No Badge Required

Your guide to free events on SXSW's second weekend

Didn't have the time or money to snag a SXSW badge or wristband this year? You can barricade yourself indoors, waiting for the annual human hurricane to blow over (as tempting as that prospect may be), or enjoy a portion of the SXSW bounty by attending official events that are free and open to the public.

SXSW institutes a Guest Pass program for entry into the majority of the Festival's free events. Sign up online at guestpass.sxsw.com to have a pass emailed to you which you can then show to gain entry to the events of your choosing. If you want to look more tech savvy, copy your guest pass to Google Wallet or Android Pay or even download the SXSW Go app.

Of course, there are also plenty of sponsored lounges and bottled drinks given away if you're into being "branded" at while you imbibe.

If any of this tickles your fancy, just keep in mind that Downtown parking is going to be even more of a nightmare than usual, so you may want to consider getting to these events by bus, bike, or your own two feet. If you plan on going to any of the events in the Austin Convention Center, such as the Gaming Expo, the MetroRail line drops you off right at the front doors.

Flatstock 53

Thursday, March 17, 2-6pm; Friday-Saturday, March 18-19, 11am-6pm

Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez, Exhibit Hall 4

The world's best poster artists converge on SXSW for three days, and you can peruse (and possibly purchase) their colorful wares. Gig posters are pretty much Austinite wallpaper, so get out there and find the perfect accent to your decor.

SXSW Music Gear Expo

Thursday, March 17, 2-6pm; Friday-Saturday, March 18-19, 11am-6pm

Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez, Exhibit Hall 4

Lord knows Austin has enough gearheads to fill an exhibition hall. And that's exactly what's going to happen this weekend as musicians, tech folks, and investors look for that new gadget that will help them perfect the sound for their guitar, synth, or other device.

SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake

Thursday-Saturday, March 17-19

Auditorium Shores, 800 W. Riverside

Three days of free tunes out in the short-lived temperate climes of spring in Austin. Ray LaMontagne headlines day one with his mixture of folk, blues, and soul and a voice that can do all three genres justice. At the Drive-In acolytes Coheed and Cambria close out Friday's showcase with their blistering guitar work and legions of fans. Saturday brings seven Latin-infused acts to keep the crowd moving all afternoon and into the evening. Local favorites Grupo Fantasma's Grammy-winning funk takes the penultimate spot before Tejano kings Intocable play their myriad hits to close things out. No dogs, food, drinks, glass, umbrellas, or folding chairs allowed.

SXSW Gaming Expo

Thursday-Saturday, March 17-19, noon-8pm

Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez, Exhibit Halls 1 and 2

Among the most significant gratis events is the Gaming Expo, which is chock-full of game demos, tournaments, industry panels, and more cosplayers than you can shake a wizard's staff at. Thousands of dollars will be on the line at the Esports Tournament Stage as teams go head-to-head in Super Smash Bros. Melee. The Geek Stage features various celebrities (at least in gaming circles) on the mic. For those looking for a more analog experience, Hasbro and Geek & Sundry offer tabletop games for you and your friends, or perhaps a pickup game with a fellow attendee. Visit the Indie Corner to see the latest creations from cutting-edge developers. Vote for the best multiplayer and single-player games that you find there and it might take home the Gamer's Voice award on Saturday. The cosplay competition takes place on Saturday, so get your costume cleaned and looking good before then. To those who have attended the event in years past, take note that the expo is moving back to the Austin Convention Center, and is concurrent with SXSW Music, not SXSW Interactive, as it has been in the past.

SXSW Gaming Awards

Saturday, March 19, 8pm

Hilton Austin, 500 E. Fourth, sixth floor

When you're done with all the digital fun at the Gaming Expo, head across the street to the awards show hosted by esports host Rachel "Seltzer" Quirico and YouTube star Séan "Jacksepticeye" William McLoughlin. Pre-show entertainment is provided by the live gaming experience of Tough Coded: Live. As the awards start to flow, Starbomb fills the halftime lull with the comedy/music stylings that made them YouTube-famous. Be there to congratulate all the winners and console the losers.

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