Complain about the traffic and crowds all you want, but don't forget that SXSW provides a host of free official programming. Even if you didn't grab a music wristband, you've got plenty of chances to catch official SXSW artists at free shows around Austin. There's a full list of free events available on the SXSW website, but we thought we'd narrow it down for you.
Here are our picks for five days of free music — the local and international shows you shouldn't miss.
Tuesday, March 12: Austin Music Showcase at The Parish
Take some time Tuesday night to stop by The Parish and sample some of Austin's best homegrown talent, brought to you by the ATX Music Office. Shakey Graves' one-man band will blow you away; Jess Williams' haunting folk will soothe your soul; Mother Falcon's youthful orchestra will amp you up for The Band of Heathens and Austin's favorite rock act, Quiet Company. Want to get ahead? Download our Texas Showcase Sampler and check out a few of the sounds you'll hear Tuesday night.
Wednesday, March 13: International Showcase at City Hall
Cut out early on Wednesday, grab a spot at City Hall, and check out the International Showcase from 3-7 pm. Featuring bands from Sweden, Taiwan, France and Italy, this showcase runs the gamut of pop to electronic. Immanu El kicks things off at 3 pm, bringing what Rolling Stone calls "Swedish postrock romanticism or hauntingly whispering hover-pop" to the Lone Star State.
Thursday, March 14: Second Play at the Omni
Catch fiddle phenom Warren Hood and the UK's five-piece folk ensemble, Skinny Lister, at the Omni for an early evening that eases you into a full weekend of music. Looking for more diversity? Check out the full Second Play schedule; all performances are open to the public.
Friday, March 15: The Flaming Lips at Auditorium Shores
The Flaming Lips are known for epic displays of music and oddity. What better setting to catch the masters of psychedelic rock than outside on a warm March evening with the Austin cityscape as a backdrop? Divine Fits and Jim James (My Morning Jacket) open.
Saturday, March 16: Levon Helm Tribute at Auditorium Shores
The late, great drummer of The Band is memorialized in a fitting tribute featuring a full day of music at Auditorium Shores. The event benefits Keep It Goin', the initiative to continue Levon Helm's legacy and create a musical landmark at his barn in Woodstock. Performers include Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Los Lonely Boys, JJ Grey & Mofro, Steve Earle, and more. Helm's daughter, Amy, performs with headliner, the Midnight Ramble Band, singing the best of Levon Helm and The Band.