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Your best bets for doing SXSW unofficially

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The sound of two very chill dudes commiserating over meeting their matches — women, but maybe each other, too. Up for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.

The secret got out ages ago that the annual South by Southwest conference is a great place not only for label reps and journalists to catch new acts on their way up, but also for civilians to gorge themselves on a week’s worth of around-the-clock music. These days the official conference seems dwarfed by the number of unofficial concerts, parties, and showcases happening around Austin during SXSW week.

This year there are hundreds of such events, many of them offering marquee names and free perks like food and beer, and a lot of them don’t require a festival badge in order to get in. Here are a few good bets for the SXSW-goer trying to do things on the unofficial tip.

Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel

March 17-21

RSVP here

Online music aggregator Hype Machine has teamed up yet again with a squad of respected blogs like Gorilla Vs. Bear and Pigeons & Planes to curate its fest-within-a-fest. The free RSVP gets you access to the daytime shows (including sets by iLoveMakonnen, Hudson Mohawke, and King Tuff), and a limited number of daytime wristband recipients will be able to get in for the later shows, which bring out even bigger names like Rae Sremmurd.

House of Vans

March 17-21

Austin landmark the Mohawk will play host to a number of showcases throughout the week, including ones curated by Pitchfork, indie rap label Rhymesayers, and the local Fun Fun Fun Fest. There’s no RSVP, but daytime shows are open (for free) to anyone willing to wait in line, and there are limited numbers of tickets for evening events available to purchase the day of.


March 18-21

RSVP here

For its inaugural SXSW blowout, Flood magazine has booked an entire mini-festival unto itself. While the evening events that begin each night at 8 p.m. require an official badge or wristband, you only need an RSVP for the daytime shows, which include notable acts like Best Coast, Twin Shadow, and the Ting Tings.

Waterloo Records day parties

March 18-21

Austin’s most famous record store has been doing its own independent daytime shows for ages now, and every year they draw in a diverse roster of talent ranging from the still-breaking to the very well established. This year’s lineup includes Clean Bandit, Joey Bada$$, Will Butler of Arcade Fire, and Big Data.

IFC Fairgrounds

March 19-21

RSVP here

IFC’s going all out by throwing an entire fair, complete with food trucks and carnival games alongside the musical talent, which runs a buzzy gamut from garage-poppers Twin Peaks to electronic duo ODESZA.

mtvU Woodie Awards

March 20

Each year mtvU broadcasts its Woodie Awards show from SXSW, and each year fans queue up around the block for a chance to catch some of the bigger names to make the trek down to Austin. This year the show will be hosted by indie-pop man about town Jack Antonoff and will feature performances by Rae Sremmurd, Action Bronson, and Big Sean.

Dreamville Takeover presented by New Era Cap

March 21

J. Cole’s stepping up his presence at this year’s SXSW with his own showcase starring the roster of his Dreamville label, including Bas, Cozz, and Omen, with the man in charge taking the headlining spot. Tickets will be available at the venue, ACL Live, on the day of the show (or you can keep an eye on social media for a New Era giveaway that includes a cap and free entry to this and two other showcases).