In 2009, Explosions in the Sky concluded the free Auditorium Shores SXSW showcase with a multiple hour set of post rock goodness. This was my opportunity to woo the only girl I ever indirectly failed a class for. The mood was amazing, the music was intense and the firework show was overwhelming. I anticipated holding her hand a la Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter in Fight Club watching building collapse to the Pixies. This would have been a great date … had my roommate not been drunkenly puking behind a port-o-potty some five feet away from us. In essence, this is why the Auditorium Shores free SXSW concerts are so great.
Every year, Auditorium Shores plays host to free concerts to spread the enjoyment of SXSW delivering pretty big names. From the three separate nights that I have journeyed down to Lady Bird Lake, it seems that, no matter the band, diverse crowds flock out to see the show. In a way, the shows bring different fan sets together, like a musical United Nations summit with several people representing each SXSW demographic.
This year will be no exception, featuring The Strokes, Blue October, and Bright Eyes on consecutive nights. Three mainstream artists that still maintain heavy rotation on the college radio circuits (or did at one time) translates to presumably massive crowds and an interesting collection of concert attendees – some fighting to get in the front row, others content with squinting from a grassy seat. Concerts for these artists charge at least $30 per ticket and in many arenas upwards of $90 and more. To be able to see them for free is not only a treat, but in many cases a limited opportunity especially with the lack of a maximum capacity at Auditorium Shores.
It is nearly impossible to find a parking spot without having to do a bit of walking as the nearby lots fill up quickly. Shuttles are provided for parking from the Austin Convention Center but are only free for badge holders. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to lock up a bike and in previous years a free monitored bicycle parking area where you can rest assured your bike will be secure.
These Auditorium Shores concerts really encapsulate SXSW and always provide a fun experience. Even when there are setbacks* the show manages to not disappoint. From a music lover’s standpoint, these shows are the embodiment of SXSW to begin with, you know outside of making a lot of money.
*Last year, the cold and technical difficulties pushed She & Him back nearly an hour and a half after their scheduled time. Be it the hardworking organizers or simply Zooey Deschanel’s charm, (the crowd was full of couples and nerdy guys in love with Zooey, it’s easy to see where I fit in), people stayed all the way through and left satisfied.