(Tom’s story) South by Southwest (SXSW) 2017 is nearly over and this is my experience . . .
First, getting around. SXSW offers music, film, seminars, comedy, yada, yada, yada. There is more than enough to see, hear. and experience, but getting around can be problematic.
Driving is out. There’s just no place to park, and the center of Austin is a gridlock nightmare. That leaves taxis, the SXSW free shuttle, and walking. (There is another alternative: pedicabs. But these guys wanted an arm and a leg to go anyplace other than the immediate downtown.) I was never able to hook up with the free shuttle and only used taxi service a few times. So, typically, I walked from where we stayed (Pecan Grove RV Park) to each SXSW event.
FRIDAY, MARCH 10
We arrive at Pecan Grove RV Park, set up, and take the rest of the day off.
SATURDAY, MARCH 11
It’s raining off and on. My first walk into Austin is to meet my friends Wally and Sue and to pick up my Music “badge”.
A Music badge grants “primary” access to all music events. Wally and Sue both had Platinum badges which gave them access to all SXSW events. For most events, there are two lines to get in — Primary (first to get in) and Secondary (last to get in). For heavily attended events (movie premieres, popular speakers), Primary access may be the only folks to get in.
Anyway, I meet Wally and Sue at an outdoor food court near their condo, get some potstickers, and then go back to their condo to eat and catch up on old times.
After lunch, I walk over to the Austin Convention Center to register and pick up my Music badge which I paid for several months before.
Before heading back home (Pecan Grove RV Park), I decide to walk over to the Belmont, a club where KPOP Night Out will be held on Friday.
On the way back to Pecan Grove, I saw this apparent miracle . . .
SUNDAY, MARCH 12
Wally and Sue invited us to attend the Austin Music Awards on Sunday night at the Moody Theater.
The event awards the best Austin musicians in a number of genres and categories.
A number of local musicians performed along with Lyle Lovett and a cameo performance by Chrissie Hynde.
MONDAY, MARCH 13
Wally, Sue, Jan, and I crash a Madison, WI Chamber of Conference get together for free drinks and food . . .
TUESDAY, MARCH 14
I attend my first seminar NASA’s Next Telescope . . .
This is an infrared telescope as big as a tennis court to be launched next year. It will allow scientists to examine the atmosphere of those exoplanets they’ve been discovering — to see if there’s life.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15
I attend my second seminar Are We Alone?
I wanted to see Let There Be Light, but did not because of bad time management. I thought the documentary started at 3pm instead of 2pm. My bad.
THURSDAY, MARCH 16
A day off as I’ve been doing a lot of walking.
Here’s some things I saw while walking Austin . . .
FRIDAY MORNING, MARCH 16 (St Patrick’s Day)
My third seminar . . . How Korea is Influencing Global Pop.
Basically, KPOP 101, but I got to see ChaCha Malone, the guy who works with Korean rapper Jay Park. Cool.
After the seminar, stopped at an outdoor kiosk and ordered some Kimchi fries with spicy chicken. Yes.
On my way back home, I ran right into St. Patrick’s Day celebrations (green revelers + Spring breakers + SXSWers = Oh yeah) . . .
Some Austin sights on my walk back to Pecan Grove . . .
FRIDAY NIGHT / SATURDAY MORNING, MARCH 16/17
ASIAN JUNKIE KPOP NIGHT OUT REVIEW — check it out
This is the event your truly has been waiting for — KPOP Night Out 2017. This is the performance order:
- 7:30 pm – Big Phony
- 8:30 pm – No Brain
- 9:30 pm – Galaxy Express
- 10:30 pm – Drunken Tiger
- 11:30 pm – Yoonmirae
- 12:30 am – Hyolyn
- 1:30 am – Red Velvet
I was interested in seeing Drunken Tiger, Yoonmirae, and Hyolyn.
While I could tolerate listening to the other grups, I knew that I couldn’t stand on my feet from 7 pm till 2:30 am.
Oh, I forgot to tell you, the Belmont has a stage for the performers and an open area for the audience. It’s a mosh pit. SRO. I figured the most I could remain on my 67-year-old feet was about 4 hours. After that it’s 911.
So when to arrive?
At previous KPOP Night Out events, people started showing up in the morning and lines would snake around the block.
I gambled that my Music badge (remember Primary access?) would get me in, even at 10 pm. So I took a taxi and arrived at about 10:30 pm for Drunken Tiger . . . and damn if the Belmont was full (1000 people!). Plus, there was still a line of about 50 people waiting to get in.
However, people were being let in in drips and drabs as folks left the Belmont — and the Primary access line (me) only had a handful of people.
I was let in after 10 minutes of arriving and joined the pit . . .
IT WAS SUPERB!
Yoonmarie was my favorite. I’ve known about her a while, but I was more interested in her story than her music. She was born in Foot Hood, TX in 1981 to a Black father and a Korean mother. As a child she returned to Korea with her mother. Because of her mixed race, she was teased and bullied in Korean schools and eventually dropped out of school at age 15.
At 16 she joined a Korean hip hop group. In 2001 she debuted as a solo artist and several years later joined her future husband Tiger JK’s entertainment company. In 2007 she married Tiger JK and in 2014 Yoonmarie, Tiger JK, and rapper Bizzy formed the hip hop trio MFBTY (My Fans are Better Than Yours).
When I heard Yoonmarae sing “Angel” at the Belmont I fell in love with her music.
While Drunken Tiger and Yoonmarie are Korean hip hop artists, Red Velvet is the quintessential KPOP group. They’re cute, sing and dance well, and perform pop songs.
I left at about 1 am, so I got to see Drunken Tiger, Yoonmirae, and half of Hyolyn’s performance. Mission accomplished.
When I left the Belmont, I was able to grab a taxi home. Yahoo!
SXSW FINAL THOUGHTS:
Loved it, but once is enough mainly because it’s very expensive. Each night in the Pecan Grove RV Park cost $100 (normally it’s $40/night). On the other hand, I heard hotel rooms were going for $400 a night.
That Music badge cost $825 in September 2016. It gets more expensive the closer you get to the festival. The “best buy” is a Platinum badge which gets you Primary access into all events, but it’s hundreds more than a Music badge.
Finally, SXSW seems aimed at the 18 – 49 age demographic. There is nothing for kids and limited events for seniors. I was definitely a minority at KPOP events. That said, consider SXSW a Bucket List experience. I thought it was well worth it.