Auditorium Shores at Night Photo: Wade Ferd

Over 800 bands descend on Austin, TX this weekend. The competition for space is fierce. Badge holders and wristbands get first priority, but for the general public, the secret to seeing great live music is knowing where to find it.

“Thank you for your interest but the RSVP list is full.” Seeing this message hurts a SXSW party goer when the RSVP list is a last ditch effort to ensure access. After Tom Gates snuck me into the Rachel Ray party last year, I should have learned to plan ahead for SXSW music parties but I busied myself with too many SXSW Interactive activities.

Scouring the SXSW Side Parties Database, I was able to find 10 SXSW Side Parties with ample space with no RSVP required. And I also wondered why MySpace doesn’t just reform as MyMusic and call it done.

SXSW Free Music Festival

The Strokes at Stubbs Photo: Mr. Matt

This year, the SXSW Music Festival is not missing out on the freebie action. The Strokes are brought to you by corporate sponsor Levi’s and SXSW at Auditorium Shores, and there are shows every day from now until Sunday.

There’s a shuttle to Auditorium Shores from the Convention Center, free of charge for badge-holders. Rock by Lady Bird Lake comes with food and crafts vendors (but for that you’ll have to pay).

What: SXSW Free Music Festival
When: Thursday and Friday 6PM, Saturday doors open at 11AM
Where: Auditorium Shores Outdoor Stage
Thursday Bands: Luke Rathborne, Twin Shadow, The Strokes
Friday Bands: Suzanna Choffel, Bowling for Soup,Blue October
Saturday Bands: The Groundwork Music Orchestra, Ozokidz, MarchFourth Marching Band, Kurt Vile And The Violators, Man Man, Middle Brother, The Felice Brothers, Bright Eyes

A Belfast St. Patrick’s Day

SXSW Music Showcase kicks off on St. Patrick’s Day this year. Several rock bands from Northern Ireland are putting on a St. Patrick’s Day party with free food and drinks.

What: Belfast Rocks
When: Thursday, March 17, 11:59AM
Where: Latitude 30
Who: And So I Watch You From Afar, General Fiasco, Lafaro, Pam’s Pocket Radio

Isles & Glaciers at SXSW Photo: Veronica Lourdes Luna

St. Patti’s Day Austin Style

Actin’ The Maggot is Irish slang for behaving in a foolish, childish, or annoying way and sums up the Opal Divines’ Irish festivities.

And if not that , at least it’s the name of one of the bands playing this St. Patrick’s Day bash.

What: St. Patti’s Day Austin Style
When: Thursday, March 17, 11:59AM
Where: Opal Divine’s Freehouse,
Who: Silver Thistle Pipe & Drum Corps, The Bedlam Bards, Poor Man’s Fortune, Shootin’ Pains, Rich Brotherton & Ed Miller, Robyn Ludwyck, Actin’ the Maggots

Matchbox Showcase

Christening the “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges” cry, the Matchbox Showcase features indie artists at Austin’s first nightclub on 6th street.

What: Matchbox Showcase
When: Friday, March 18, 10AM
Where: Antone’s
Who: Miranda Dodson, David Ramirez, Annaliese Schiersch, The Canvas Waiting, My Name Is John Michael, Now The Rabbit Has The Gun, Saints of Valory, The Soldier Thread

AFHC Grackle Rock

In case you’re wondering, AFHC stands for Austin Facial Hair Club. Everyone is getting into the live music festival with this free beer event. Come and Take it. St. Patrick’s Day looks promising too, with 13 Japanese bands.

What: AFHC Grackle Rock
Where: Friday, March 18, 11:59 AM
Where: The Grackle
Who: Tacks the Boy, Corrinne Rose, Come and Take It, Sewer Rats, Guadalupe Plata, The Types, Something Ain’t Rights, Joey, Charlie Overbey, Paul Cartwright, Eddie Spaghetti, Horse+Donkey, Magnet School, Gentlemen Rogues, Joan of Arc

MWTX Stage @ SXSW Photo: Incase

Brooklyn Vegan / Partisan Records / KF Records Free Day Pary

Originally I was going to bypass this free day party for being too mellow but after listening to several tracks by JBM, Oberhofer, and Midlake I reconsidered. The Brooklyn Vegan event will likely be packed with 3 separate stages so arrive early to snag some Tierras Organic Tequila and Blublocker sunglasses.

What:
When: Friday, March 18, 2011, 12PM-6PM
Where:
Swan Dive
Who: JBM, Bobby, Holy Sons, Dolorean, John Grant, Midlake, Wye Oak, J Mascis, David Wax Museum, Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Deer Tick, Jonny Corndawg, Old 97’s, Middle Brother, AgesandAges, Paleo, Warm Ghost, Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers, Vetiver, Oberhofer, The Dodos

Your Mom’s Outta Town Block Party

Your Mom’s Burger Bar is hosting a street corner block party that goes on for two days and features 14 bands including Elysion Fields.

What: Your Mom’s Outta Town
When: Friday, March 18, 2011 11:59 AM and Saturday, March 19, 2011 11:59 AM
Where: Your Mom’s Burger Bar
Friday Bands: BlackBells, Elysion Fields, GypsyBlood, The New Diet, Little Lo, The Gay Blades, Hands
Saturday Bands: Great Wide Somewhere, Netherfriends, MiniBoone, K. Flay, Dinosaur Feathers, Beta Wolf, A B & The Sea

The Youth Group @ Cedar Stree Photo: Kris Krug

Swedish Day Party

Aside from the main attractions, this event offers free food and drinks.

What: Swedish Day Party
When: Saturday, March 19, 2011 11:30AM
Where: Antone’s
Who: The Deer Tracks, Adam & Alma, Hanna turi, Intohimo, The Refreshments, The Soundtracks of Our Lives

Singing Serpent Party

Free show with free drinks. Need I say more?

What: Singing Serpent Party
When: Saturday, March 19, 2011 11:59 AM
Where: Dean Frederick Jewelry
Who:Candy Claws, Datalove, Pterodactyl, Fergus & Geronimo, Rafter, Surf City, Bare Wires, Xray Eyeballs, Smile Now Cry Later, Neon Windbreaker, Ale Mania, Post Honeymoon, Gary Wilson

Rachel Ray Feedback

Although this party does have a full RSVP list, come early and you’ll be able to get in through the regular line. If seeing Bob Schneider for free isn’t enough, the free food from Rachel Ray’s kitchen will be.

What: Rachael Ray Feedback
When: March 19, 2011 10:30 AM
Where: Stubb’s
Who: Wanda Jackson, The Bravery, Tapes ‘N Tapes, Fitz & The Tantrums, The Cringe, FreeSol, J. Roddy Walston, The Business, Das Racist, Bob Schneider, Royal Bangs, Charlie Mars, Eli “Paperboy” Reed

Community Connection

If you’re on Matador because this is where you go for your travel fix, you might also want to check out Andrew Hayes’ SXSW for Travel Writers.

And check out Matador Network’s Austin, TX Focus Page for ideas about where to eat and what to do no matter what time of year you’re there.

Are you going to catch any of these shows, or do you have some other recommendations for kick ass free music parties at SXSW? Tell us more in the comments below.