For 5 days every March, music lovers from all over the world descend on Austin, Texas like a horde of hungry locusts! But in a good way!!? The music festival receives about 15,000 entries for the opportunity to be one of the 1,600 chosen to officially play the festival. The music fest runs from a Wednesday night through a Sunday night in over 60 venues across downtown Austin. The Convention Center has seminars, workshops, performances and everything else you can think of happening at a music conference. The largest shows of the fest happen at "Town Lake" which is a huge park in the middle of downtown that is on the edge of the Colorado River--but we call it "Town Lake" in the middle of the city. These shows are free and open to the public, sort of a Thank you to the citizens of Austin that allow their city to be overtaken by thousands of musicians, promoters, press and eager music fans from all over the world! To witness the music in the clubs, one can purchase a wristband (about $160) that gets you into the official venues. But to really enjoy the fest...you can purchase a "BADGE"!! This means you are part of the conference and grants you access to the workshops and such during the day and shorter lines at night to get into the venues. Badges are pricier and should only be considered if you are in the "biz" or unless you have $300-$1,000 burning a hole in your pocket!!
I have seen some amazing bands and collaborations over the years, such as:
Tom Morello jamming with Slash, Perry Farrell and Les Claypool...catching the Fugees the year before they were super mega huge...The Pretenders, Billy Idol, Erykah Badu, The Donnas, Ozomatli, Los Lobos, Molotov, Kinky, Monte Negro, Los Lonely Boys playing the free show at the park with over 30,000 people there and many more highlights! Then there are the daytime parties and the after-hours parties!! The trick is to catch as many bands during the free parties with food and drink, so you can free up your schedule at night to make it to as many venues as possible. At parties I have caught many cool up and coming bands that went on to huge success and lots of established acts like Joan Jett, Cake, Queens of the Stone Age, The Ting Tings, The Datsuns, Lee "Scratch" Perry, David Garza, Zac Brown, Eli "Paperboy" Reed, The Heavy, MGMT, The Redwalls, Tito and Tarantula and many more...
The festival is amazing and if you do some research; look over the websites, bios, sound-clips and dig into the listings of parties you can see hundreds of bands for little or no dough! So if you are coming to Austin for the BIG SXSW fest, don't be intimidated and start planning your schedule asap!! You're gonna love it!!