Skip to Content

SXSW on the Fly

Our guide to free South by Southwest happenings for locals on a budget

Rachael Ray’s Feedback

stubbs bbq austin sxsw feedback rachael ray

Soon our city will awake from its hazy winter slumber and descend into full on festival madness. For those that have decided to forgo the official wristband for this year’s South by Southwest, we’ve gathered a list of happenings that will bring you all the festival fun without breaking the bank. From surprise celebrity guests to the best eats, don’t miss out on what will surely be an unforgettable SXSW season. Most of these events will require an RSVP, so make sure to get your name on the list early and, as always, expect badge holders to receive priority and long lines.


Capital One House

Antone’s and Capital One are kicking off the weekend with a series of day parties featuring crazy good lineups with acclaimed local and national artists. Scope out your perfect day (or days) and get in line early before the iconic venue reaches capacity!

When: March 9–12
Where: Antone’s
Highlights: Warpaint, Neon Indian, Matt and Kim, Saint Motel, Benjamin Booker, Shakey Graves
Creds: RSVP, 21+

Hotel Van Zandt Second Play Stage

The folks at Hotel Van Zandt are cooking up some fun this season at their SXSW Second Play Stage, a series where official festival artists stop by one of Austin’s most beautiful hotels for intimate performances to be enjoyed by all.

When: March 11–17
Where: Hotel Van Zandt
Highlights: Moonlight Breakfast, The Magnettes, Beating Heart Project, Anna Wise
Creds: None

Boot Scootin’ Barbecue

Few things are as perfectly matched as country music and barbecue, especially when that barbecue is catered by local favorite Salt Lick. This happy hour will also feature an open bar, live tunes, and some serious western flair.

When: March 13, 5pm – 8pm
Where: The Vaughn
Creds: Invitation by request

Gorilla vs. Bear

If you’re walking down Red River on Tuesday and find yourself following the sound of good music, you’ll probably wind up at Cheer Up Charlies.

When: March 13
Where: Cheer Up Charlies
Highlights: Sudan Archives, Men I Trust, Caroline Says
Creds: 21+

Pandora SXSW 2018

The ever-popular Pandora stage is heading back to its cozy sixth street spot to put on another series of electrifying sets. To access these daytime shows you’ll need to RSVP for a Pandora Wristband.

When: March 13–15
Where: The Gatsby
Highlights: DUCKWRTH, Walker Hayes, PALE WAVES
Creds: Pandora Wristband, 21+

101X Day Party

Get to know the artists behind the music at the 101X day parties. Starting out the week, South by Southwest artists will be cycling through Buffalo Billiards to chat with the 101X gang, where fans can drop by for meet and greets, acoustic performances, and exciting showcases.

When: March 13–16
Where: Buffalo Billiards
Highlights: In the Valley Below, Mobley, UME
Creds: 21+

#WCW Women in Music Month Showcase

Geraldine’s is set to host multiple events throughout the upcoming weeks and on Thursday the 14th they’re honoring women in music with a phenomenal, genre-spanning set of powerful female artists.

When: March 14, 7pm – 11pm
Where: Geraldine’s
Highlights: White Mystery, Kelley Mickwee, Denitia
Creds: None

Austin Bonfire Sessions

From hip hop to rap to indie rock, these artists should be on your radar. What to expect: thoughtful lyricism, groove-worthy beats, and high-energy sets.

When: March 14 & 15
Where: Cheer Up Charlies
Highlights: Joey Purp, Shame, Smino
Creds: RSVP, 21+


FLOOD Magazine is returning to SXSW with another party you won’t want to miss. Run the Jewels, Vince Staples, and Black Lips have all rocked the stage, and this year delivers even more stacked sets. Keep an eye out for potential special guest announcements.

When: March 14–17
Where: Cedar Street Courtyard
Highlights: Hinds, Dan the Automator, Porches, Speedy Ortiz
Creds: RSVP, 21+

Waterloo Day Parties

Who can you trust more than Austin’s own Waterloo Records to serve up spectacular free shows this season? Stop by for a good time, no strings attached.

