Go Behind the Scenes at SXSW… for FREE!

When you think of SXSW, you think of the parties, the shows, the drinks, and the FUN! And the best way to experience everything SXSW has to offer is to have that magical official badge. But how do you get a badge on a budget?! VOLUNTEER for SXSW. I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t have enough time to volunteer! So many hours! It’s too much work!” But no worries… there are different levels of time commitment, and the best part is you’ll get to see the inner workings of this amazing conference/festival!

Make your schedule work and sign up to volunteer. You work some (mostly easy) shifts, you get a badge. A badge most people pay WELL over $1800 for. It’s almost too good to be true! There are plenty of crews who need volunteers, so head on over to https://volunteer.sxsw.com/register/ to learn more.

There is no longer a “Volunteer Call” where you must sign up for shifts in person. All shift sign-up is now done online, and is currently OPEN!

You’ll get into SO many parties, lounges, panels, films, shows, etc. that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t have that badge. RSVPing can only get you so far… so help out, get a badge, and have the best SXSW ever!

Hometown Pachanga for a Great Cause

You already know we love our ATX. It seems there is always something fun going on, many times for free or cheap, in our favorite Texas city. But as many others who call Austin home, I’m a transplant. I was born and raised on the coast, in the Sparkling City by the Sea… Corpus Christi, TX. The traditions in Corpus are deep and many are rooted in both Mexican-American culture and the coastal customs of sea-faring explorers who arrived in the area in the early 1500’s.

View of Harbor Bridge in Corpus

In 1938, the first Buccaneer Days festival was held, and continues to be the most exciting time of year in the Coastal Bend area. Since the beginning of Buc Days, the festival and commission have been committed to raising funds for local educational programs. The events surrounding Buc Days feature multi-faceted family entertainment, and this year, they’ve raised the bar on the most popular Buc Days event – the Illuminated Night Parade.

Ray High school drill team at Buc Days Parade

The first-ever Parade Pachanga will feature a VIP indoor parade viewing route with a party atmosphere, OPEN BAR, COMPLIMENTARY FOOD,  and some great kid-friendly activities! Sponsored by Shiner Beer, Tito’s Vodka, KRIS-TV, and Flint Hills Resources, this VIP event will raise funds for the Buccaneer Commission’s educational programs and scholarships, while creating a fun, unique way to celebrate Corpus Christi’s most famous festival!

Live music by El Dusty!

If you’re on a budget, a great (free) way to enjoy the night parade down in Corpus, is to stake out your spot along the streets of the parade route early. More information on this year’s route can be found here. But, if you’re able to afford to support a great cause, consider purchasing tickets to the Parade Pachanga! Baller ATX staff will be there supporting our hometown, and will bring you some of the action on our socials.

 

El Dusty will be providing the music for the Pachanga throughout the night. If you want to get a preview of his style, check out Cumbia Anthem by El Dusty below! Come hang with ballerATX Crew in Corpus and don’t forget to purchase tickets here!

Also did we mention Corpus is a short 30 minute drive from Port A and 15 minutes from Padre Island with endless beaches! Make a whole weekend fiesta out of it!

 

by Traci Mondragon

Much to the seasoned Austin spring festival-goer’s delight…the FADER Fort is back for SXSW 2019!

The fort will return to it’s 2018 digs, at 1501 E. 7th St, which last year boasted a lush green lawn, plenty of stage-viewing space, and fun activities for attendees.

This always anticipated, invite-only event will showcase artists CHARLY BLISS, LIL GOTIT, MEGAN THEE STALLION, OMAR APOLLO… plus many more acts to be announced!

The FADER FORT welcomes Intrinsic Wines and Spotify as new sponsors. Spotify Premium members will get some exclusive access and perks… so stay tuned for those details! FADER FORT is happening March 13-15…so stay tuned for updates!

Tips and Hacks for Having the Best SXSW Ever!

by Traci Mondragon

One of the greatest things about living in Austin is SXSW: that magical week in March when technology, film, and music combine to create a tangible energy in our beloved city.  If you’re reading this post, then you definitely know what SXSW is, and you’ve probably experienced it. So welcome, settle in for a long, but informative, read.

