Festival Fun

The best free parties of SXSW, plus RSVP secrets you need to know

The best free parties of SXSW, plus RSVP secrets you need to know

SXSW 2015 Shoes Max Frost
Get on those RSVP lists now. Photo by Daniel Cavazos

You're in Austin for SXSW, you have neither a wristband nor a badge, but you're still set on participating. What do you do? That's easy: Hit up the following parties that are free and loaded with great acts. Show up early, hang tight, and have fun.

First of all, if you're an early bird, local radio stations KUTX and KGSR have morning broadcasts March 15-18 that are pretty stacked and totally worth the effort. Now, onto more afternoon-oriented affairs:

Independence and Lagunitas present Austin BugOut
BugOut is described as a "two-day celebration of fresh beer, killer bands, and freaktacular entertainment." On a normal week, it would be advised that you avoid anything listed as "freaktacular," but since it's SXSW, we think you should jump in feet first. See garage rock vets Thee Oh Sees, synth poppers Sylvan Esso, the buzzy Diet Cig, the even buzzier Lizzo, and lots more. RSVP here.
March 14-15 at The Historic Scoot Inn

Levitation at SXSW
Unfortunate circumstances may have put a hitch in Levitation's step, but that's not stopping the Austin fest from rolling out a very strong SXSW showing. Head to Hotel Vegas on March 16 for a rad and varied mix of rock acts, including Royal Trux, Cherry Glazerr, Boogarins, No Joy, Wand, Guantanamo Baywatch, and Meatbodies. Be sure to pack your earplugs for this one. The event is free — no RSVP required. Check out the full lineup here.
March 16 at Hotel Vegas

Waterloo Records
Waterloo Records has daily shows lined up between March 15-18, and they're all worth your time. A great bill is set for March 17; not only are hometown heroes Spoon playing, but you'll get a diverse mix of support that includes Grandaddy, Middle Kids, Diet Cig, Allison Crutchfield, PWR BTTM, and Tkay Maidza. Plus, Mastodon and Future Islands will be doing a signing. The store is also just off the beaten path enough that if you'd like to participate in SXSW without being in SXSW, it's the perfect spot. Check out the full lineup here. It's free and all ages.
March 15-18 at Waterloo Records

South By San Jose
South by San Jose runs March 15-18 at Hotel San Jose, but we think it's the best place to spend the final Saturday of the fest. By that time, you're going to be feeling largely done with the SXSW experience, so it's best to avoid downtown and head to SoCo. The event starts at noon, it's free, and you'll get to showcase your fest-closing dance moves with Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, while indulging in Merchandize, Cherry Glazerr, PWR BTTM, Khruangbin, Ron Gallo, Slow Dancer, and the Peterson Brothers Band.
March 15-18 at Hotel San Jose

RSVP tips and more free parties
If you're interested in diving into even more free parties, we recommended you do one of two things:

No. 1: Toss $40 to RSVPster and let them do all of the work. Just show up, knowing that you're on the list.

No. 2: Use a combination of Do512 and Showlist Austin to dig up RSVP links and build the greatest schedule known to all SXSW-goers. This is the manual way, but if you're determined to have a free SXSW, a little legwork shouldn’t bother you.