While the South By Southwest Music and Media Conference may seem to be an industry-specific festival, it does not target attendees with badges and wristbands. The organization has developed a slew of free events—including free concerts, gaming expos, film screenings and networking opportunities—for individuals as well.


The Screenburn Arcade at Palmer Center, 900 Barton Springs Road, will serve as a gaming expo within the festival March 9-11. In its sixth year, the event, sponsored by hardware manufacturer Alienware, will feature demos of upcoming games by major and independent developers, as well as tournaments for competitive games like “Starcraft 2.” On the last day of event, there will be panels and signings from industry members of organizations such as Activision, Bioware, and Marvel Comics.

Every year, SXSW Interactive holds the Dewey Winburne Community Service Awards, honoring 10 individuals using technology in the community. Though the award, which was named after one of SXSW Interactive’s co-founders, has typically been given exclusively to individuals based in Central Texas, this year’s ceremony has opened up to honor innovators in locations such as New York, California and Mexico. The ceremony will take place at St. David’s Church, 301 E. Eighth St., on March 11 and will feature food vendors and music by local band Mother Falcon.

The George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, 1165 Angelina St., will host the Blacks in Technology Meet-Up on March 11. With free food and drinks provided, the event is an opportunity to network and reconnect with individuals in the technology sector. Quincy Jones, III, CEO of digital entertainment company QD3, is scheduled to speak at the meet-up, along with music from Dallas-based DJ Phife.


In 1991, Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater explored the city’s subcultures in his film “Slacker.” Linklater has gone on to direct hits both independent and mainstream, but his breakthrough film has inspired 24 local filmmakers to create “Slacker 2011.” This new film reimagines Linklater’s original through the lens of Austin today in a series of loosely related vignettes. Austin Film Society will hold a free screening of the film at the Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave., at 9:30 p.m. on March 13.

Along with the “Slacker 2011” screening, the Austin Film Society will be holding a showcase of short films from their members. Taking place at The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive, on March 10 at 11 a.m., the showcase will feature 90 minutes of short films in various genres from a number of Austin filmmakers.

Austin nonprofit Rainforest Partnership will screen the winning films of their annual Films for the Forest contest at The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive, on March 12 at 6:30 p.m. Participating filmmakers were given about a month to create a short film using the theme of “Forests, Community, Connection.” This year, the films were judged by Director Richard Linklater, EarthEcho International Founder Phillipe Cousteau Jr. and Film Producer Elizabeth Avellan.


Each year, the SXSW concert series at Auditorium Shores, 800 W. Riverside Drive, garners some of the festival’s biggest acts. Past concerts have hosted The Strokes, Explosions in the Sky, Erykah Badu, Cheap Trick, She & Him, Bright Eyes, Blue October, and Talib Kweli. This year, the series continues to bring in big acts, with indie favorites The Shins and M. Ward playing March 15, alt-rockers Counting Crows playing March 16, and classic metal band The Cult playing March 17.

During the music portion of SXSW, unofficial day parties seemingly fill any business capable of hosting live music. Labels, music magazines, websites, blogs, and other organizations put on free parties all week, many of which offer free food and drink. Though most day parties are free, many of them do require guests to RSVP online.

With the wide array of free parties, there are shows to appease nearly any musical taste. A safe bet for groups of music fans is Waterloo Records’, 600 N. Lamar Blvd., day parties. Throughout the week, the record store will host artists ranging from indie-pop act Of Montreal, hip-hop veteran Talib Kweli, classic reggae artist Jimmy Cliff, and folk-rock band Blitzen Trapper.

For more information about SXSW’s free events, check www.sxsw.com/free.


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