First things first… remember that SXSW is a marathon, not a sprint. Your body, your friends, and your spirit will thank you if you live by that motto all week. If you take nothing else away from this post, let it be that. Slow your roll. Stop and enjoy the week. Pace yourself!

SXSurvival Hacks for ALL!

Tricks for just getting through the week unscathed… or relatively alive anyway.

  • Load up on Emergen-C and/or Pedialyte (these powder packs are easy to take with you!)
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Dress in layers. Texas weather is unpredictable, and you’ll likely be moving in and out of venues with varying temps.
  • DRINK WATER (one after every 1-2 boozey beverages)
  • If a party has fruits/veggies available as part of their free snacks, eat them!
  • Take sit-down breaks when seats are available
  • A break could be as simple as sitting under a tree at one of those free parties, or going inside the convention center to cool off in the A/C (if it’s hot).

Speaking of the Convention Center… there are a TON of free, clean bathrooms inside! Most hotel lobbies also have lovely bathrooms, and because so many people are going in and out of all these downtown hotels, no one will stop you from using their facilities if you’re not staying there.

Pack the essentials.

  • Photo ID (everyone ID’s during SX)
  • Cell phone
  • Phone charger, extra battery, and/or wireless/battery-powered charger
  • Cash (preferably $1’s for tipping, and some food trucks are cash-only)
  • Credit/Debit card
  • Refillable water bottle (there are water coolers all throughout the convention center)
  • Maps, schedules
  • Light snacks
  • Emergen-C/Pedialyte powder packs
  • Sunscreen

A cross-body bag or backpack can store all these items, as well as any swag you might collect throughout the day.

 

Getting downtown, parking, getting home safe

If you’re driving yourself…

  • Give yourself about 2 hours to drive downtown, find parking, and get to where you’re going on time. No, this isn’t an exaggeration. Parking will be a nightmare, as will traffic in and around downtown.
  • A good tip for where to park, in regards to your plans for the day… park near where you plan to end your night. You’ll be so incredibly tired by 2am, especially if you’ve been out since before noon. It’s better to have a long trek at the start of your day, than at the end.
  • Many of the street meters will be wrapped up and only allow special permits to park by them, so don’t rely on where you “know” there is street parking. Garages may cost up to 5x as much as usual. So budget for parking, or be prepared to park much farther from downtown than expected.

Take Public Transpo or Use Ride Sharing Apps

  • Capital Metro runs later than usual during SXSW, and this site will help guide you to your destination with ease! Key tip if you live central/west: Highland Mall is pretty much shut down, and has a huge parking lot right across the street from a Metro Rail stop! The Metro Rail that also stops RIGHT in front of the Convention Center!
  • Austin has Uber and Lyft back (they were gone last year) so your options are plentiful.

 

I Have a Badge… So Now What?!

First off, DON’T be an idiot and keep your credit cards/photo ID inside the plastic badge sleeve. Taking that thing in and out of that is a great way to lose your badge, lose your ID/cards, or make it more difficult to scan your badge at official venues.

Badge Types/Admittance

Your admittance priority into events is dependent on what type of badge you will have. Most venues will have two lines: one for Priority Access and one for Secondary Access.

  • Interactive = Priority admittance to Interactive panels/sessions/workshops and events (Secondary access to Film and Music events)
  • Film = Priority admittance to Film screenings, panels/sessions/workshops, and events (Secondary access to Interactive and Music events)
  • Music = Priority admittance to Music showcases, panels/sessions/workshops, and events (Secondary access to Interactive and Film events)
  • Platinum = Priority admittance into Interactive, Film, AND Music events!

All official events will have capacity limits of course, so your badge will not get you into events that are at capacity, and there are a few, rare private or ticketed events that even your badge alone is not enough to get you into.

Create a Schedule with a Plan A, B, C, and D.

  • SXSW has SO much to offer, and it can definitely be overwhelming. There are several different types of events, from morning till the wee hours of the night! But planning is key. And backup planning is crucial.
  • If you haven’t already, create an account at schedule.sxsw.com. There, you can search events you’re interested in, and add events to your custom schedule. There’s also an app!

Best Kept Secrets for Badgeholders

There are a few insider tricks I’ve learned over many years of SXSW’ing, through trial and error, and some by pure happy accident!

