Whether you sprung for credentials or just wanna hit free day parties like the rock star you are, we’ve compiled all the can’t-miss events at this year’s SXSW
South by Southwest is one of the most expansive, eclectic, and, frankly, overwhelming music festivals in the country. For ten straight days, downtown Austin becomes a buzzing hub of non-stop music, movies and madness – even the big brains over at the Interactive Festival party like rock stars for their portion of the week that never ends. With so much to see and do, many Austinites avoid this epicenter of excitement and activity like it’s been quarantined for plague. But my fellow audiophiles and I have been preparing for this since Christmas, and we’re ready to kick things off this week. In an effort to keep things simple for all you music fans out there, we’ve compiled a list of all the best things to do for SXSW – whether you have a badge or not.
Buzz-worthy Keynotes & Convos
SXSW Sessions and Keynotes offer fans a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with their musical heroes. This year is no exception, as SXSW has again brought in an exciting and diverse array of artists to host unique panels and discussions; five of which inspire a particular level of fan-girl excitement for some of us at TLM.
- In a Conversation with Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic, you can expect to hear just as much about the groundbreaking impact his band Nirvana had on musical history as about his affiliation with FairVote, a non-profit that seeks to make democracy fair.
- Multiple Grammy Award-winning composer, producer, arranger, and guitarist Nile Rogers will be delivering the Music Keynote on Wednesday, March 15, and it’s sure to be one of the most packed crowds of the week. Having worked with everyone from Madonna to Bowie and even the inimitable Michael Jackson, this is a man I definitely wouldn’t mind listening to for an hour.
- Also on Wednesday is a Conversation with Mick Fleetwood featuring beloved Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke. Anyone with even a mild interest in Rock history knows how epic this is going to be.
- On Friday, catch the Music Keynote Conversation with Garth Brooks and Steve Boom. The five-time CMA Awards Entertainer of the Year and Vice President of Amazon Music’s session is one of the most highly anticipated conversations of the week.
- And finally, everyone’s favorite 420-friendly rapper Mr. Snoop Dogg will be speaking at the Artist to Advocate: Fighting for Criminal Justice panel on Saturday, March 18.
The Big Headliners
Every year, SXSW invites a handful of bands to play the festival that are so big, people start lining up hours or even days before their set times, just for the slim chance to get into the venue and see them play or, for most, the hope of catching a few notes from the front door. These are 2017’s Top 5 Big Ones:
- Weezer at Brazos Hall – Friday, March 17th @ 12am
- Ryan Adams at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater – Friday, March 17th @ 11pm
- Wu-Tang Clan at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater – Tuesday, March 14th @ 12:45am
- Avett Brothers at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater – Wednesday, March 15th @ 11pm
- Local heroes Spoon play a 3-night residency at The Main from Tuesday, March 14th-Thursday, March 16th@ 1am. They will also hit the Radio Day Stage at the Austin Convention center on Friday, March 17th @ 3pm.
Top 5 Local Acts to Catch at SXSW
While it’s come a long way since its days as a small local festival, SXSW was initially founded upon the idea of bringing recognition to some of the city’s most under-appreciated and underexposed talent. In a nod to the glorious days of old, check out five of our hometown favorites playing this year’s fest:
- Walker Lukens is one of those local staples that nearly anyone can appreciate. Get a taste of his alt-pop stylings when he headlines the Modern Outsider Showcase or opens for Spoon at The Main, or for a $5 donation (no credentials needed!) catch him at KGSR’s Morning Broadcast on Saturday.
- Sweet Spirit blends country, soul, and glam rock into an almost indescribable nine-piece band featuring one of Austin’s most charismatic singers and a full horn section. They are playing two official SXSW showcases and Do512’s The Big One party (free with RSVP).
- The Bright Light Social Hour deliver high-energy, unforgettable, often NSFW live rock shows. In the numerous times I have seen this award-winning band perform, they have never once not delivered. Catch them playing the opening night of Spoon’s residency at The Main.
- Quiet Company make beautifully cheery indie music with superb melodies and a strong pop sensibility, and even won Rock Band of the Year at last year’s SXSW. Their official Showcase is at Cheer Up Charlie’s early Tuesday night, but you can also catch them for free a few hours earlier when they play at 5pm at the Key Bar.
- The Peterson Brothers Band has quickly become a favorite here at TLM. They were the subject of our March Music Spotlight, and in terms of success, have only just begun. You can catch them during SXSW at their Continental Club Showcase, or at one of their many free/open to the public shows happening around town.
5 Bands you Should Know About (but probably don’t)
While everyone else is in line trying to catch Weezer or Wu-Tang, why not discover your new favorite band? These five have been hand-selected for their unique and memorable contributions to sound, and for the very high likelihood that their live shows are going to be ones that you will never forget:
- Real Estate is a band that is clearly catching fire, as evidence by their three official showcases during SXSW. If you’re not up for braving the crowds, you can get a full taste of their beachy, laid-back, graceful stylings when they come back to headline their own set at The Mohawk next month.
- The Wild Reeds are a trio of female powerhouses. They were my favorite find of last year’s festival, and I’ve been anxious to catch them again ever since. You can bet I’ll be at their late-night official headlining Showcase, and I hope to get down with you all at their free set at The Showtime House at Clive Bar March 15th @ 4pm.
- LVL UP are of the newer additions to indie’s favorite underdog label, Sub Pop Records. Catch them when they play their official Showcase at Cheer Up Charlie’s on Friday night, or sign up for your chance to win coveted access to their Do512 Lounge Session.
- Diet Cig are here to have fun, and that’s exactly what you will have, too, if you show up to one of two headlining spots they hold in official SXSW Showcases this year. As a bonus, you can also catch them for free before the Music portion even starts at Strange Brew 6 Monday night at Hotel Vegas.
- Hamilton Leithauser, the golden-throated frontman of seminal indie band The Walkmen, is giving his pipes some time to bask in the solo spotlight. In all honesty, I may be looking forward to his sets more than anything else on the schedule this year, so you can bet I’ll be front & center when he plays at Banger’s Wednesday night.
The best Day parties during SXSW Music
- House of Vans at The Mohawk has been a festival-goer favorite for as long as I can remember. They always have great bands and killer 14-hour long parties that boast the best of the fest (as evidenced by the constant lines to get in). This year you can look forward to hearing The Black Angels, Polica, French Montana, and tons more.
- Pandora is hosting a 4-day long party at The Gatsby this year, and again features some of the best bands in the biz for both their day and night parties. RSVP in advance to catch bands like Jimmy Eat World, Lewis Del Mar, and Future Islands.
- Lost Weekend at Cheer Up Charlie’s is hosted and put on by the folks over at Sound On Sound Fest and BrooklyVegan, and they have curated a stellar line-up this year that includes Beach Slang, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Minus the Bear, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, PWR BTTM, and tons more.
- Viceland is hosting a rolling bus party this year, and while we don’t yet know all the details, they have shared that the South by South Bus will hit the streets of Austin from March 11th-18th and feature celebrity guests ranging from Lil Wayne to Grumpy Cat. RSVP at Do512 to stay in the know.
- Rachael Ray’s Feedback is, plainly said, the best party of SXSW. Every. Single. Year. And this just may be her best line-up yet, featuring acts such as Weezer, Action Bronson, De La Soul, Margo Price, and Bob Schneider. Oh, and did we mention the free chef-curated eats and free premium booze? FREE. Get in line early for this one, though – in previous years we’ve seen kids lined up around the block as early as 5am.