Austin, TX


Moon Austin, 5th edition

THE SOUTH BY Southwest (SXSW) Festival began in the capital of Texas, Austin, in 1986 “as a music conference dedicated to independent artists,” says the 5th edition of Moon Austin. The idea was that by inviting industry folks, fans and bands, it would get talented acts that were flying under the radar noticed.

It has. Among those who have made their names after appearing at SXSW are Lucinda Williams, Dixies Chicks, Beck, Wilco, Black Eyed Peas, White Stripes and Death Cab for Cutie. “Today,” says the guidebook, “SXSW is the biggest festival for new music in the world.” During its annual one week run in mid-March “it’s been known to have over 1,600 bands performing in 60-plus venues—and that’s just the offical numbers.”

To attend the festival you must buy an access badge. There are several types: the all-access one (platinum) starts at $1,295, and even it doesn’t guarantee admission if a venue fills up before you get there. The guidebook recommends that you buy your badge early, online, and pick it up the day before the festival starts to avoid long lines. Arrive early for anything that looks like it will be popular, and book your SXSW accommodation well ahead of time, too.

Besides what’s in the official programme, there are “hundreds of free shows and ‘unofficial’ shows all over town…in small juke joints, barbecue restaurants, bars, and vacant parking lots… Some are low-key and some are major events. Before the festival begins, a schedule of free shows is circulated among those who have ‘connections.’ If you can get your hands on it, you can enjoy SXSW without buying an expensive badge.” www.sxsw.com