If SXSW has a heart, it’s somewhere on 6th Street. The historic Austin avenue becomes a 24/7 pedestrian playground during the festival’s second half, one stuffed to bursting with street musicians, enterprising vendors, and curious civilians. There’s a band inside every bar lining either side of the street, and their performances bleed together as you shuffle down the street like you’re breathing musical smog. It’s a chaotic, weird scene, one that feels distinct from the quieter parts of the city studded with showcases or the sterile bubble around the convention center to the south.
We spent a few hours among the 6th Street crowds on Saturday afternoon, shooting portraits and asking people about their SXSW experience. Some people were just visiting for the day before trucking back to nearby homes and colleges, getting a taste of the energy on the street. Just as many people had spent the week working, taking the opportunity to volunteer or promote businesses on behalf of their friends and partners. We came away with a list of new artists to check out, a month’s worth of Austin restaurant recommendations, and a consensus that it’s foolhardy to approach SXSW without a decent smartphone battery. And after spending a week sprinting from panel to panel and wrangling busy musicians, talking to music fans who were happy enjoying a 6th Street sunset made for a nice change of pace.
- Grace and Robert: "We just got here today from San Marcos, so we’re just… we’re sort of locals, but not really. We’ve just been walking around, we don’t know where to go."
- Rickey: "I took my favorite photograph with the Kings of Comedy: George Lopez, Charlie Murphy, D.L. Hughley, Eddie Griffin, and Cedric the Entertainer… I can’t live without that damn cellphone. And a GPS. I gotta roll."
- Dana: "I work in PR and events, and my husband’s company is a mobile app. Their office is just down here on Sixth Street, and we’ve been running a recharge lounge every day for the entirety of SXSW… it’s only noon to five, so I have time to see shows. I’m about to see my favorite set, and it’s going to be Bloc Party at Pandora. I’ve been looking forward to this all week. It’s going to be badass."
- Vann: "My favorite set that I’ve seen was Tory Lanez. I’m a big Tory Lanez fan, I saw him at the Fader Fort yesterday. It was fucking crazy. I’ve seen people crowd surf, right? He was literally walking on people’s hands. And he didn’t just do it in the front — he was going all the way back to the rafters. I was like, ‘what the fuck, man?’ And then I saw this guy Gallant for the first time ever. Amazing. Amazing."
- Brittney: "Performing for people at SXSW is electrifying. It’s very free. People are just there to have a good time, they aren’t there to judge you or to see if you’re good. They just want to have a good experience and experience freedom, and that’s the biggest difference… people don’t care about genres, people don’t care what you look like, your age. They just want to have a good time."
- Ben, Conway, and Matthew: "We’re from Alaska. We’ve been on tour for almost six weeks now. We left Alaska February 10th. We started out in Indiana, and we went through the Twin Cities, through Chicago. We were playing in Wisconsin, we played in Iowa, we played in St. Louis, and now we’re finally down here in Austin for SXSW. This is the big finale: we have one more show today, and then we’re heading back home. It’s about 4,000 miles, and we’ve driven 8,000 already."
- Wawa, Richard, and EK: "I have a Moto X, and I bought it because it’s really interactive. It’s one of those phones where you don’t have to do anything, you can just talk to it and it’ll turn on and respond to you, and you can customize the back plates. Android is a great operating system. I’m a technology geek myself."
- Kasandra and Lee: "Last night, Anderson .Paak was serenading me. I was in the front row, and he talked to me. We stopped the show because his mic wasn’t really on, so we were like, 'We can’t hear you! We can’t hear you!' We were screaming at him, and he finally said, 'Hey! Hey! Boobs in the front can’t hear me, we gotta turn this mic up! This is a sexy song, we need to get these women wet!' He’s awesome."
- Colton: "I’ve been seeing every show that I can get into. I don’t even know the guy but I was in a random bar, just completely plastered, and I just felt the vibe… it was hip-hop crossed with EDM. I can’t remember the name to save my life."
- Billboard Goldie: "I was paid last night to show up at a club because of my hair. Everybody knows me as Billboard Goldie, I’m a walking billboard… I sell ad space."
- Ronnie: "This is my first day here. I came out last night but it was raining, and I wasn’t about to go out in that weather… My cousin’s here but she’s not here with me, of course. And it’s my birthday."
- Divin: "I have no phone. I’ve been living without a phone for three months… I feel fabulous. If you want to find me, you know how to find me."