My favorite two weeks of the year in Austin is definitely SXSW. The energy, the nonstop parties, shows, dinners, pop-up events, last minute invites, friends who fly in from all over for work, and street run-ins gets my heart pumping and my hips swinging. I thrive off social activity, new experiences, bringing friends together, and roaming the streets wondering who or what I’m going to stumble upon. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not 100% spontaneous, my crazy sister friend Jocelyn and I make spreadsheets every year with all the possibilities knowing that we won’t make it to half of the things and that we will end up canceling 3/4ths of our dinner reservations. If you are like me and don’t have an official SXSW badge to attend panels, official music showcases, or films, then you’ll see a side of Austin that really celebrates the local brands, CPGs, creatives that put their own events together, hospitality servers working overtime, and musicians that burst their hearts out playing shows all week. I like to honor the locals and connect the out of towners /brands to our culture. That being said here is a fun recap of what I got myself into and what you can look forward to next year if you are trying to navigate! Two of these events were for my business and the others were for joy. Warning: There are no NFT’s or Crpyto experiences on this list… (📸 above @ChadWadsworth)
BEST PLACE TO DISCOVER BANDS: SXSJ (South x San Jose)
This is probably the largest free concert series that’s free, open to the public and actually done well production wise. Hotel San Jose hosts a mini music festival with local and traveling bands every year during music week in their parking lot from Wednesday- Saturday with a perfectly positioned stage in the corner, vintage shops on the left, and drink stands throughout with their famous Frosé—(not too sweet or too wine-y). Shows begin on the hour every hour from 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. and you won’t have to wait in line to get in until it hits the 5 p.m. hour on Saturday. We easily walked in at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and heard the end of HorseGirl which is a young band from NYC and then Yard Act which is a wild British male band that really took the stage hard. The lead singer made us laugh and was a true performer. All these guys were in it to win it, and you could tell had been playing hard all week. Los Bitchos were a badass girl band who hit the drums with passion—I don’t think I’ve ever seen a female drummer? It was super cool to see so many female musicians this year everywhere. Other bands at SXSJ were: Houndmouth, Black Lips, Seratones, Surfbort, Midlake, Sunflower Bean, etc.
BEST EXCLUSIVE COOL HANG + ESCAPE: Arlyn Studios
Arlyn Studios is the one event I’d drop everything else for each year to attend. The 1984 recording studio is known for top records from Sublime (you’ll see it framed on the wall when you waltz in), Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Neil Young. Luckily my buddies Will + Noel Bridges are partners in the studio so I had access to the invite—they always are supporting historical places in Austin and doing their best to keep the gems running around town. This is the one time of year they open it to the public and let musicians show off their vocals in such an intimate space with the best sound possible. I discovered Eric Tessmer here the last SXSW and this year I made sure to come in for Sir Woman and AltaMesa—both Austin bands. Joshua Ray Walker was the real shocker. Sitting quietly in his chair with his guitar and belting out lyrics the whole room felt still, quiet, and lots of space for feelings. He sang one song with a high-pitched cackle in the chorus that I truly have never seen someone be able to do. I’d sound like a screeching dog if I tried it for you, but he did it so gracefully, peacefully, and impressively. I feel at home here getting to see all my buddies from Richard’s Rainwater, Nine Banded Whiskey, Kin Euphorics, and all the bartenders from MML Hospitality where I used to work even the photographers (Hey Chad! And musicians I run around with regularly). Everyone is so happy here hanging in the studio, drinking in the lawn outside, and feeling that Austin music vibe. Other shows were Clint Bracher, Emily Wolfe, Medicine Man Revival, Blackillac, Calder Allen.
BEST (JUXTOPOSING) LUCKY SURPRISES: KYGO & WILLIE NELSON
Manifesting is totally real. We had been talking about how we wanted see Kygo so badly, but didn’t want to buy tickets, yet in case something else popped up in the moment while we were out. Then while we were at the Rolling Stone x Meta (aka Facebook) activation on Rainey in mid VR rhythm playing with a Beat Saber and goggles on, a friend of mine said she was bailing on her two tickets to Kygo to see Dolly Parton. You bet we snatched those tickets right up!! SO lucky!! Right place right time. The show took place at the new outdoor and grassy Waterloo Greenway Moody Ampitheater. We grabbed a Ranch Rider at the concession stand and darted onto the field to belt out the tropical house DJ’s remixes with Whitney Houston and his classic “Fireside” and instantly ran into a few of my best childhood friends Ross, Guta, and Colby. I mean it really made me think, you can go anywhere in this town alone and still meet up with your friends.
My second stroke of LUCK scoring badass tickets was to Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion show the last day of SXSW out at his ranch in Spicewood. My friends at Austin Oyster Company, set-up a whole oyster shucking booth on the grounds and slid over a couple last minute tickets on the last day which happened to be Austin music and weed icon Willie Nelson’s show with his two sons Lukas and Micah. This ranch was built for the movie Willie was in Red Headed Stranger, and while the whole place was supposed to be burned down in the movie, good ‘ole Willie convinced them to let him buy the place. This year is the 10 year anniversary of the Luck Family Foundation which provides financial grant assistance and other resources to artists, organizations and programs in need. The line-up of shows during SXSW included acts by Jason Isbell, Shakey Graves, and will continue with more this year. My favorite band that I discovered through the entire two weeks was here, Lily Meola. I loved her whole look which was like a comfy, stylish, tie-dye ish crop suit looking thing. She seemed young and very vulnerable with her lyrics and proud to be there. Lukas Nelson, by the way what cutie patootie, came out and did a duet with her—he sounds just like his dad. However, what really stuck with me was her song called Sunshine~ “Stay close to the people that feel like sunshine.” I’m with ya sista! We watched the sun set, listened to a few bands, downed some Tikka Masala from Graj Mahal’s pop-up truck, and saw Willie close the night away. What a journey!
