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.