The Austin Chronicle

Free Events at SXSW

Festival music and more on the cheap

By Mae Hamilton, March 16, 2018, Features

Part of the tired, poor, college-debt ridden, huddled masses looking to get a foot in the door at SXSW without breaking the bank with a badge? Never fear. SXSW offers its usual round of events free to the general public with a guest pass as well as some new festival phenomena sure to get an eyebrow raise out of even the most curmudgeonly and disgruntled of Austinites.

While these events are free, they do require a SXSW Guest Pass. Guest passes grant access from the weeklong festival's largest venue to a job fair. To get dibs on all the free and happening things, sign up on SXSW's website to have a pass emailed to you. After signing up for the guest pass, consider using the SXSW GO mobile app to create a customized schedule to get the most out of the weeklong jamboree.

Scads of venues, brands, organizations, and bands will be hosting their own showcases to ensure you know how cool they are. Capitalize on their insecurity and see some free music. Here's a sampling – see the exhaustive list of day parties at

Flatstock 65

Thursday, March 15, noon-6pm; Friday-Saturday, March 16 & 17, 11am-6pm; Austin Convention Center
Presented by the American Poster Institute and an annual favorite of SXSW, this year's Flatstock 65 promises to be a Woodstock '69 for poster artists and aficionados. Check out some fine art and chat with the artists who designed them at this event that will be anything but flat.

SXSW Marketplace

Thursday, March 15, noon-6pm; Friday-Saturday, March 16 & 17, 11am-6pm; Austin Convention Center
In its second year, SXSW Marketplace will be located at the epicenter of the madness, just a hop and a skip away from Flatstock 65. The marketplace brings together local and national brands in hopes of creating a unique one-stop, pop-up shop for all your shopaholic needs.

Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake

Thursday-Saturday, March 15-17, 5pm; 800 W. Riverside
SXSW's largest venue will be holding its annual charity concert events, with Los Lobos, Nathaniel Rateliff, and Roky Erickson headlining – Saturday's show is comprised of winners of the Austin Chronicle's Austin Music Awards.

KGSR Live Morning Broadcast

Wednesday-Saturday, March 14-17; W Austin, Great Room, 200 Lavaca
KGSR will be hosting their annual live SXSW broadcast from the W Austin. With a $5 donation (so, technically, not free) to the Make-A-Wish foundation of Central and South Austin, you can enjoy four hours of live performances and interviews with featured musicians. First 300 guests in the door get a free breakfast.

The Austin Chronicle Presents: Hair of the 3-Legged Dog

Friday, March 16, 1-5pm; Hotel Vegas, 1502 E. Sixth
Come hang and sip on some Bloody Marys with the good folks at a fine, respectable newspaper and everybody's favorite three-legged dog, Hank. Performances will feature Yonatan Gat, Blackillac, Drakulas, and the Deer.

Uncle Doug's Chili Dog Fest

Sunday, March 18, noon; Side Bar, 602 E. Seventh; Empire Control Room, 606 E. Seventh
Located at two favorite watering holes for all sorts of people involved in the Austin music scene, Uncle Doug's Chili Dog Fest #9 will be homing in on local favorites like Teenage Cavegirl, Hidden Ritual, Pleasure Venom, and Think No Think with a two-venue, indoor and outdoor local music extravaganza.

KVRX Presents: Pearl Pool Party

Sunday, March 18, 11am-6pm; Pearl Street Co-op, 2000 Pearl St.
Do SXSW in true collegiate fashion and hang with KVRX at the Pearl Street Co-op with bands like VARSITY, Cones, and Bad Moves.

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