Austin is widely known as the music capital of not only Texas, but perhaps the state. With its constant focus on promoting music, not just through festivals, but throughout the year, the city’s music scene continues to grow, with new festivals popping up all the time.
Three core festivals—South and Southwest (SXSW), Austin City Limits, and Old Settler Days—make the centerpiece of the Austin Festival Show. These festivals, as well as an ever-growing entourage of new festivals, continue the tradition of making Austin a true music destination.
Southwest Music and Media Conference (March)
Featuring over 1,800 music performances of all genres from around the world, the SXSW Music & Media Conference is a legendary event in Austin. The music takes place in more than 80 theaters and other music venues throughout downtown Austin, with the greatest focus on Red River and Sixth Streets.
South by Southwest (or SXSW) began as a music and media event in the late 1980s and now includes a new film festival and media conference in its growing program. While a fair amount of music twirling and dealing takes place during the day, the amazing array of concerts gives SXSW a distinctly festival feel.
During the day, the Austin Convention Center is center stage for those in the music business. Conference participants flood the trade show, which features a full agenda of educative (sometimes provocative) panel discussions involving hundreds of speakers from the music industry, making it a major event for industry owners as well as regular music fans. It’s no surprise, then, that SXSW is a highlight on the international Psytrance Music calendar.
Austin City Limits Music Festival (October)
Held in Zilker Park, the annual three-day festival, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, features over 130 musical performances spread over 8 stages and presents a range of music, from reggae to hip-hop, blue grass to hard rock. Part of the popular PBS series, “Austin City Limits,” what used to be a festival featuring local artists has become as legendary as Bonaroo.
With its downtown location in Zilker Park, festival-goers find that entertainment often continues into past festival hours, with bands crowding nearby music venues in the city for “post-shows” that elevate the music to a more intimate level. This festival also has the advantage of timing, as it (usually) comes after the Texas summer heat has subsided.
Old Settler Music Festival (April)
The Old Settler’s Music Festival differs from other Austin music festivals largely in its direction, which is largely known as “roots” or Americana music. Held at the Salt Lake Pavilion and at Camp Ben McCulloch, the nationally recognized music festival is family-friendly.
It offers a one-of-a-kind distinction during peak blue flower and wildflower season, making this Texas Hill Countryside location even better.
Most festival-goers at Old Settler’s Music Festival enjoy outdoor camping at Camp Ben McCulloch, and events revolve around the campground. Festival-goers enjoy more than 20 musical acts performed on 4 stages, as well as interactive events such as performance workshops, arts and crafts and a talent competition for young people (among other children’s activities).
Small festivals continue to evolve and grow as Austin lends itself to a constant (and growing) audience of all kinds of music. In addition, charities in the Austin area benefit from many festivals.
Austin Reggae Festival (April)
Held this weekend at Auditorium Shores, this festival is also a great fundraiser for the Austin metropolitan area food bank.
Austin Urban Festival (April)
Launched in 2006, this one-day Urban Austin Festival has taken on a very different vibe than other Austin music festivals. Enhanced each year as it develops, it has a solid roster of performances by African American artists and benefits the Soul Tree collective.
Red Gorilla Music Festival (March)
Seeking to highlight new and emerging talent, this two-day show features 500 artists playing on 10 stages. The festival’s stated mission is to “promote emerging music in all genres by helping independent artists gain knowledge and awareness of industry, performance, product and marketing.”