SXSW Music Festival- Has anyone been? Do you have any advice?

I’ve been the the SXSW film festival many times before, but haven’t really done the music stuff. Last year I stopped by one day party that was free and saw two bands and had fun. I thought I might try to catch more this year and I was wondering if anyone had any advice.

I’m not paying for a badge; it seems like there’s a ton of free shows, and I’ve heard that just going to free shows is how all the locals do it. Are there any venues I should try to go to, or any others I should try to avoid? It seems like there’s a bunch that require RSVP. There’s this one at Stubb’s, and it says get there early, that “Entry will be on a first come, first serve basis”. Does that mean that I would have to actually get there at 10 AM when the door opens?

If anyone has any other advice, it would all be appreciated. For parking I usually park near the convention center and walk around, but I know the music stuff is more spread out than the film venues. I’ve also been to Austin many times, but if anyone has any advice on where to eat or anything else to do to take a break from the SXSW madness, that is welcome as well. I do know that I’ll be stopping by Gourdough’s at least once.

This is the first year in seven or eight that I am not working SXSW. Depending on where you are staying you might want to forget about the car by Wednesday, when the crowds really kick in, Austin has good bus and shuttle service. There is no guarantee that you are getting into any show ever but people come and go for various bands so when someone leaves more get in. Shows normally start every hour, if there is someone specific you want to see get there about 30 min early and gauge the crowd. It is pretty much a crap shoot. Get used to walking

Food; Curra’s on Oltorf and Eastside awesome breakfast and really good coffee get the Oaxacan(Wahocan), Kirby Lane on South Lamar past Manchaca(Manchak in Austinese) a trek but totally worth it vegetarian and carnivore friendly. Give my brain a bit and I will remember more

General stuff, Austin is woefully unable to handle the massive influx of people, traffic is a nightmare and you can just about forget cabs but bicycle cabs work well. The city starts closing streets on Wednesday IIRC and closes more and more each day for pedestrians. South of the lake and west of Congress street are generally less crowded as East of 35 but all adjacent to the main SXSW area. I can’t remember if the bats are out yet but if they are get you butt on the Congress street bridge at dusk and watch a 1,000,000+ Mexican Free Tail bats come out from under it, you will thank me. Austin is a Herpes hot spot wear a condom.

That is all I can think of right now PM me if you have more questions if you wish


Thanks for the tips! I’ve never used the bus service before, but I’ll check that out. I’ve used the shuttles for film stuff, but they only go between the film venues, and I don’t think I can use the music shuttles since I don’t have a music badge. I do think I am staying at one of the official SXSW hotels, so I’ll check out if there’s a shuttle from there that would be useful. I do have some comfortable shoes and will be prepared for a lot of walking. I’ll also have sunscreen, a water bottle, and earplugs handy.

That’s good to know about south of the lake and west of Congress street being less crowded. I’ll wander in those directions and see what looks fun. I have seen the bats before, but it has been years and years, I should try doing that again.

Good free shows announced for Auditorium Shores, ditch the car, I’ve bought a $100 bike that I will give to charity at the end of the week, rent a bike, do it ahead of time. Austin is getting a bike share program but I’m not sure it will be running by then. As a former local who has gone for years, I now go to SXSW solo and buy a badge, rarely wait in line, saw 40 bands last year and met a ton of cool people. I personally think its worth every penny, but it’s exhausting and I definitely don’t bring my husband, he does not have an insatiable desire to see every band ever.

Check and RSVP for the bigger parties, but don’t really waste your time on rsvping to a gabillion things. Just to get in line 30 minutes-1 hour early and prepare for Stubb’s to be a zoo! SXSW is awesome,have lots of patience, plan and figure out what you’d like to see, then be prepared to do the opposite.

Thanks for the info! I don’t have a bike, but I am moving to a place soon that has a good bike trail nearby. Maybe I’ll buy a bike sooner and have it ready for SXSW. I would buy a music badge if I hadn’t already bought a badge for film. And I did notice that there are so many parties that I could RSVP to, it’s good to know I don’t really need to do it for all of them, I’ll just do it for the bigger ones.