Mar 9, 2023 - Food and Drink

How to navigate free events, parties around SXSW

Natalie Prass performs at South By San José on March 16, 2018 in Austin. Photo: Lorne Thomson/Redferns)

You don’t need a badge or wristband to experience the fun of South by Southwest.

Yes, but: We know it's overwhelming to keep track of what's going on. We've got you covered with a quick guide for tracking the best free shows, parties and beyond:

1. Keep tabs on social media

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be your best friends.

Details: Keep tabs on accounts like ATX Concert, Do512, The Dirty Team and WhenWhereWhat. Plus, The Austin Chronicle and Austin360 maintain a list of unofficial parties and free shows.

2. Head to SXSW's official free events

SXSW officials recently announced a number of official free events, including concerts, a gig poster art exhibition, XR experiences and more.

Details: Most notably, Austinites can head to a free, three-day concert series.

  • The family-friendly SXSW Community Concerts at Lady Bird Lake will feature local food trucks and a beer garden at 800 W. Riverside Drive.
  • Expect performances from Thao, The Zombies, Sammy Hagar and the Circle, Honk!TX and more.

The Sheraton Austin Hotel, at 701 East 11th Street, hosts SXSW music festival showcases with no cover charge:

  • KUTX The Breaks on March 15 features DreTheGr8, J Rich Tha Don, Kina Love, Skylar T, LHF Lil Ke, J. Mill, Stassney, Skateland, Tribe Mafia and Alesia Lani.
  • EQ Austin on March 16 will host Lara Price, Daniel Fears, Nemegata, Grace Sorensen, and We Don’t Ride Llamas, also at the Sheraton.
  • Austin Music Foundation on March 17 features Sami & The Engine, Poet Hawkins, The Dead Coats, Jake Lloyd, and El Combo Oscuro, at the Sheraton.
  • EQ Austin & Latin Music Coalition on March 18 includes Michi Sanz, Destiny Navaira, Como Las Movies, Shiela, and Shrt_Lyf.

Meanwhile: DAWA will offer up free health-centered programing on March 14 at Stubb's, with Carmelo Haze, CP Loopy, J Soulja, The Tiarras and Urban Heat.

Pro tip: You can filter for other SXSW-verified free events on the festival's online schedule.

3. Know the usual suspects

The most popular recurring free events are around the convention center and Rainey Street at surrounding hotels, businesses and concert venues. To name a few:

  • South by San José is a staple, with free concerts from March 15-19 at Hotel San José on South Congress Avenue. This year's lineup includes The Heavy Heavy, Thee Sacred Souls, Sir Woman and more.
  • Scholz Garten is home base for KUTX's live broadcasts from March 15-28 ($10 admission).

Of note: Brands spend a lot of money to take over Rainey Street businesses and other sites around Austin.

Yes, but: These are pretty popular, especially in the evenings, and organizers often prioritize badges and wristbands.

The bottom line: Check social media, assume you should RSVP and be prepared to pivot.

  • SXSW is all about going with the flow and knowing when it's time to leave that long line to find something better.
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