaucherous St. Patrick’s Day celebrators and debaucherous college goons colliding in a swirling, chaotic mess of music, booze and humanity crammed into a concentrated area that spans several blocks. I suppose if you’re into getting shithoused, being nuts-to-butts with hoards of hygiene-averse bandfolk and getting your eardrums fisted by what seems like every band on the planet, it’s right up your alley.

Needless to say, I haven’t been back. Now, if I were to have an opportunity to play South By Southwest again, I’d jump at the chance (because I’ll play anywhere, anytime), but I can’t imagine willingly immersing myself in that environment as a fan. It’s sensory overload, which is just too much for this anxiety-riddled, crowdfearing old fart to handle. Or maybe I’m just a wuss.

I have found that I really enjoy not being at South By Southwest. That enjoyment is due in large part to having every avenue of social media that I frequent be inundated with #sxsw hashtagged tweets, posts and pictures for four-plus days every March. It’s relentless, and fascinating and unintentionally hilarious. And while many gripe about the #sxsw overload, I can’t get enough of it.

Those of you who are familiar with my writing or Twitter feed have probably noticed that I have a fascination with names, and since I’m pretty sure we officially ran out of band names in 2006 or so, the flood of “(band member) from (absurd band name) did X, Y or Z at (venue name or product booth) #sxsw” or some variation of that is endlessly amusing to me.

A few years ago I started tweeting using the above formula (more or less) and adding the hashtag #makingshitupaboutsxsw at the end of them as a nod to those who are strong-willed enough to brave South By Southwest, and in an attempt to amuse myself and others show how hard it is to filter out truth from fiction while you’re bombarded by South By Southwest updates. I’ve done it every year since, it’s been very well-received, the contributions have been fantastic, and I look forward to it every year.

Some of my favorites:














You get the idea.

Ultimately, the truth that spews from #sxsw is far stranger than the fiction that #makingshitupaboutsxsw provides, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.

So, this is my plea. Please join me and others as we attempt to blur the line between truth and fiction, and make the fact that we’re working boring desk jobs or looking for gainful employment instead of partying in Texas be a little less depressing.

 
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