Easton Park . Mar 8, 2018

SXSW for Locals

The madness and mayhem officially known as South By SouthWest is almost here. Do you have to have a coveted badge, wear skinny jeans and fly in from California to enjoy SXSW? Heck no. Austinites started the festival in part to show off the best our city had to offer and as an Austinite you can experience some of the of best of SXSW sans badge for little or no money.

Early Bird

For those who like to wake up at the break of dawn (or stay up all night) there are a few morning shows to start your day off right. A common SXSW ritual for locals is to head to the W Hotel at 6 a.m. for the KGSR SXSW Live Morning Broadcast  broadcast. Each morning from March 14 to March 17 eight of the festival’s best musicians play a 30-minute acoustic set in front of a live crowd.  A $5 donation to Make a Wish of Central and South Texas Foundation gets you in the door. The first 300 people also receive a complimentary breakfast. Be sure to get there EARLY. The line around the building usually begins forming before 5 a.m. Just down the street at the Four Seasons Hotel KUTX 98.9 hosts its annual The Austin Music Experience. Sixteen of the festival’s most anticipated performers will play a 20 minutes set. Live music starts at 7 a.m. Admission is $15, which includes a breakfast taco and bottomless coffee. All event proceeds will be donated to the Trail Foundation to help fund enhancements to Austin’s beloved Hike and Bike trail.

Day Shows

The 2,000 bands and performers from around the world are not flying all the way to Austin to just play one official SXSW show. Most bands play free day shows all week before their badge-only evening shows. To find free shows head to ground zero of SXSW – Sixth Street.  Walk in any direction and you will find bar after bar after bar of free live music. Music generally starts before noon. Bar hoping will ensure you see unexpectedly good, and bad, bands. If you want a more organized day check out websites like RSVPster, which will add your name to a list of free day parties. If you have a particular band you want to see, stalk their social media for day show announcements. More than likely there will be a few.


For nine days the SXSW Film Festival screens dramas, documentaries and comedies from the best independent and new filmmakers. Don’t have a film festival pass, but still want to see one of the movies? If the movie does not sell out then you are in luck. Event staff will start selling last minute Single Admission Tickets 15 minutes before show time for $15. The possibility of open seats are greater at the larger venues such as Paramount Theatre, Vimeo Theater at the Austin Convention Center, and ZACH Theatre. Check a venue’s remaining capacity in the SXSW GO app.

SXSW Stage at Lady Bird Lake

Each year SXSW hosts a three-day series of outdoor concerts near Auditorium Shores. The concerts are free and open to the public, but attendees have to register for a SXSW Guest Pass. Like all things SXSW, the concerts are crowded drawing more than 50,000 people over the three days. Go to the SXSW Lady Bird Lake page to find out the latest information about the line up. Past performers include Garth Brooks, Wyclef Jean, Ryan Bingham, Childish Gambino and Deftones.

People Watch

SXSW attracts the world’s best artists, performers, actors, innovators, techies and speakers. The vibe downtown during the week is infections and the weather in March is usually perfect.  Grab a patio table or a park bench and spend an afternoon people watching. As a local, visitors might gravitate towards you with questions about Austin.  Act as an ambassador welcoming out-of-town guest to our great city.

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