  • Some day parties and events offer priority entrance to badgeholders, over non-badgeholders who have just RSVP’d, so always go up and ask at the door if you see a HUGE line. It might be worth asking! The worst they can do is send you to the back of the line.
  • The Registrant’s Lounge is open all week, and is a chill place to get a free drink, mingle, and get ready for all those evening parties, films, and showcases! Note: Volunteers are NOT allowed into the Registrant’s Lounge. Sorry, guys. We can’t get ALL the perks. The Registrant’s Lounge is located in Brush Square Park, just across 4th street from the Convention Center.
  • In the past few years, SXSW has introduced new concepts to compliment the big three conference areas. These include Gaming, Sports, Style, and Comedy. Many of these “Convergence” events are open to all Registrants, no matter your type of badge.
  • Take the Festival Shuttle! It runs between most film venues, and there’s also a loop from Palmer Events Center to the Convention Center.

Interactive Tips

Interactive parties tend to be overlooked by those who still think SXSW is just all about music. Often, these are great networking events with loads of free booze and food. Some of the best parties I’ve been to are Interactive parties. Those tech people know how to go hard! The Interactive closing party is at Stubb’s, and has always featured some HUGE acts (Ludacris, Deadmau5, Jimmy Eat World), not to mention an open bar. At Stubb’s! Those drinks are usually like $7 or more a pop! There are SO many day and night parties during Interactive. So take advantage of this!

Film Tips

Film panels often highlight specific films, and will feature the filmmakers and entire casts. These are often intimate settings with Q&A portions, so you can get up close to pick the brains of your favorite filmmakers or TV stars.

Music Tips

Inside the Austin Convention Center, in the 4th Floor ballrooms, are the music day stages. Super intimate settings feature artists both well-known and up-and-coming. These shows are a great way to see that band you love, but maybe conflicts with another band you love later in the week! The shows are never full, and you can always get a great spot up front, out of the elements, and the sound is always fantastic.

 

What if I Just Want to do All the FREE Stuff?!

If you’re a Baller ATX friend and follower… you probably can’t afford a badge (although you should have taken our advice back in January when we posted about volunteering!) But don’t fret… there are ways to do SXSW right…even if you’re broke!

RSVP till your fingers hurt.

There are so many sites, Facebook groups, etc. that list free parties if you DON’T have a badge. So if you don’t take my first piece of advice, then do this. In fact, Baller ATX has a handy list to aid in your RSVPing.

Register for a SXSW Guestpass.

This free wristband will allow you to experience a lot of SXSW, and the free “official” events have expanded over the years! New this year, the Guestpass allows you entry into the 2-day Wellness Expo at the Palmer Events Center. The most popular event you can attend with the Guestpass are the free outdoor shows at Lady Bird Lake. SXSW brings amazing bands to this stage each year.

 

So Remember…

Pace yourself, be SAFE, and have FUN. If you’re anything like me, SXSW is your Christmas, birthday, and Mardi Gras all rolled into one amazing week. Make it count, make it last, and make it memorable. But most importantly make it safe so you can make it out again next year! And the year after that and the year after that…

by Traci Mondragon

After weeks of teasing, and giving us glimpses of their first-ever book, FADER FORT: Setting The Stage, on Instagram, the FORT is back for SXSW 2018!

Although the space has moved a bit farther east to 1501 E. 7th St, it is once again a more intimate, invite-only event. But last year, small space did NOT mean smaller acts, as Lizzo, Cardi B, and Bishop Briggs rocked the stage.

This year, the FORT will showcase artists SOB X BRE, Now, Now, YBN Nahmir, and Soccer Mommy (with over 20 more acts to be announced!) and their new book will be available for purchase on-site.

The FADER FORT welcomes Pabst Blue Ribbon and Smirnoff Vodka as a new sponsors, who join past sponsors Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and vitaminwater® to keep attendees refreshed! They also welcome new sponsors New Balance, SPiN, and Apple Music’s Beats 1. Prepare for an amazing week if you are among the lucky invitees. FADER FORT is happening March 14-16…so stay tuned for updates!

Give a little to Get a LOT!

