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Free shows at SXSW’s Outdoor Stage are back through March 19

Kelsey Bradshaw
Austin 360

Shea and Ferron Foster, dressed in green T-shirts for St. Patrick’s Day, were bopping around on their family’s blanket set up Thursday evening at Auditorium Shores.

The brothers, who are 10 and 7 years old, were there with their 13-year-old sister, Penelope, and their parents, Felicity and Brady Foster. 

The Fosters were perched not too close and not too far from South by Southwest’s Outdoor Stage, where the festival puts on a few days of free shows that are open to everyone, including those who do not have a SXSW badge or wristband. 

Golden Dawn Arkestra performs at the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake at South by Southwest on Thursday March 17, 2022.

This year’s shows run March 17-19. The first-night lineup included a roster of local talent: Golden Dawn Arkestra, Heartless Bastards, Trail of Dead, Kalu & the Electric Joint and Croy & the Boys. 

About 40 minutes into opening, the field still had plenty of room. It was by no means packed. 

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It was breezy, a bit sunny, and in the 70s just before 6 p.m. on Thursday, making for ideal concert-going conditions. 

“It’s our first time,” said Felicity Foster, who grew up in Austin. “Our youngest is old enough now that he’s 7, we thought, ‘Hey let’s give it a shot.’”

The family usually tries to leave town during SXSW. 

The Fosters were also there to celebrate their 15-year wedding anniversary. 

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“It’s the perfect night for our first time here,” said Felicity Foster. 

Tips for attending a free, open-to-the-public show at SXSW

Arrive early. The line to get into the show was intense. By the time we left around 6:15 p.m., two long lines were stacked up along Riverside Drive. Be prepared for security, too. The person searching our bag took every item out of it and questioned the ibuprofen we had. You can’t bring any food or liquids into the event. (A water station is available inside.) 

Bring proof of your COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test. Have your COVID-19 documents ready to go. But if you forget, that’s OK — a coronavirus testing booth is set up outside the entrance for you to use. 

Bring money for food trucks. Austin favorites, including Torchy’s Tacos, The Mighty Cone and Tiff’s Treats, are all available. For those 21 years and older, yes, they do having a drinking section. 

Don’t forget a blanket to sit on! Comfort is key.

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IF YOU GO

Gates open at 4 p.m. for the free and open to the public Lady Bird Lake shows. 

Friday's lineup: Jane N’ The Jungle (5 p.m.); The Dumes (6 p.m.); The Warning (7 p.m.); headliner Sammy Hagar and the Circle (8 p.m.)

Saturday's lineup: Acts TBD for 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. sets; Houndmouth (7 p.m.); headliner Mt Joy (8 p.m.)

More information on these shows and other free events at SXSW here.