Austin’s most chaotic week is upon us again. Those who aren’t fleeing the city or diving in headfirst with expensive wristbands have a colossal task in front of them in terms of SXSW planning, but a lot of freedom in getting it done. It would be foolish not to take advantage of that freedom.
Leave some time to appreciate what you didn’t expect to stumble into. Accept invitations from friends and colleagues. Give yourself some time to revel in the idea that all your friends are too busy to expect you to be anywhere.
There are people out there looking out for your schedule. South By Southwest itself has plenty of free events listed on its website. (We broke down the biggest free offering, the Outdoor Stage at Auditorium Shores.) The Dirty Team (by the tireless events “purveyors” at When Where What Austin) provides the third-party resource for SXSW planning, listing hundreds of events sorted by filters like day, free food or drinks, and staff picks. Of course, CultureMap has your back with a super simple list.
We’ve picked one free event for you to enjoy every day, so all you have to do is write it down and go. Feel free to get sidetracked. Actually, please get sidetracked. That’s kind of the point of South By.
Friday, March 11
Spurs x Sneaker Politics
11 am-7 pm
This Texas-inspired pit stop pop-up, care of Sneaker Politics and the San Antonio Spurs, features a limited-edition capsule collection, food, games, and frozen refreshments. The onsite shop is inspired by the iconic gas stations and corner stores of the 1990s and 2000s, and the merch itself draws from the classic look of collectibles and the nostalgic vibes brought on by those old school products on convenience store shelves — all with a nod to the Lone Star State. This is a great opportunity to purchase some goodies your buds will covet. Get more info here.
Saturday, March 12
Culture Shifts: The Year of DC
9 am-8 pm
If interactive media doesn’t feel like a superpower, you’re not experiencing the best of it. The WarnerMedia House invites visitors to its three-floor interactive activation centered on over 80 years of DC comics. Those offerings including genuine TV and movie props, a new trading card collaboration, panels, giveaways, and merch customization. Get there early for brunch bites and beats. More info at warnermedia.com.
Sunday, March 13
KOOP and Jungle Records Day Party
Music week officially starts on Monday, so consider Sunday your chill pregame. Austin community station KOOP Radio and Jungle Records are setting you up with some classy, artsy sounds courtesy of over a dozen artists. This is for those with jazzy, classical, and experimental tastes. There will be free coffee, and a pop-up bar with complimentary beer, wine, and cocktails. See the entire lineup and the many sponsors offering freebies at koop.org.
Monday, March 14
Food-film Watch Parties
Things are slowing down a little on the weekdays, and it can be difficult to see films at SXSW without a badge. Thankfully, Food Tank, Huston-Tillotson University, and Driscoll’s are teaming up to present back-to-back food-film watch parties. On Monday, viewers can enjoy complimentary snacks while learning about food art and sustainable agriculture with “Gather” and “Man in the Field.” RSVP on Eventbrite to reserve a space.
Tuesday, March 15
Dream Makers: Immersive Performance Futures
10 am-6 pm
On Tuesday, British Underground and Arts Council England are bringing their festivities to a close with an immersive takeover. First up is a motion-capture version of the Shakespeare play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, followed by an augmented-reality presentation about our planet’s history. Later, panelists talk about protecting creative and cultural industries, ending with a happy hour networking session and free drinks. More information, including the RSVP link, is at fachouse.com.
Wednesday, March 16
Austin Riverboat Roadshow
Boarding at 12:30 pm and 6:30 pm
As the Live Music Capital of the World, we’re always contending with “Music City,” aka Nashville. The acts coming out of this other great Southern city would be more than enough on dry land, but why not see them on a riverboat — with a few free drinks and bites? Headliners include Joshua Hedley, India Ramey, and Volk. RSVP very soon for one of the two cruises, on newnashvillelive.com. This one is going to fill up fast.
Thursday, March 17
Lost Weekend 2022
It’s not SXSW if you don’t visit Cheer Up Charlies at least once. On Thursday, we’ll celebrate with our friends to the north, M for Montreal (a SXSW-like conference from the Canadian city). This event is called “M for Mystery,” and will feature a surprise lineup that is, according to a press release, “revealed last minute.” This event is in partnership with the perpetually cool music mag BrooklynVegan, so it can’t disappoint. RSVP at do512.com.
Friday, March 18
Smudge Crystal Bar
Pop-up times not specified, crystal bar 5-7 pm
Going into the weekend, everything, everywhere, all day is live music. You can’t go wrong, so we’ll leave that to you, and offer two little events. Big Henry’s Vinyl & Gifts at Antone’s will host a pop-up shop featuring African, Caribbean, and Latin records. (See some of the curated picks on Instagram.) After some retail record therapy, check out the complimentary crystal bar hosted by Smudge, with five-minute astrology readings, and donation matching to protect young trans people via Out Youth. (More info is available on neighborhoodgoods.com.)
Saturday, March 19
Gates open at 4 pm
Speaking of our country’s neighbors, no Texas festival is complete without our Mexican siblings. MACCnífico, a three-day music showcase by the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican-American Cultural Center, is closing out with an all-Austin, all Latinx lineup. The final day focuses on diversity and commends bands that step out of genre boxes with their own sound. Those include “cumbia, salsa, reggae, funk, world, rock en Español, and more.” RSVP on Eventbrite.
Sunday, March 20
Hopefully you’ll walk away from SXSW on the last day appreciating the enigma of it all, having made at least one more lasting friend. How about a puppy? Lustre Pearl East is hosting its annual Puppy Party, with adoptable rescues looking for homes and as many playmates as they can meet. Visitors can bring their own polite and friendly leashed dogs to check out the photo booths, “paw-icures,” and giveaways. Register on Eventbrite.