How to Navigate SXSW Like a Know-It-All: The Insiders' Guide

Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP
The crowd cheers for Schoolboy Q at the SPIN day party during the SXSW Music Festival Friday March 14, 2014, in Austin, Texas.

Best Bar For Clandestine Networking: The Cloak Room
If the bars at the W Austin or Four Seasons are too highfalutin for you, make like generations of Austin ­legislators and head toward the ­capitol for this hard-to-find ­basement bar. No-nonsense bartender Beverly Pruitt -- who doesn't believe in frozen drinks or craft cocktails -- is ­something of a rock star herself, so gruffly ­quotable that she has earned a Twitter parody account (@bevscloakroom). (1300 Colorado St.,

Best Ride Without Surge Pricing: B-Cycle
Boasting more than 40 stations ­downtown, B-Cycle, the city's official bike-share, is ­partnering with SXSW and ­renaming itself SXcycles for the week. Sure, you'll be riding around with tacky ads on your basket, but the $8 activation fee gets you unlimited rides of 30 minutes or less for 24 hours. ­( )

Best Secret Snack: Chapulines At La Condesa
It's an off-menu item you have to ask for, but one of the city's best dishes is this upscale favorite's chapulines -- sauteed grasshoppers served under a bed of kale. "The bugs are all protein -- it's healthy, a rarity in Mexican food," says Ashley White, Atlantic Records senior director of publicity. (400 W. Second St.,

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Best Film Screening To Spot A Bad-Ass Bassist: Jaco
This documentary, produced by Metallica's Robert Trujillo, details the life and times of the late bass legend Jaco Pastorius through 8mm film and interviews with Bootsy Collins, Sting and Flea. "Takes you on an emotional and musical journey," says Trujillo, who will be at its March 17 premiere. "You'll be inspired." (9:15 p.m., Alamo Ritz)

Best Taco Truck: Veracruz All Natural
Mando Rayo, co-author of Austin Breakfast Tacos: The Story of the Most Important Taco of the Day, ­recommends knocking out two Austin essentials -- food truck and breakfast taco -- in one stop. "Veracruz's ­tortillas are made in-house, what we call hechas a mano," he says. "My go-to is their corn tortilla wrapped around a migas taco, which features eggs, jalapenos, onions, tomatoes, topped with cheese and avocado." (1704 E. Cesar Chavez St., ­

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Best Spoon-Endorsed Locals: Sweet Spirit
Spoon, which will play a free SXSW show at Auditorium Shores, is one of Austin's highest-profile exports. Now, there's a young band that locals are crowning next up. Spoon frontman Britt Daniel has been bigging up power-pop act Sweet Spirit, inviting the group on tour and sharing Spoon's producer Mike McCarthy for its self-titled debut EP, released in February. The band will play three shows at SXSW. (

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Best Party Concierge:
For a $30 to $40 fee, this online service automatically RSVPs for you to hundreds of open-invite, unofficial events, saving you the time of hand-entering your credentials at each party's homepage. While the site can't guarantee entrance any more than if you had RSVP'd yourself, it's a time-saver. Even if you don't join, it's free to peruse the exhaustive party calendar, which includes the who/where/when and how to RSVP yourself.

SXSW Preview: New Film Looks at the 808 Drum Machine -- 'The Rock Guitar of Hip-Hop'

Tastiest Interactive Panelist: David Chang
That chefs are the new rock stars is old news, but if there's a Jack White equivalent in the culinary world carefully balancing tradition and the future, it's Momofuku founder David Chang. He'll speak at "The Future Role of Tech in Dining and Food," part of a food-focused series of SXSW Interactive panels dubbed SouthBites. Austin's Paul Qui, who has won both Top Chef and a James Beard Award, will be in the crowd. "David's smart, an amazing chef and a genuine entrepreneur," says Qui. "There's so much all of us can learn from him." (3:30 p.m., March 14, Austin Convention Center)

And Finally, SXSW Music's Most-Likely-To-Succeed: Leon Bridges
After a pair of soulful, 1960s-­sounding demos produced by White Denim's Austin Jenkins and Josh Block blew up online, Bridges heads into SXSW as a priority for Columbia, releasing his debut this summer. On the heels of sold-out sets in Nashville, New York and London, he's scheduled to play five SXSW shows. Gorilla Vs. Bear blog founder-editor Chris Cantalini -- whose site posted Bridges' demos last fall, before he was signed -- says you'll believe the hype: "If anyone thinks the Sam Cooke comparisons are premature, they should wait until they see him do it live." (

This story originally appeared in the March 21st issue of Billboard.


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