HEALTH & WEALTH:
Yes, I might have gone out 11 nights in a row with a quick Sunday wedding stint in Houston, but that did not go without a little self-care and movement to keep me grounded and sane. We joined a Kundalini Sound Healing class one morning at Soho House and did my favorite yoga practice with Gustavo Padron the next. He always has the messages I’m looking for. He started the class off discussing the spring equinox and that we are shifting seasons, so everything we’ve planted and worked on in winter is about to blossom and bloom in spring. I loved this little tidbit! I also snuck in a few pilates classes at my new favorite studio Align in Clarksville, and rubbed myself down with Apoterra rose lotion oil. I’m not a big lotion gal—I just always felt so sticky as a kid, and this Rose + Violet Leaf Body Butter is exactly how it sounds. It’s a little oily yet smooth, and your body absorbs it immediately, so you don’t feel any residue.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH SHOWS: AUSTIN MONTHLY’S BANDS TO WATCH
The magazine hosted a two day showcase featuring the top Austin bands to watch at Still Austin, the whiskey distillery on St. Elmo. The weather was perfect for slinging back some Old Fashioned bevvies and Bee’s Knees as we hung out in their gravel yard around the whiskey barrels watching the music. Western Youth had the later show on Saturday night and the six piece Americana, rock ‘n roll crew plus their lady friend and singer, Jamie Harris, took the stage by storm and you could truly tell they love playing together and fit with each other. Other bands included: Pat Byrne, Sydney Wright, Donovan Keith.
POP-UPs: Ray’s Bar + Chanel
There are always surprise pop-ups throughout the week and Ray’s Bar, a popular dive in the Lower East Side of Manhattan rented out a place with Bumble in Clarksville next to Elle’s Boutique for two nights. I had visited this haunt last summer, and they covered the walls in a way that truly looked like it. Owned by actor Justin Theroux and hospitality entrepreneur Carlos Quirarte, word is they were testing it out to see if they wanted to open a bar here.
Chanel Atelier Beauté Pop-Up launched on Music Lane during SXSW for a few weeks through April 24. There is only one other location like it in NYC and it’s a real training ground for people to learn how to do their makeup, explore with products, have fun in the unmarked scent room, go in for makeup touches, workshops, and even join as a member so you get a good set of products and opportunity to host an event for up to 15 friends.
SPORTS: Spurs x Kollective
The San Antonio Spurs Basketball team hosted a fun party at Kollective, which is an expensive social performance club that has fabulous gym equipment, personal classes, co-working, a chiropractor, etc. We showed up at the tail end, got to see the sleek space, and as my good pal Eyal and I were setting up to take a pic with some other dudes we met, he noticed Manu Ginóbili and shouted his name as they caught eyes. I certainly didn’t know this was one of the most famous basketball players of all time as he jumped in our photo, and the rest is priceless.
WORK: MUSEUM OF ICE CREAM + KREWE
I proudly secured a spot for my client, Chef/Owner Jam Sanitchat of Thai Fresh, to be the first guest chef collaborator for the famous Museum of Ice Cream and their “A Night at the Museum” kick-off VIP party. We worked together to have Jam showcase a special dessert for their audience where guests could buy VIP evening tickets to see her demo her famous Thai Hot Dog made with sticky rice, three scoops of ice cream, and drizzled with a Texas caramel pecan sauce. Adult beverages were served as the intimate group huddled around and then got a private self-tour throughout the museum before the regular ticket holders arrived.
KREWE, the famous sunglasses company based in New Orleans, hired me to throw a tasteful sneak peak event for their April Austin collection and to gain some hype around their annual sample sale that was happening a few days later. We had 50 attendees join us at their permanent Tiny Home on South Congress with an exclusive 20% off all shades (which never happens with a new or current collection), and had sponsors from Starla Wine, Richard’s Rainwater, Kin Euphorics, and EarlybirdCBD.
LOCAL VENUES ON SOCO:
As you can see, the best part of SXSW is a lot of the fun, free, wild events taking off around town so do not be discouraged if you do not have a badge. Other amazing venues that I didn’t make it to like South Congress Hotel had a pool party with DJ sets by Muna and Japanese Breakfast and shows at Malverde with The Bros Fresh. I also slipped into some of my favorite and classic venues Continental Club and C-Boys to show some NYC and LA dudes a good local time.
My favorite meal of the week was actually at old-timer spot, Emmer & Rye on Rainey. Their homemade bread always gets me, and I loved the Broccoli with Chili Crisp, Green Garlic Sauce and some form of egg. Plus the chicken thigh which was cut up into several pieces was a real winner for me. We also tried the new restaurant Wax Myrtle at Thompson hotel before Kygo. I’d recommend it for a pre-concert stop, and try the frozen mezcal and tequila drink.
LOCAL PANEL: The Wellness House by Jane Ko
Jane aka @ATasteofKoko is always hustling to make her community better and has also learned and proven how to make being a creator a lucrative career. It’s incredible to watch how she curates her partnerships to fit in with her content yet stays true to herself and pumping up local restaurants. She put together a Wellness Panel over a few days with local chefs and brands like Olipop, So Gay Rosé, Hiyo, to discuss topics on how to grow brands, how to work with influencers, and more.