SXSW
Live Music in Austin & More

SXSW-6th Street at Night

6th Street craziness at night.

SXSW (South by Southwest) Music Conference, Film and Interactive Festival takes over the city of Austin. Our most important annual event. Bringing in close to $200 million to our economy.

Any description will be woefully wanting. You can't explain in words what it is like. There are over 2,000 acts performing on 104 stages at participating venues all over Austin representing every kind of music from 49 different countries.

Plus 270 films being screened from 67 countries at theaters throughout Austin and over 24,000 Interactive Conference participants from 72 countries.

Austin Convention Center

Austin Convention Center front entrance.

Conferences, seminars and trade shows during the day. Music at night. Grueling and brutal. Too much to do. Not enough time. People every where.

SXSW will soon become so large it will consume itself. They've even published a First-timers Guide to the SXSW Experience to help sort through the madness.

I urge you to stay at a downtown hotel for the conference. And make your plans well in advance. Their web site walks you through the registration process and offers discounted hotel rates at selected locations. Sign up online to get advance notice of availability and a lot of other useful info including online registration (SXSW.com). And check out the First-timers Guide.

You can expect badge fees to range from several hundred dollars to over $1,000 depending on badge type chosen and when you purchase it. Register early and save. Spend it on a room upgrade or scour the Austin music stores for a great deal.

Lou Reed was the keynote speaker for the Music Conference in 2008. My, this festival has come a long long way from the early days at the old Austin Opera House.

SXSW at Auditorium Shores Stage

Auditorium Shores Stage.

South By Southwest, Austin Chronicle, Austin City Limits, PBS Concert Series and the ACL Festival leave no doubt Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World. These are the folks responsible for making Austin the World's #1 Music Destination and South By Southwest is the most influential in the world.

Media moguls, reporters, artists, celebrities, agents, record execs, distributors share the same space. Right next to your space. Every kind of animal imaginable prowls this festival. Making big deals, signing bands or just watching the amazing performances.

In the early '90s I saw a showcase at the Austin Opera House that included Lucky 7, Del Lords, Marcia Ball, Steve Earle and Los Lobos.

Everyone that is and will ever be has played at this festival. The list of talent is too long to list. As diverse as the Buzzcocks to Donovan. Rickie Lee Jones to Public Enemy.

Many live music Austin clubs are not host venues but offer their own showcases. Every Texas music fan is in town and it's a party that lasts for days.

My favorite host venues include;

Antone's – Always top level showcases, good service and great sound system. Get there early and stay for the entire show.

Continental Club – Best roots music played here. Live music Austin style. Oh if these walls could talk.

Elephant Room – You will hear the best jazz has to to offer.

Austin Music Hall – Ballroom size, real big. Talent is eclectic and exceptional.

For more about Austin live music click here for my club reviews.

Here's a word to the wise from a veteran of South By Southwest. Several days of eating, drinking and nonstop partying can take a significant amount of energy to survive. If you try to see five different bands in five different venues every night you won't survive and will be disappointed.

Once a venue is full they do not let anymore people in - period.

Here's my advice for a great experience.

Reserve a room at the Austin Motel on South Congress. It's got drive-up parking and is cheap compared to many downtown hotels. You may have to reserve from Thursday until Sunday but it affords you a great location to enjoy the festival. Across the street from the Continental Club and less than a mile to Antone's, La Zona Rosa, Austin Music Hall and Saxon Pub.

Reserve the new rooms. One's from the original hotel are small.

Visit SXSW, but you don't have to break the bank. You can forgo the film and interactive festivals and just buy a music badge for a few hundred dollars.

Rather than several different clubs every night, consider one or two well chosen clubs each night.

Claim your space early for the entire night. This adds much needed sanity to your experience.

After the shows I recommend Sam's BBQ or Kerbey Lane. For good late night fast Mexican food, Taco Cabana stays open all night, is cheap and can hit the spot. Another low cost all nighter is Jim's Restaurant. A big upgrade over I-Hop or Denny's in my opinion.

And if your staying at the Austin Motel, you don't have to pull the car out of the lot to take advantage of Austin's most trendy and unique shops on South Congress. Known as the SoCo district.

Party, stay up late, sleep late, eat, relax, go for a swim, shop, eat, go to a club or two, eat, stay up late, sleep late, etc.

A pool at the hotel makes relaxing easy. That's how I learned to enjoy SXSW. It's the very best of the Texas music scene. But you can't see and do it all without mindless insanity.

Austin Film

SXSW at Paramount Theatre

Paramount Theatre downtown.

The Austin film festival arm of SXSW is nothing to sneeze at in its own right. It's not the biggest, baddest film festival in the world like SXSW is for music.

That's a good thing in my opinion. The Austin film festival is manageable.

You can attend all functions of the SXSW music/film/interactive festivals with a platinum badge.

The South by Southwest Austin film festival includes panels, workshops and mentoring sessions. Hundreds of films are presented at participating venues across the city. Try to catch a film at the Alamo Draft House on S. Lamar and the Paramount Theatre. The Dobie Mall facility is a winner as well.

The film festival can't compare with the music festival. Austin is the only city in the world that can offer such a musical extravaganza. Austin transforms itself into a gigantic music theme park. People and musicians come from all over the globe to participate in SXSW.

For good reason. It's musical mecca. Every music fan must attend at least one SXSW in their lifetime.

A rare experience. Dramatic off the meter. Full tilt exhausting excitement. Being young helps.


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