Along with season-ending Tony Romo interceptions, Free Week has become a trusted (and much more welcome and beloved) post-Christmas tradition here in Austin. It goes like this: With mostly chilly temps making it preferable for music lovers to curl up indoors, clubs all over downtown and beyond make their shows free for what is now closer to two weeks, highlighting Austin bands almost exclusively.
It can get overwhelming pretty fast but it's a too-good-to-resist proposition for anyone who identifies as a "music fan," which is why we created the following Free Week guide.
Use these picks, coupled with our editors' favorites, as a starting point, but it's hard to go wrong with checking out anything over the next 11 days. After all, when the total investment is $0, it's hard to say you're not at least getting your money's worth.
Wednesday, January 2
Dikes of Holland, Church Shoes, Bad Banana, The Be Helds: 10 p.m. at Hotel Vegas
Austin is in a stupid-good upswing of punk and underground noise rock right now — show promoter Rubberneck photo zine does an amazing job of chronicling it — and Dikes Of Holland are one of the best and calamitous of the bunch.
Others: Sweet Talk, Parquet Courts, Gremlins UK, Endless Thoughts: 9 p.m. at Beerland; The Boxing Lesson, Residual Kid, Edison Chair: 7 p.m. at Club DeVille
Thursday, January 3
Say Hello To The Angles, Three's Away, Adam and The Bullshark, Hired Goons, Animal Train: 9 p.m. at Red 7
Old-school Austin punk fans will recognize Adam and The Bullshark members from their days in the dear, departed Cruiserweight, and Three’s Away is some simply awesome street punk that gets far more love internationally than here at home.
Others: Sun Machine, Lil T, Este Vato, 9 p.m. at Lucky Lounge; J.C. & Co., Quin Galavis, Jess Williamson, DJ Sherri, 10 p.m. at Hotel Vegas
Friday, January 4
The Ugly Beats, Bobby Jealousy, The Ripe: 9 p.m. at Mohawk
Power pop and its UK cousin are the names of the game here. The Ugly Beats have been sugar-shocking Austin audiences for years, and Bobby Jealousy merges Phil Spector girl pop with British sensibilities.
Others: Golden Boys, Grand Champeen, Stuffies, Unknown Relatives: 9 p.m. at Red 7; Flametrick Subs, Slowtrain, Tump, Dead Strangers: 9 p.m. at The ND; Ume, The Calm Blue Sea, The Black And White Years, My Jerusalem, Soft Swells: 8 p.m. at Emo’s
Saturday, January 5
Eagle Claw, Flesh Lights, Tia Carrera, Woodgrain, Crooked Bangs: 9 p.m. at Red 7
A show that’s almost genre agnostic, combining the rough and heavy (Eagle Claw and Tia Carrera) with punk and underground sounds (Flesh Lights, Crooked Bangs). Think of it like a state of Austin music sampler platter.
Others: The Crack Pipes, Dikes Of Holland, John Schooley’s One Man Band, Church Shoes: 9 p.m. at Beerland; Bad Sports, Bad Lovers, Pharaohs, Loteria, The Be Helds: 9 p.m. at Hotel Vegas; Hardproof Afrobeat, East Cameron Folkcore, The Lost Counts, Mirror Travel, Mrs. Glass, 9 p.m. at Holy Mountain
Sunday, January 6
Heart And Soul Soundsystem: 9 p.m. at Club DeVille
Knocking around almost as long as SXSW, this night showcasing reggae and its many derivations is a perfect comedown for a week of musical madness.
Others: ThunderCougarFalconBird: 10 p.m. at Hole In The Wall
Monday, January 7
Chris Holland, Muchos Backflips, Sour Bridges, Fatback Circus: 9 p.m. at Club DeVille
This show is what Free Week is about: taking a no-cost flyer to finally check out some familiar names. Like Muchos Backflips, who do a metal-ish take on free jazz improv that will leave you scratching your head as often as you’re bobbing it.
Others: Ink Blot, Opposite Day, Oak is Keeping, Diesel: 9 p.m. at Mohawk; Carpetbagger, Hardly Sound Viewing, Looka Looka Looka, Ralph White: 8 p.m. at Scoot Inn
Tuesday, January 8
Grape St., Golden Boys, Shivery Shakes, Broken Gold, Gentleman Rogues: 8 p.m. at Holy Mountain
Kind of an honor roll of recent Austin rock. Golden Boys’ “Dirty Fingernails” was one of 2012’s best albums, Grape St. shows plenty remnants of its members’ days as Harlem, and Broken Gold is the damn good side project of Ian Macdougall of the Riverboat Gamblers.
Others: David Bowie's Birthday Party with Super Creeps: 7 p.m. at The ND; League of Extraordinary G'z, p-teK, The Triggermen, Space Camp Death Squad, Secret Levels, Sip Sip: 9 p.m. at Red 7
Wednesday, January 9
Elvis, 60 Minute Man, Ditch Witch: 10 p.m. at Hotel Vegas
One of the most captivating frontmen in Austin right now, Elvis’ Brian Rowland will sort of scare you, sort of piss you off and totally make you laugh. He’s worth good money to see by himself, so this show is a steal.
Others: The Growlers, Vacant Lots, Grape St., La Migra, The Best: 9 p.m. at Red 7; Georgette, La Jeder, The Villettes, Leah Nobel, Brandon Hagen: 7 p.m. at The Parish Underground
Thursday, January 10
B L A C K I E, Dethrone, L.I.M.B., Perseph One, Exploded Drawing: 9 p.m. at Frontier Bar
Austin fave Matt Sonzala brings some of his Houston love to town, topped by B L A C K I E, a truly intense and confrontational emcee with avant/noisy production that have made him hard to ignore at shows all over the country in recent years.
Others: Whiskey Shivers, Wiretree, Slowtrain, Holiday Style, Guns of Navarone: 9 p.m. at Holy Mountain; The Mole People, The Nouns, Night Court, 10 p.m. at Scoot Inn
Friday, January 11
Jonathan Toubin’s Soul Clap: 9 p.m. at Red 7
A star DJ in New York, Texas native Toubin was nearly killed last year when a taxi landed on him in his hotel room in Portland. Thankfully, he’s recovered and back to spinning an amazing collection of soul and RnB 45s.
Others: Riverboat Gamblers, East Cameron Folkcore, American Sharks: 9 p.m. at Mohawk; Black Congress, SsserpentssS, Burnt Skull, R.A.D.: 9 p.m. at Beerland; The Midgetmen, The Gary, Melissa Bryan, Half Mile Fox Fur, Easy Tiger: 7 p.m. at Club DeVille
Saturday, January 12
Kay Leotard, The Rich Hands, Deep Space, The Blind Pets, Vlad & the Village, Back Tabs & more: 1 p.m. at Hotel Vegas
Yes, this show goes all day. Yes, we know close to nothing about most of these bands. Yes, this is the best endurance test to get ready for SXSW.
Others: TV Torso, Oh No Oh My, Hundred Visions, Tiger Waves: 9 p.m. at Red 7; Blood Royale, Legion, RUST, Unmothered, Corpse, Ink Blot: 9 p.m. at Beerland