Back and Better Than Ever

South By Southwest Returns After Exclusive Online Attendance


South by Southwest is a city wide festival held here in Austin that showcases Music, Film and technology. This year, after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, South By Southwest was held from Mar. 11-20 and had venues spread around the city containing conferences, movie premieres, live music and many appearances from celebrities. “It was pretty cool,” junior Jack Polishook said. “I only did the free stuff because I didn’t have one of the passes but there was a lot of variety. There were cool art shows, there was a lot of cool music, there were a lot of people giving out free stuff, all of these companies giving out free things.”

Isa Morgan, Reporter

It’s back. Returning to its wide audience of high-end media connoisseurs, after a two-year hiatus, showcasing new and upcoming entertainment exclusively premiered at this city-wide event. Talk spreads around the school halls about the returning event as students share their experiences of attending one of the Capital of Live Music’s big events, South By Southwest.

After two years of not holding in-person events due to COVID-19 restrictions, South By Southwest made its return to Austin. The event was held from March 11- 20 and had venues spread around the city, containing conferences, movie premieres, live music and many appearances from celebrities. Many students, including junior Jack Polishook, said they use South By as a way to open their horizons to things like new music, films and new technology and are grateful for its return. 

“It was pretty cool,” Polishook said. “I only did the free stuff because I didn’t have one of the passes, but there was a lot of variety. There were cool art shows, there was a lot of cool music, there were a lot of people giving out free stuff, all of these companies giving out free things.” 

The event is known mostly for its premiers of new films, later to be released in theaters, and live music but the festival also offers many things that are not specifically arts-related. This year junior Julian Rabago attended events hosted by Porsche and Twitch, who showed off cars and new technology from each of the companies at their different events.  

“I actually enjoyed seeing non-concert-related things,” Rabago said. “One of the events I went to was called Porsche unseen, it wanted to showcase unseen artists and Porsche concept cars. Another event I was looking forward to was the Twitch x Rolling Stones showcase which consisted of performances over a two day period, where [Twitch] would showcase artists.

This was Rabago’s first time attending the festival which, according to Rabago, made a good impression on him. However, for history teacher Robert Pavlovic, who has been attending the event since he was in high school, it could have been better. Even with the bright sides of having friends visit and attending shows that made the overall experience greater, nothing can compare to how it used to be, according to Pavlovic.

“I think over time the problem is that there used to be a lot more free events,” Pavlovic said.  “When I was in high school, down at auditorium shores they would do these big free concerts, but a lot of stuff is switched over to requiring you to actually purchase the festival passes, and I think because of COVID-19 and that it’s been canceled these past few years, it felt like it was really quickly put together this year compared to previous years.” 

As for junior Tyler Earl, who attended some of the smaller concerts and focused more on the local bands rather than the bigger events, he had some complaints of his own. According to Earl, when he did venture towards bigger concerts, he was met with unpleasant crowd members who brought down the mood of the festival itself.

“The crowds were chill [at the smaller concerts],” Earl said. “But at some of the bigger concerts, there were a lot more people. There were some annoying people [at the bigger concerts], there were a lot of people that didn’t seem like they should have been at the concert, almost like they didn’t know what they were doing there.”

However, for Rabago, his strategy included going with the flow. Most of the activities Rabago took part in were ones he found while passing through the different venues, such as free concerts from lesser-known bands and a wide variety of artists showcased around the boundaries of the festival.

“I think having no plan is a great time,” Rabago said. “If there isn’t an expectation you only have positives from an experience. I also really enjoyed the community, it was full of very interesting and cool people. It was really easy going, everybody was super willing to help and just have general conversations.”

Deciding on whether to attend the bigger events or to naturally find venues is a better option to ensure an enjoyable experience at South By is all up to the person attending, but you can always compare past events with these newer experiences. For Polishook, who attended ACL this year, this was not so hard to do, which helped in predicting how the night was going to go. 

“[South by Southwest] was free, which was a benefit,” Polishook said.  “ACL is a lot more large scale so there were a lot less people at South by Southwest which I wasn’t expecting actually and usually it’s like smaller artists or not huge artists. The huge artists who were still playing [shows] were usually also free too. I went to that as well, but it’s just a smaller scale compared to ACL.”

South By Southwest is known for its many different outlets that help smaller and larger groups alike get the major publication they need to grow in a city that is known for its dedication to the arts. According to Polishook, there is a difference between the connection to the audience of these larger and smaller shows, which may even help the experiences turn out better than they thought.

“I mean I kind of like both of [large scale and smaller-scale concerts],” Polishook said. “Because usually you’re going to know all the headliners but like you may not be as into them but when there’s a small artist that you do know at SXSW it’s really cool, I feel like you feel more of a personal connection to them just because they’re not as huge as others are. I think it’s cool [that they support smaller bands], I think they really need it and they don’t always get the spotlight.”