What to expect at South by Southwest Music festival

South by Southwest, the annual tech, music, film, and art mega-festival, is back in person this year after it was canceled in 2020, and relegated to virtual-only status last year because of the pandemic. It will actually now be both in-person and virtual.

It kicks off in Austin next week, so before the big acts and crowds arrive, we’re taking a peek at what to expect on the ground in Texas or streaming into your home office.

The Basics

SXSW will run from Friday, March 11 through Sunday, March 20, and events are being held all over Austin.

Venues are scattered throughout the city, including theaters, convention halls, stages, hotels, restaurants, and even churches for talks and panels, concerts, movie and TV premieres, and a comedy festival that comedian John Cleese will kick off.

Featured speakers at conference events, which include “tracks” on transportation, healthcare, advertising, gaming, climate change, and more, will be available to stream online.

Admission

This year has big “hybrid” energy, meaning some events will be IRL in Austin, others will be streamed, and some will be available for both in person and online audiences.

Registration rates go up by Sunday night (March 6), so if you want IRL or online-only access, now’s the time to sign up.

Students (high school, college, and grad) can get a discount rate, but it’s a separate sign up process.

Lineups

SXSW is a chance for big and small artists alike to perform or even make a debut. Here are highlighted premieres and performances.

Film and TV

Music

With over 300 artists performing, there’s a frankly overwhelming amount of musical talent at SXSW, in genres ranging from folk to hip-hop to rock to reggae.

  • Dolly Parton. Arguably the most famous and beloved country singer in the world will be at the Moody Theater, making her first-ever appearance at the festival (She’ll also be dropping an NFT)
  • KT Tunstall. The Scottish singer-songwriter will perform at Creek and the Cave Backyard
  • Black Lips. The Atlanta garage rockers will perform somewhere, at some point (as of this writing, their date, time and venue were still TBA)
  • Shamir. The Las Vegas-based creator of effervescent, experimental pop with attitude will play a set at the Empire Control Room
  • Alex the Astronaut. The Australian folk singer-songwriter’s set time and venue are still TBA

Appearances

Beyond screen and music events, there will be a lot of experts, politicians, celebs, musicians, actors, CEOs, and more roaming around the conference (or streaming in). Here are some folks we’re tracking:

  • The O.C.‘s Ben McKenzie to talk about cryptocurrency skepticism
  • Better Call Saul actor Bob Odenkirk in conversation with his son
  • U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
  • NPR’s Audie Cornish
  • Ted Lasso stars Brett Goldstein and Brendan Hunt
  • Texas governor candidate Beto O’Rourke
  • Celebrity chef Alison Roman
  • Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood, Jr.

Freebies

The outdoor stage at Lady Bird Lake is three days of free charity events from March 17 through March 19. The public can enjoy Golden Dawn Arkestra, Sammy Hagar and the Circle, and Mt Joy as headliners.

There’s also a daily selection of free events, like art installations, talks, and Disney+ screenings, all around the city.

Each year the festival and conference relies on volunteer crews, but you have to put in at minimum 24 hours of work before you can get access to events. Out of town volunteers are welcome to apply, but you’ll have to find nearby housing and accommodations.

Social media

Even if you don’t get online access you can follow along on social media. SXSW just launched a TikTok channel, and there’s always Instagram. Of course Twitter will be brimming with #SXSW content. It’ll feel like you’re there.

Author Profile

Mark Boardman
Mark Boardman
Mark Boardman is an established showbiz journalist and freelance copywriter whose work has been published in Business Insider, Daily Mail, Bloomberg, MTV, Buzzfeed and The New York Post amongst other press. Often spotted on the red carpet at celebrity events and film screenings, Mark is a regular guest on BBC Radio London and in-demand for his opinions for media outlets including Newsweek. His TV credits include This Morning, The One Show and T4. Email Mark@MarkMeets.com

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