The After Hours Athlete Guide to South By Southwest

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Free music, food and drink – our guide to the best daytime blowouts and late-night ragers that Austin has to offer.

As any South by Southwest (SXSW) veteran can tell you, the music festival is a marathon of bleary parties, loud music, free grub, more parties, more loud music and masses of people wandering around looking for the next great show or party. In other words, Austin in mid-March is the perfect place to hold court with our fellow After Hours Athletes.

Prime time concerts (from 20:00 to 23:00) mostly require official badges for entry; however, the same hot bands rocking the official showcases also play unofficial shows during the day and on through the night at unsanctioned late-night parties. Bonus: These are precisely the spots where we can score free food and drinks! Without any further ado, here's our insider cheat-sheet to the best free fun times Austin has to offer: one free day show and one free late-night party for each day of the SXSW Music Festival. Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!



What it is: Eventbrite's Arcade Party
Why you have to be there: Why save the best for last when we can kick off SXSW with a killer show that combines indie dance music with free bar/arcade games? It’s an afternoon of skee-ball, foosball, pool, shuffleboard, pinball and more. Consider it an unofficial AHA blast-off party for the week ahead.
Who’s playing: Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Portland), Rubblebucket (Brooklyn), Gardens & Villa (Santa Barbara), Young Magic (New York) and Chairlift (Brooklyn)
The details: FREE | 14:00 to 18:00 | 604 East 7th Street


What it is: GigaCrate 5yr Anniversary Party
Why you have to be there: Something fierce for the hip hop/DJ/dance set.
Who’s playing: DJ Theory (San Francisco), Brick Bandits (New Jersey), Tittsworth (Washington, DC), Flosstradamus (Chicago) and more
The details: FREE | 20:30 to 02:00 | Beso Cantina, 307 West 5th Street.



What it is: Sennheiser & Paste Magazine's The Stages on Sixth
Why you have to be there: They’ll be hosting 11 bands each day from 14 to 16 March, but we think the most choice time to attend will be on Thursday for performances that range from North Carolina jangle pop to Scottish rock. Did we mention the free beer, wine and gin?
Who’s playing: The dB's (Winston-Salem), Howler (Minneapolis), We Were Promised Jetpacks (Edinburgh), Built to Spill (Boise) and Japandroids (Vancouver)
The details: FREE | 12:00 to 18:00 | 508 East 6th Street


What it is: Stereogum Presents: Range Life
Why you have to be there: Don’t miss this all-night party featuring a mixed bag of bands, DJs and rappers sponsored by the eminently popular New York music blog Stereogum.
Who’s playing: Screaming Females (New Jersey), Mr. Dream (Brooklyn), Shearwater (Austin), Bear In Heaven (Brooklyn) and more
The details: FREE | 23:59 to 04:00 | PureVolume House, 340 East 2nd Street



What it is: Under the Radar
Why you have to be there: They’re hosting parties all week (with stellar lineups), but the one on Friday is an embarrassment of riches. We’re arriving early—this show is too good to miss—and you can find us at the bar with the free rum drinks.
Who’s playing: Cymbals Eat Guitars (Staten Island), Lost in the Trees (Chapel Hill), Youth Lagoon (Boise), Deerhoof (San Francisco), Of Montreal (from Athens, GA -- performing The Sunlandic Twins) and more!
The details: FREE | 12:00 to 18:00 | Flamingo Cantina, 515 East 6th Street
RSVP: None needed for this show.


What it is: Absolute Punk
Why you have to be there: A second night in a row at the PureVolume House? You bet! Here's the easy part: If we can remember where we began the night before, then we can go right back there again on Friday night for a variety of music genres and free drinks.
Who’s playing: Doomtree (Minneapolis), Motion City Soundtrack (Minneapolis), Hellogoodbye (Huntington Beach), The Front Bottoms (New Jersey) and Arrange (Portland)
The details: FREE | 00:00 to 04:00 | PureVolume House, 340 East 2nd Street



What it is: Filter at Lustre Pearl
Why you have to be there: If we’re still sticking squarely to this schedule, it’s been two whole days since we last fed our competitive hunger at Eventbrite's Arcade Party. Where else might an After Hours Athlete find some action in Austin during SXSW? One place might be Lustre Pearl, which houses table tennis and a Tornado foosball table in their comfy confines.
Who’s playing: Dinosaur Feathers (Brooklyn), Tribes (London), Bleeding Knees Club (Australia) and hardcore punk supergroup OFF! (Los Angeles)
The details: FREE | 14:00 to 18:00 | Lustre Pearl, 97 Rainey Street


What it is: Hype Machine and Feed the Beat’s Hype Hotel
Why you have to be there: The perfect way to end our SXSW with a bang…a Chiddy Bang that is.
Who’s playing: Fanfarlo (London), Best Coast (Los Angeles), Wavves (San Diego), XV (Wichita), The Knocks (New York), and -- you guessed it -- Chiddy Bang (Philadelphia)
The details: FREE | 22:00 to 04:00 | 504 Trinity Street

Of course, one go-to destination in particular will be on our radar throughout SXSW – the PUMA Social Truck! Bringing late-night swagger to daytime in Texas, the PUMA Social Truck will be rocking daily from 13:00 to 20:00 at 1309 East 7th Street with after-hours games, drinks and music. Stop by and even get a freshly pressed custom-made t-shirt! Make sure you RSVP by emailing us at

***Pro Tip: Be sure to RSVP for these free parties that ask you to do so, even if you're not sure whether you can attend or not. As the bouncer always says, your name must be on the list!***

See you in Austin!

Photo Credit: "Untitled" (c) 2011 Ombligotron and made available under a creative commons license.