I knew I’d fit right in with Austin.  The city’s unofficial slogan is “Keep Austin Weird” and it’s a town overflowing with music, unpretentious (and delicious) cuisine, friendly folks and plenty of adventures. I wasn’t wrong.

As a newbie to SXSW, there are plenty of things I learned over the course of the week. Since Mood got me here, Mood’s devoted followers deserve the inside track. Here are my tips to get you excited and ready for SXSW 2014 and beyond.

SXSW Badges
Sarah Brock and I showing off our badges

1) Plans are good. Flexibility is better.

Like anything in life, it’s important to know what you want. It’s equally important to roll with the punches and remain adaptable to the better options that may arise. I began each day with a map detailing the shows/sessions/venues and times I hoped to make. I allowed other plans to get in the way and found I was much happier to have goals without being married to a set schedule.

Austin Map

2) These boots are made for walkin’…

I didn’t pack boots. (Correct.  I traveled to Texas and didn’t pack boots.) I packed 2 pairs of flip flops and a pair of sneakers. I wasn’t always the cutest in the crowd, but my feet were relatively happy. A co-traveler logged our steps, and we averaged 8 miles per day plus 3-5 hours of standing. This was the big payoff for all the local eats we weren’t shy about diving into. Speaking of…

3) Eat Local

There’s a time and a place for national chains. SXSW isn’t one of them. Pile on the brisket, dive into the tacos, give into the guacamole, frequent the food trucks, and pour on the local brews. This city is overflowing with options from kale to cow, and you’re missing out if you’re not eating it.

4) Go Social

Generally speaking, the Internet these days is full of noise. But for SXSW, I actually found some of it useful. I stayed dialed into Twitter, overshared on Facebook, and kept my SXSW app up to date to make sure I was where I needed to be at all times.

Emmylou Harris and Josh RitterEmmylou Harris and Josh Ritter at the Pandora Discovery Den

5) Xpress Yourself

Badge-holders can get one SXXpress (South by Express) pass per day.  This option allows you to choose your venue of choice and proceed directly to the front of the line.  Have a band you have to see?  Be sure you have an SXXpress pass in hand. Line up early in the day for your pass to make sure others don’t beat you to the punch.

6) Catch a Chevy

Chevy touts a fleet of 40-50 vehicles whose sole purpose is to get you around town for free during SXSW. See a Chevy, catch a Chevy.  Need a Chevy, tweet a Chevy. Other companies sponsor similar experiences through Austin Electric Cab and the hundreds (thousands?) of pedicabs as well.

7) Disco Nap

When you go-go until all hours of the morning, it’s important to catch some shut-eye whenever you can. Luckily, most of the day sessions end around 5 and the shows don’t start back up until 8 and beyond. I built an hour or two into my personal schedule to be quiet, nap if I could, and get ready for another night of musical crazy.

8) Make new friends

The city is full of new people to meet, and they’re all happy to dispense advice and favorites. Talk to the table next to you at dinner, the couple standing close by between bands, your cab drivers, your hotel staff, your bartenders and servers. You may make a new friend, a new business contact, and find a new favorite of your own. (And when you do, don’t forget to share the wealth!)

Matt NathansonWith Matt Nathanson!

Above all, stay hydrated and HAVE FUN! Once the SXSW 2014 schedule drops, be sure to RSVP for the Mood party. If 2013 is any indication, we’ll have a ton of good music and great times in store for our friends.

Mood SXSW PartyBeth Rathburn, Ben Teplitsky, and I at Mood’s SXSW Party

Many, many heartfelt thanks for such a magical, memorable week in Austin. I can’t wait to come back and do my part to Keep Austin Weird!

– Submitted by Alison Kendrick, Marketing Manager