South by Southwest has been sitting on an announcement of its final free Auditorium Shores show for two weeks, after revealing Thursday and Friday lineups back on March 2. That same day, they announced Garth Brooks would deliver the final music keynote of this year’s conference on Friday, March 17. Put those things together, and it seemed to add up to something.
Speculation that Brooks might be the Saturday evening headliner ramped up a notch late Thursday when South by Southwest notified the media that Brooks would hold a press conference on Friday morning, four hours before his keynote conversation with Amazon’s Steve Boom.
If it happens, it would probably be the biggest Auditorium Shores show SXSW has ever presented. Willie Nelson did one in the early 1990s, but Brooks, who recently returned to performing after taking more than a decade off, has been selling out multiple nights in arenas across North America in recent weeks.
Another potential wrinkle: Could Garth be introducing the return of Chris Gaines, his rocker alter-ego from 1999’s album “In the Life of Chris Gaines”? That seems less likely, but not out of the question given the SXSW’s platform has always leaned more toward rock than country.
The bet here is that it will be a straight-up Garth show, if it happens. It could be a recipe for mayhem along Lady Bird Lake, as the multiple-night stands in other cities have drawn a cumulative total of far more people than the usual Auditorium Shores capacity of around 20,000. (And those other shows have been ticketed, whereas this one presumably would be free, if it followed SXSW’s pattern of admitting anyone who signed up for a free SXSW guest pass.)
We’ll know more after the 11 a.m. Friday press conference. Stay tuned.]]