Austin is once again abuzz with an international audience quenching their thirst for music, movies and technology, but the badgeless have plenty of opportunities to be sated by free offerings surrounding the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals. No Lady Gaga? No problem. There are plenty of ways to soak up SXSW energy.
The Armchair Experience
Starting today (Monday, March 10), you can see a weeklong national television spotlight on Austin as ABC-TV’s Jimmy Kimmel Live temporarily moves his show to the Live Music Capital of the world to showcase Texas-centric guests and other celebs in town for the party.
Broadcast from the Long Center for the Performing Arts, the show will feature guests such as Seth Rogen, Snoop Dog, Zac Ephron, Rachel Ray, Rosario Dawson, Robert Duvall, Gov. Rick Perry, Jimmy Vaughan, Johnny Winter, Los Lonely Boys and Willie Nelson.
Seth Meyers, television’s newest late-night player, spotlighted his show during a weekend panel, “Inside Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Along with his presence, the show is partnering with the Shake Shack restaurant chain to offer free burgers and fries from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. through March 14. If you want to venture out for that, you can find it at Sixth and Red River streets March 8-10 and at Sixth Street between Brushy and San Marcos streets from March 11-14.
Three Days, Free Days
Each year, as residents yield their favorite hotspots for SXSW festivities, there is a consolation prize – a free, three-day music fest in the park at the Outdoor Stage at Butler Park from Thursday through Saturday.
On Thursday, catch Los Lonely Boys, Vintage Trouble and a Jimi Hendrix Celebration featuring Slash and Perry & Etty Farrell. Foster the People headlines Friday’s lineup. On Saturday afternoon, the "Take Me to the River" showcase with Booker T, Otis Clay, North Mississippi Allstars, Charlie Musselwhite, Snoop Dog and more should be a highlight, along with closer Childish Gambino.
While free to the public, a Guest Pass is required for entry. These passes are available in advance, locally, or on-site at the event. SXSW badge and wristband holders don’t need a Guest Pass to attend. There’s a 2 per person limit, so if you need more, bring some friends along with you.
For the 7th year, Rachael Ray's Feedback festival comes to SXSW and Stubb’s. Doors open at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 15 for the jam-packed music event offered free to the public (21 and up). It also includes free drinks and food, including a few of Rachael’s own recipes.
Know that it will be packed, so once the venue is at capacity, there will be an one-in, one-out policy. But don't be a defeatist. Think positive thoughts of entry. It helps if you get there before the last few acts as that's when it will be more challenging.
Performances, which always include Ray’s hubby’s band, The Cringe, is topped off with performances by Blondie and CeeLo Green. You can find the full lineup at the Feedback site.
Loads of Free Shows
There are many more free offerings - too numerous to share here - but visit SXSW's Free site for a list of spotlight showcases and its Hotel Second Play series of performances. Additionally, you can visit the Austin Chronicle and Do512 for more musical parties and unofficial SXSW showcases.
Light it Up
Be sure to check out the SXSW Eco Light Garden at Republic Square Park in the evenings through Saturday, March 15 for bright and colorful installations of light, sound and geometry. While at the park, take advantage of the public invitation to interact with the Luminescent Grand, an interactive all-acrylic digital grand piano.
Shop and Awe
At the Austin Convention Center, join music enthusiasts and aficionados at the Music Gear Expo (including an Expo store) for a look at the offerings of top luthiers, amp builders and more from Thursday-Saturday, March 13-15. Or check out more than 180 crafters and, of course, turn in to more music at the Renegade Craft Fair from noon to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 13.
Then, see music from the artist's angle at the Flatstock 43 gig poster showcase from 2-6 p.m. on Thursday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Exhibit Hall 4. Here, visitors can meet some of the world's top poster artists and buy some of their works.
To take advantage of these free events, you'll stil need that Guest Pass, so ... get one.
While at the convention center, snag a little SXSW gear at the merchandising booths.