When: March 14–17
Where: Waterloo Records
Highlights: Andrew W.K., Dashboard Confessional, Paul Cauthen, Tyler Childers
Creds: None

Urban Outfitters @ SXSW

Urban Outfitters will also be making splash this year with four days of concerts on Guadalupe, aka The Drag. This all ages event will have food trucks, giveaways, and plenty of live music.

When: March 14–17
Where: Space 24 Twenty
Highlights: Post Animal, Porches, Pale Waves
Creds: None

South X San Jose

Head to South Congress for Hotel San José’s annual parking lot bash with a fantastic lineup of live music, local vendors, and sweet pop up shops (Hot Luck – yum!). Rain or shine, we’ll see you there.

When: March 14–18
Where: Hotel San Jose and Jo’s parking lot
Highlights: Kelly Willis, Stars, Tank and the Bangas, Gang of Youths, Los Coast, Okkervil River
Creds: None

Turn Your Camera On

For the very first time Precision Camera & Video and For Spite Creative are joining forces this SXSW to put on live performances from incredible local artists. Even more unique, Olympus will be on deck lending out camera equipment so guests can fine tune their photo chops while the artists play their sets.

When: March 15, 1:30pm – 7pm
Where: Precision Camera & Video
Highlights: Mobley, Marmalakes
Creds: None

The Budweiser Country Club

Fabulous venue, free drink specials, and some of the hottest country music acts? Check, check, and check. Get your name on the list and pick up a wristband for the ultimate Country Club experience.

When: March 15
Where: Fair Market
Highlights: Elle King, Old Crow Medicine Show, Kane Brown
Creds: Country Club Wristband, 21+

Sound + Vision

Find yourself at The Mohawk on Thursday to witness extremely talented must-see artists. This one-day outdoor concert, hosted by hip-hop artist Talib Kweli and comedian Casey Jane Ellison, is first come, first-served…make sure to get in line early.

When: March 15
Where: The Mohawk Austin
Highlights: Talib Kweli, Kelela, Cuco, Andrew W.K.
Creds: RSVP

SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake

Of course we can’t talk free and SXSW without mentioning all of the exciting plans the festival has in store for the public. By registering for a guest pass, anyone has access to an array of events including three days of incredible concerts at the annual Outdoor Stage.

When: March 15–17
Where: 800 W Riverside Drive
Highlights: Los Lobos, Shakey Graves, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Roky Erickson
Creds: SXSW Guest Pass

The Showtime House

The Showtime House is taking over Rainey Street with COLLiDE on Rainey, where over 100 bands will perform at bar hot spots. Although the nighttime parties will require an official badge, RSVP for the can’t-miss free daytime shows. Here are just a few favorites:

  • SMILFWhen: March 15, 2pm – 6pm
    Where: Clive Bar
    Highlight: Sudan Archives, Sunflower Bean
    Creds: RSVP, 21+
  • THE CHIWhen: March 16, 2pm – 5pm
    Where: Clive Bar
    Highlights: Knox Fortune, Joey Purp
    Creds: RSVP, 21+
  • SHAMELESSWhen: March 17, 2pm – 6pm
    Where: Clive Bar
    Highlights: Shamir, Tank and the Bangas, WAVVES
    Creds: RSVP, 21+

Southwest Invasion

Enjoy three days of live music from the Whole Foods rooftop at the annual Southwest Invasion. They’ve recently released their full lineup

When: March 15–17
Where: Whole Foods Market South Lamar
Highlights: Chris Carrabba, Larkin Poe, Dorothy, In the Valley Below, DMC
Creds: RSVP

Bands to Watch

Austin Monthly and Texas Music have teamed up to keep it local this South by Southwest. The showcase will offer complimentary drinks from Twisted X Brewing while giving a taste of all the musical talent Texas has to offer.

When: March 16
Where: Scholz Garten
Highlights: Whitney Rose, Mélat, Mike and the Moonpies
Creds: RSVP or Magazine Subscription, 21+

Rachael Ray’s Feedback

What do you get when you combine one of Austin’s best music venues with chef extraordinaire Rachael Ray? An annual concert tradition with an all-star lineup that has to be seen to be believed. A word to the wise, the earlier you arrive the better. This one is sure to draw a crowd.

