Austin, TX: 3 Must-See Music Festivals

Active/Outdoors — By abbygordon on July 7, 2009 at 8:19 am

Austin calls itself the “Live Music Capital of the World” and rightfully so. A few numbers to help prove that point:

(More than) 100: The average number of live musical performances available on a nightly basis in Austin, TX.

6 (th street): A street in Austin famed for its nightlife. Whether you’re looking for an intimate live music venue or a dive bar for an after-party with the band, guaranteed you’ll find it here.

1933: The year that Threadgill’s North, Austin’s iconic (and first) music hall opened. This grill-slash-bar-slash-music-hall has hosted Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson and too many other big names in the music industry (check out the history here).

35: The number of ten-foot high guitars scattered around the city, placed there by Gibson Guitar after it brought Guitar Town to Austin.

7: The number of music festivals that Austin hosts on a yearly basis. Read on for our favorites.

Austin City Limits:

Austin City Limits began as a PBS live music television show in 1976, but since 2005 has been known for the 3-day music festival put on every October in Austin’s Zilker Park. Nearly 40 bands perform each day on various stages. Stand in the middle, and you can be treated to the sounds of Pearl Jam melding with Brett Dennen melding with Michael Franti & Spearhead. Some people can get overwhelmed, but just think of it as a buffet of indie musical stylings for your ears.


“SXSW” is shorthand for South by Southwest, a (in its own words) legendary music festival held every March. Now in its 23rd year, this impressive music, film and interactive media fest requires 80 stages, over 1,800 performers and 216 hours (that’s 9 days) to get everything out of its system. Networking, meetings and exhibitions mark the day-time activities, but as the sun sets things shift quickly towards a focus on music.

It’s one of the largest music festivals held not just in Austin but in the United States, and has even spawned imitation festivals in Toronto (North by Northeast (NXNE)) and Tucson, AZ (West by Southwest (WXSW)).

Pachanga Latin Music Fest

Its name means “lively party” and that’s surely what you’ll get if you choose to attend. The Pachanga Latin music festival is a relatively young event held every May in East Austin, on the shores of Lady Bird lake. It is intended to showcase the unique blend of Latino and American music and culture, and is billed as a “dual language” event. It is on a smaller scale than the other festivals, and is decidedly more mellow. Children are encouraged to attend, and along with the music and dance, Latino food and art is available in plenty.

Travel tips: Don’t try to see everything. Pick a few bands, make them your priority and don’t stress about what you might be missing. Also, Texas is in October still means serious heat, so stay hydrated and covered as best you can. Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy the people watching. Music festivals always provide a colorful cross section of humanity, so take your eyes off the stage(s) every now and then for some equally entertaining displays.

Austin City Limits photo courtesy of tibbygirl/Creative Commons, SXSW photo courtesy of Shane Pope/Creative Commons, Lady Bird Lake photo courtesy of Pachanga Latin Music Festival

Tags: Austin, Austin City Limits, music festivals, Pachanga Latin Music Festival, South by Southwest


  • Victoria Gutierrez says:

    Great post, Alexi! Seems like I need to head down to Austin to get my fill of some of these festivals.

  • The Travelers Zone says:

    This post is very informative for all. i really like it. i can’t wait to attend some of these music festivals! Thanks…..


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