Here’s What It’s Like in Austin This Week Without SXSW 2020
Austin photographer Daniel Cavazos documents the city that should be bustling with the annual music, film, and tech conference.
It’s Tuesday, March 17 and by now Austin, Texas should be a well-oiled machine ready to welcome the music component of SXSW. The reality of this year’s cancellation is evident throughout downtown, which on any given night during the nine-day festival one can find jam-packed with music coming out of every bar and street performers busking on every corner. Now, you have an eerie silence, shuttered bars, and little to no people. Downtown has become unrecognizable.
The devastating impact the cancelling of SXSW 2020 is having will not be fully known for weeks, but currently there is panic in the air. Musicians, sound engineers, photographers, videographers, stage hands, journalists, venues, restaurants, local businesses, and others are left in a state of uncertainty as to where and how they might produce income. This is not the Austin we know.
Last Friday, March 13, would have been the first day of SXSW, and some venues attempted to carry on in an unofficial capacity. But as the threat and reality of COVID-19 became very real and very local (Friday also marked the day Travis County registered its first coronavirus cases), a wave of cancellations began. By Monday night, downtown was a ghostland. Mayor Steve Adler formally announced a regulation effectively closing all bars, restaurants, theaters, gyms, and other businesses that attract large groups, a move similar to the actions imposed in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.
What will come of this unprecedented string of events is yet to be known. As the creative and service industries attempt to re-strategize and find a new way to survive, one thing is certain: the heart of this beautiful city still beats, and we will be seen and heard and read again soon.