Like my previous years at South by Southwest, my experience was just over the course of one day. I'm not complaining -- I doubt I could handle sixteen-hour-days on my feet seeing band after band. Since I could only really get away for a day, I decided that Friday would be the best day to go.
Even though I had committed to going to a party in Plano late that night, I figured I could have fun in Austin during the day and drive back into town right as the party got going. Yes, I drove from Austin to Plano, and no matter how uncool Plano might be, a fun time was to be had with my friends. And I don't regret that at all.
Since I've been through the experience of waiting in lines for hours trying to get into a night show, I figured I should stick to the free day parties. So right as the night shows began, I was back on the road. But I had a very productive day at the Radio Room. Even though I watched three bands play (the Thermals, Cut Off Your Hands, and Ra Ra Riot), they were three great bands. I was especially taken with Cut Off Your Hands -- their sound reminds of the great elements of Silent Alarm and Is This It? along with classic '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll. Their You & I album is quite good.
Frankly, my goal with SXSW this year was to see friends more than to see bands. Many of the friends I saw live in Chicago, so when they're three hours closer by car, it's much closer than three hours by plane. I couldn't resist, and I had a great time. Getting to see any bands, moreover great bands, was second on the priority list.
After a great dinner at the Iron Cactus, I hit the road and ran into zero traffic on 35. Stopping a couple of times for gas and a Dairy Queen Blizzard, I was ready to party. Even though the heat from the sun made me a little wobbly, I still had a great time. I even played the drums on Rock Band 2 on the not-so-insulting "Easy" level. Still, real drums tower over drums on Rock Band and Guitar Hero.
At the end of the night, I had been up for nineteen hours straight and ready for sleep. As much as I like having a routine with a job and free time, I can't walk away from the possibility to do something fun outside of the routine. That's why SXSW is always a great diversion for me, even if I can only get away for one day.