When: March 17, 10am – 4pm
Where: Stubb’s BBQ
Highlights: Dr. Pepper’s Jaded Hearts Club Band, Salt-n-Pepa, Girl Talk, Kurt Vile
Creds: 21+


2018 Mashable House

Mashable House is bringing together the best of all things culture and tech this season. Aptly titled “Time Warp,” this year’s interactive will highlight the old and new as they take you on a journey through past, present, and future. As always, the event will culminate with MashBash on March 11, where 21+ guests can dance their hearts out while enjoying good drinks and a few surprises.

When: March 9–11
Where: 610 E 6th St.
Creds: RSVP

FOX Sports House

There’s truly something for everyone this season and sports fans are no exception. In anticipation for the World Cup, FOX will be hosting a number of events from discussion panels and series launches to open houses complete with food, drinks, and special guests.

When: March 9–12
Where: Hangar Lounge
Highlights: World Cup Kickoff party, PHENOMS launch, special guests
Creds: RSVP


VICELAND is back with their annual party on wheels. If you don’t come for the drinks, swag, charging stations, DJs, and endless fun, definitely pop by to pet the baby goats.

When: March 9–13
Where: 98 Red River St.
Highlights: Baby goats, VICELAND Bus, Swag
Creds: None

SouthBites Trailer Park

Foodies, this one’s for you. With a SXSW Guest Pass on your wrist, you’ll have access to a variety of food truck inspired events at the SouthBites Trailer Park, featuring must-try worldwide fare.

When: March 9–17
Where: SouthBites Trailer Park
Highlights: Roaster’s Village (March 10–12), Quesoff (March 13), SouthBites Market (March 14–17)
Creds: SXSW Guest Pass


Comic book and superhero fans unite! DC is paying a visit to Austin with an action-packed pop up featuring nine whole days of exclusive DC merch, special appearances (including the cast of Black Lightning), set recreations, Batmobiles, and so much more.

When: March 9–18
Where: 717 Red River St.
Highlights: Exclusive merch, special appearances, Batmobiles, Free Jitters Coffee
Creds: None

Sweet Pea x Humane Society

If there were an award for most adorable SXSW pop up it would hands-down go to Sweat Pea. In collaboration with the Austin Humane Society, tons of adoptable puppies will be ready to shower you with cuteness at Austin favorite, Little Woodrow’s.

When: March 10 & 11
Where: Little Woodrow’s
Highlights: Adoptable puppies, drinks, goodies
Creds: RSVP

SXSW Guest Pass Events

Never underestimate the power of the SXSW Guest Pass. Every year the festival releases an assortment of free events ranging everywhere from art installations to networking opportunities. This year will welcome the brand new Wellness Expo, keeping you up-to-date on the latest in the health industry.

When: March 10–17
Where: Various Locations
Highlights: Wellness Expo (March 10 & 11), Outdoor Film Screening (March 12), SXSW Marketplace (March 15–17)
Creds: SXSW Guest Pass

Recharge Lounge

Do festival activities have you and your phone battery feeling drained? Stop by local retail favorite Esperos SoHo for energizing snacks and refreshments alongside in-store discounts and a vintage pop up by Unemployed Denim.

When: March 13, 4pm – 7pm
Where: Esperos SoHo
Highlights: Charging station, Deep Eddy, 15% off merch
Creds: None

PMA Global Street Farm

Join Produce Marketing Association for a lineup of food-inspired events at the lovely L’Estelle House on Rainey Street. Learn about how food and culture are evolving while enjoying floral hair designs, global delicacies, and more.

When: March 14 & 15
Where: L’Estelle House
Highlights: Flower Power, Salsa Challenge, Global Street Food
Creds: RSVP, 21+

Comedy Central’s Backyard Bash

When entry includes being handed free beer and an egg taco you know it will be a good time. Check out themed events of your favorite Comedy Central shows and take home some cool swag at this annual backyard celebration.

When: March 16 & 17
Where: Pelons Tex Mex & 508 Tequila Bar
Highlights: Drunk History dunk tank, friendship bracelets, free beer and tacos
Creds: None

Read more from the Music + Film Issue | March 2018