• Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan

If you get off the main strip of SXSW happenings, there are scores of parties and house shows and in-stores and lots of unofficial and even impromptu weirdness. Actually, that’s usually the real action—not seeing mega-size bands in too-small venues (this weekend, for instance, Muse is booked at a club they could probably fill 20 times over). In the past few years the parties and daytime unofficial shows have actually become more of the thing that makes SXSW worth going to (especially given that seemingly 60 percent of the bands playing here play Chicago on their way to or from Austin). For example, after a jaunt past the clubs, past the regular-people bars tipping with green-outfitted postwork crowds and another half mile to an upscale hippie mall, I got to see Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance from Superchunk play acoustic to a crowd of 16 at Book People.