That headline is not any kind of existential plaint; Rocks Off was legitimately curious. We know why we're at SXSW - it's our job. But it's a broad, broad spectrum between those of us doing some kind of business here this week and the hordes of people in Austin purely to party.
So, because we are such a people person, we picked out a handful of perfect strangers to ask the simplest of SXSW questions - "Why are you here?" in three very different locations: The homegrown Houston Invasion party at East Austin's Gypsy Lounge, featuring Folk Family Revival, the Tontons, the Handshake, Chase Hamblin, Wild Moccasins, Fat Tony and many others; hipster SXSW Bible Brooklyn Vegan's shindig next door; and passers-by on deepest, darkest Sixth Street, which these few days in March rivals Times Square as the crossroads of the world.
HOUSTON INVASION PARTY, GYPSY LOUNGE
Brett Cannon Owner, Paper Thin Media, Austin Age: Forgot to ask, probably mid/late 20s
Why are you here? "I manage [Houston band] Holy Fiction. They're playing here in an hour. I manage six bands playing SXSW."
Greg Liestman Director of Admissions, Art Institute of Houston Age: 43
Why are you here? "Where to even begin? I've always lived music, and I've never been to SXSW before. Being in the middle of the epicenter of the music business, you can't beat it. I spent all day trying to get into Springsteen yesterday [shows off wristband], and I got in."
Fred Niemann Lawyer, Austin Age: 30
Why are you here? "I used to live in Houston. I heard about the party, and wanted to see bands I haven't seen in a long time or have never seen before."
Catherine Cooksey Boutique Sales Clerk/Food Blogger (fatcityhouston.tumblr.com), Houston Age: 25
Why are you here? "We all drove in together and just now parked around the corner. We specifically came to see the Handshake."
Erin Patten Business School Student/MBA Candidate, Houston Age: 27
Why are you here? "I came to Austin to see my friends. Austin is my second home. I went to school here."
Gabrielle Sauls Fashion Designer/Intern, PaperCity Age: 23
Why are you here? "I'm just here to have fun. I have deadlines coming up in a couple of weeks, and I'm trying to pretend like they don't exist."
BROOKLYN VEGAN PARTY, HOTEL VEGAS
Krys and Ross Baxter Married Couple, North Austin Age: Both 27
Why are you here? (Ross) "We've done this party the past 2-3 years. There's usually some pretty good bands we haven't heard, so we thought we'd come check it out. We came to see Django Django at 3:40. We've also been to the Fader Fort - we've just got a list of different free shows."
Teresa Cantu Artist, Austin Age: 27
Why are you here? "I'm working it [the party], for Hob Nob Wines and MOONSHINE, a clear corn whiskey out of Virginia."
Emily O'Dean Software Engineer/Musician, Santa Barbara, Calif. Age: 24
Why are you here? "I'm here for SXSW. My boss got platinum tickets, but he had a kid so he couldn't go. I just heard the music from across the street, but I've been into [Youth Lagoon] about a year. I read about him on Pitchfork. It's my first time at SXSW. It's fun, but it's exhausting, overwhelming."
Blake Buchanan Filmmaker/Screenwriter, Ventura, Calif. Age: 23
Why are you here? "I'm here meeting other filmmakers and going to storytelling panels. I'm here now for Youth Lagoon. I'm having a great time - it's a lot of walking."
David Wilson Disabled Person, East Austin Age: 55
Why are you here? "I've never been to SXSW before. It's my first year. Being disabled, you run out of money pretty quickly, but coming down here I get to see bands for free. I like it. This is my fifth day down here. I've been getting free drinks, free shirts, this and that. I live in a transitional house with five other guys. It ain't the street, and it ain't jail. I'm not going to stay down here at night. If I had a way to go home in a taxi, I would."
Barker Guitarist, Smoking Hearts London, England Age 27
Why are you here? "My first name is Simon, but even my mum doesn't call me that anymore. Our band is a mixture of punk rock, rock and roll and hardcore - just really heavy rock and roll. We played yesterday at Lucky 13, Darwin's a half-hour ago and at 6:30 at The Annex. I've just been checking out other bands. Today we're going to try to see Off! And Black Breath. We're playing Houston Sunday at Bayou Music Center for the Houston We Have a Problem metal festival. We're going to be the odd band out on that bill."
Eliza and Al Wright Brother and Sister/Students, Cedar Park, Tex. Ages 17 and 16
Why are you here?
Eliza: "We've been here since noon. We don't know where we're going next. My favorite band is fun ["We Are Young"]. They have a really cool sound and the lyrics mean something."
Al: "We're just walking around here seeing bands. We're on Spring Break. We've been here Wednesday and Thursday too. I liked Suite 709, they were alternative rock. I'm a musician. I play guiar and keyboard. I'm not in a band, I do solo stuff, kind of like a folk kind of sound. My favorite musician is Jeff Mangum [of Neutral Milk Hotel]."
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Steve Busti Owner, Museum of the Weird/Lucky Lizard Curios & Gifts (412 E. 6th St.), Austin Age: 41
Why are you here? "I opened Lucky Lizard in 2005 and added the Museum of the Weird in 2007. I've always been a collector and a little weird myself. I guess it was a way to make a living. I'm into film; I was a filmmaker. I also like to entertain people. I want to share things I'm interested in with other people. This is my busiest week of the year for sure - not just SXSW, but families coming in for Spring Break, too. What's the strangest thing we have? There's too many to narrow down to one thing. Everything here is strange."