Everything’s broke-er in Texas: SXSW on a shoestring

Paradise found. via Flickr user luca.sartoni
Paradise found. via Flickr user luca.sartoni

Real talk: short sleeves, warm weather, cold beer, and free shows with your friends is hard to beat. But it’s still winter. If, like me, you are too broke to afford even thinking about Coachella without a collection agency potentially calling you, but desperately need warm weather and music, you might think you’re out of luck. There’s always South by Southwest, but the annual industry showcase/rolling boozefest requires an expensive flight, an expensive hotel, an expensive badge and expensive food. Or does it?

Allow me to offer you the potential to go to South by Southwest for little over the price of a month’s rent. Now, for declamatory purposes I must state from the outset that all expenses were accurate at the time of the research, prices go up closer to the time, the snooze/lose correlation is as inescapable as death or taxes. But enough about taxes and onto Texas, and how to get there.


The biggest expense that you’ll face, presuming you’re not busted for public urination or you don’t actually blow nearly $1,500 on a fully comprehensive music ticket , will be travelling to and from Austin. Tip: don’t fly direct. Instead, you can fly into Killeen which is approximately 66 miles north of the state capital. Flights from La Guardia currently run return cheap, at $292 (you will pay an average of $100 more for a direct flight). When you get into Killeen you can get a round trip Amtrak ticket for just $38. For the truly hardy among you, there’s also the option of turning to Craigslist for a ride-for-gas money option, but for the purposes of responsibility we’re going keep to legally bonded transport companies here.


Once you arrive in Austin, don’t worry about not having a roof over your head as long as you have some canvas instead. A week’s camping just a few miles outside the city will cost just $180 and with infinite cheap car services and taxis doing the rounds you won’t even miss the comforts of four walls for a few days you as you’re getting an adventure in the Lone Star State for comparatively little. Plus, the stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. Much like flying into Killeen, it doubles up as a money-saver and a way to experience another part of the country in a manner that you may not have open to you forever. Embrace it.


So, you’re in Austin. Now what? Ticketless, you’re going to miss all the big showcase events but they’re generally populated by A&Rs and other industry people electing to have the loudest business lunches and dinners they’ll have all year. Instead, go explore; there are more free/dirt cheap house shows per square foot during the music week than there are bedbugs in your average freebie mattress. Plus, a lot of the bands you’re unable to see at the showcases often take on extra freebie shows in lieu of extra self-promotion.

Gleni, a Brooklyn resident who works in publishing and has gone to SXSW without a badge, said to keep an eye out for any shows with an open bar and free food. “I only bought dinner each night (by choice) and was sufficiently intoxicated for a good part of the week.” She also recommended RSVPing to any free event you come across, just in case you want to get in, and to find one or two official showcases per night to hang out at, especially if they take place at venues with multiple stages. Of course, if hunting for the best free shows doesn’t appeal to you, this has been known to happen, but it’s probably best for you to not find yourself in the middle of a riot.


Still concerned that this adventure is going to be a bit too harsh on the pocket? Do you have a transferable skill, a bus driver’s licence, or decent cardio and a cousin with a Texas driver’s licence? These positions, ranging from those with actual résumé-building potential to utterly experiential fodder can all be found by a quick trawl through the Austin Craigslist.

So there you have it, the improbable on a tangible budget. Remain diligent and you may come away from Texas having caught one of your favorite bands in a totally unique setting as well as having discovered some new gems to look up when you get home. So, go forth and catch some pre-emptive summer vibes. Just don’t rub it in your friend’s faces when you get back. No one likes a braggart.

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