Not everything good comes with a price tag attached. At least that’s the case with Free Week, a local music institution that started in what many consider the very heart of Austin’s indie club scene.
Live music pioneer Graham Williams (founder of Fun Fun Fun Fest) started Free Week in 2003 when he was still booking shows for Emo’s. According to Williams, who now operates Transmission Events, Free Week started “as a way to get people to come out during the slow time of the year when nobody was touring, as well as just bring something fun to do when everyone was still off work and the kids out of school for the end of the holidays.”
Over the past few years, Free Week has become a sprawling annual event, growing from its birthplace at the corner of 6th Street and Red River to inhabit multiple venues downtown, most recently finding homes east of I-35, too. On January 1 – 8, 2012, Free Week shows will take place at all the Red River staples — Mohawk, Red 7, Club Deville, Stubb’s — plus Beauty Bar, ND, Antone’s, Skinny’s Ballroom and other venues in town.
In its current form, Free Week is more a collective state of mind than it is a marketing initiative for the often-competing clubs who participate. The idea is to promote local venues — and the local musicians who play them so frequently — while rewarding Austin’s loyal music-goers with shows that don’t require cash at the door. Instead of paying $15 for a traveling show at Mohawk or Red 7, you get in free, hopefully get to see a local band you haven’t experienced before and maybe buy a beer or two to combat the residual holiday hangover (Free Week does start on New Year’s Day, after all).
Outside of providing free (local!) music, Free Week serves as a crucial platform for the host of venues who battle threats of new development along Red River. And this year, it’s especially timely given that Free Week's place of origin, Emo’s, will close its Red River doors for good just shy of the event on December 30.
Though most of the Free Week locales are concentrated along the Red River corridor, Free Week isn’t genre-exclusive: most musical palates will find some satiation during the week. On the extended bill for Free Week, you'll find everyone from Austin-based Smiths cover band The Smites to Brownout and Austin's newest outlaw country group, Crooks.
Crooks front man, Josh Mazour, says the band has been part of Free Week for a few years and this year looks forward to hosting a night at Mohawk on January 3. "It's an easy opportunity to catch just about every up-and-coming band in Austin in one weeks time, and for the small cost of a just few hangovers," Mazour says. "You can bar hop all night and find some really cool bands out there."
Free Week runs January 1 - January 8. Visit Transmission Events for a full list of events at Mohawk, Red 7, ND and Beauty Bar. Additional Free Week event listings can be found on Do512.com.