Top 5 things to see at SXSW

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South by South West (SXSW) is one of those festivals you often hear about but have very little understanding of exactly what it is.

Is SXSW a music festival? If so, then why do my friends who work in Tech head down there? And what is this I hear about lectures? I’m confused. Can I even get drunk there?

In summary, SXSW is like summer camp for adults. Every year, SXSW launches a set of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in mid-March in Austin, Texas. SXSW runs for 10 days with the Interactive Festival (think lectures and discussions) running from March 11th to 15th, the Film Festival running from March 11th to 19th, and the Music Festival kicking off on the 15th through the 20th.

So you’ve got yourself a ticket. Now, what? At around $800 for each festival and $1650 for all three festivals, how do you make sure to see everything this year at SXSW?

First, watch this video on How to Own SXSW. Now that you’re done, it’s important to understand that even the most complex logistical planning will only get you to half of what you’d love to see at SXSW. The solution? Pick and choose carefully.

As you begin the long arduous process of planning your week in Austin, I’ve made your job easier by highlighting some of the top acts you won’t want to miss. From music to film and keynote speakers, my top 5 will leave you feeling educated, entertained and hopefully with a few songs stuck in your head. Without further adieu, here’re our Top 5 Acts for SXSW 2016:

1 – Andy Puddicombe – co-founder of Headspace

A former Buddhist monk turned entrepreneur (as is common), Puddicombe is the bubbly, bald man behind the soft, soothing English accent that puts you to sleep on the train every day. Andy’s closing out SXSW by telling you how Headspace is transforming lives worldwide. He’s written a bunch of books on mental health, meditation, and mindfulness, so he knows his shit. From the stereotypical stressed techy to a managing editor of a high-end retail magazine to even an Olympic medalist, Puddicombe’s mission is to bring calm through meditation to the masses.

Hear Andy discuss how he wants to help everyone become less stressed, more focused and possess an overall clearer mind; and, how science and technology will make it happen.

Previous keynote speakers include Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Cuban, and Chelsea Clinton, so you won’t want to miss Andy closing out the conference.

PS – highly recommend you check out Headspace if you haven’t already.

2. Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles are an experimental electronic band formed in 2003 straight outta Toronto. Known for their hectic live shows and psychedelic beats, Crystal Castles make music that is as good in your ears at the gym as it is on the car ride home.

Their debut album, Crystal Castles, was released in 2008 and was follow up by their second in 2010, titled (II). It was on this record that they dropped the certified banger, “Not In Love”, which featured vocalist Robert Smith of The Cure.

They’re undoubtedly one of the top acts to catch this year at SXSW. With tunes like Not In Love, Crimewave, and my personal favorite, Empathy, they’ll be sure to take charge of the show when they’re up on stage. I would recommend penciling these guys in early.

3. Boulevards (Jamil Rashad)

Boulevards is a modern funk songwriter and performer from Raleigh, NC. Having listened to his stuff all day, I can confirm that he has the funk.

After a couple stints in local bands and an art school education, it didn’t take long for Jamil to return to his first love: funk. Following in the footsteps of pioneers like Prince, Rick James, and Earth, Wind & Fire, Boulevards modernizes that with the adventurousness of Talking Heads and Grace Jones.

Boulevards promises funky party jams. And boy, does he deliver. Do yourself a favor and drop “Got to Go” into your pick-me-up playlist on Spotify.

4. Film – Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America

Even if you don’t make it to SXSW, you should see this film. With the constant struggle between racial equality and freedom of speech, the film promises to answer some burning questions about race in the United States. Here’s the synopsis:

— Daryl Davis is an accomplished musician who has played all over the world with various legends. He also has an unusual hobby. Daryl likes to meet and befriend members of the KKK, many of whom have never met a black person. When some of these people decide to leave the Klan, Daryl keeps their robes and hoods building his collection piece by piece, story by story, person by person. Follow us on a trip across the landscape of contemporary America as we sit in on interviews between Daryl and KKK and neo-Nazi leaders, academics, and civil rights activists. Watch as he attempts to answer his lifelong question “how can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”

5. JJ Abrams – maker of small independent movies like Star Wars and Star Trek

If you’re a Star Wars fan, this is a no-brainer. If you’re not, then having the opportunity to discuss the future of filmmaking and production is not a bad way to spend an afternoon. It’s also an excellent opportunity for you to get some face time with the man before casting of the next Star Wars…

Longtime friends and collaborators JJ and Andrew will discuss their journeys and the importance of the eyes of robots and murderers as windows into the souls of their characters and stories. They will show unseen clips and introduce KnowMe, a new mobile video platform for authentic self-expression.

So there you have it, a diverse list for a diverse festival. A solid foundation of talented musicians, directors, and entrepreneurs to help kickstart your scheduling for SXSW 2016. It’s also a great opportunity to uncover some great new acts, so do your best to get along to the artist showcases and see what’s going to be big in 2017. Be sure to spend some time checking out Austin, too. I hear it’s nice.

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