When you think of SXSW, you think of the parties, the shows, the drinks, and the FUN! And the best way to experience everything SXSW has to offer is to have a badge. But how do you get a badge on a budget?! VOLUNTEER for SXSW. I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t have enough time to volunteer! So many hours! It’s too much work!” But no worries… You’re an adult. You’re smart. You’re capable.

Make your schedule work and sign up to volunteer. You work some (mostly easy) shifts, you get a badge. A badge most people pay WELL over $1500 for. It’s almost unbelievable! There are still plenty of crews who need volunteers, so head on over to volunteer.sxsw.com to learn more. There’s also a Volunteer Call this weekend at the Austin Convention Center, Ballrooms ABC. Saturday, January 27th from 3-5pm. Get down there and sign up!

You’ll get into SO many parties, lounges, panels, films, shows, etc. that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t have that badge. RSVPing can only get you so far… so help out, get a badge, and have the best SXSW ever!

by Traci Mondragon

The Baller ATX crew was thrilled to be invited back to Louisville this weekend for the 15th Annual Forecastle Festival!  We enjoyed incredible hospitality and amazing music, art, and food last at last year’s fest (not to mention quite the storm!) so we are beyond excited to be heading back. The fest takes place this weekend, July 14-16 in Louisville, KY, and Baller ATX will be bringing you photos and experiences from Forecastle.

Beginning as a small neighborhood event in 2002, focusing on music, art, and conservationism – Forecastle has grown into one of the largest music festivals in the country, and draws tens of thousands attendees from all over the world. This year’s headliners include LCD Soundsystem, Weezer, ODESZA, and Sturgill Simpson.  Along with Phantogram, newcomer K.Flay, Charles Bradley, the energetic Capital Cities, and so much more… Forecastle’s eclectic mix will surely have something for everyone.

Austin’s own Spoon will also be lending their talent to the amazing list of artists rocking Waterfront Park this weekend.

Featuring local eats, a Bourbon Lodge, and the Hunter S. Thompson-inspired Gonzo Bar, Forecastle’s unique style makes it a can’t-miss for festival lovers. We can’t wait to bring you coverage from the weekend, so stay tuned to Baller ATX for more!

The cutest little music festival ever…

by Traci Mondragon
Photos by Dominic Mondragon

 

As a first-time Old Settler’s festival attendee, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I figured it would be laid-back, fun, and friendly, but upon arriving, I quickly realized that it would become one of all-time favorite festival experiences.

Nestled in the hill country between Dripping Springs and Wimberley, Driftwood, TX is probably most well-known for a little BBQ joint called The Salt Lick. The smoked meat scent permeates the air for at least a 2 mile radius. But each April, the air is filled with more than just the aroma of brisket and sausage… the sweet sounds of folk, bluegrass, and country rock. You just immediately feel at home at Old Settler’s.

Me by the creek!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started the day with a little stroll down to the creek, and ended up being drawn over to catch the last of the California Honeydrops set on the Hill Country Stage. Their upbeat horns and vocals brought a little California sunshine to the (rather large) crowd on this grey and cloudy Texas day.

We then meandered through the trees on the trail to the Bluebonnet Stage to catch Wood & Wind (an apparent festival favorite) for their set. As we walked, we passed several artisan vendors selling everything from incense to leather goods, as well as a few delicious smelling food and beer vendors. I made a mental note to stop for a funnel cake later.

California Honeydrops (by Dominic Mondragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wood & Wind (by Dominic Mondragon)

We made our way back to the Hill Country Stage just in time for Elephant Revival, and ended up staying for The Lone Bellow and the legendary Del McCoury Band.

L-R: Elephant Revival, The Lone Bellow, Del McCoury Band (all by Dominic Mondragon)

As the evening grew colder, nothing could warm up the crowd like the smooth and sultry voice of Sarah Jarosz. Her music fills your heart and soul with joy and sadness all at once.

Sarah Jarosz (by Dominic Mondragon)

We ended the night with one of our favorite bands on earth… The Old 97’s! Their high energy and upbeat country-rock sounds were definitely the best way to end an amazing Old Settler’s Music Festival experience. Lead singer Rhett Miller never fails to entertain a crowd and start a party.

Old 97’s (by Dominic Mondragon)

This little hill country music and camping festival is one of the best we’ve been to, and we will definitely be back. From the family-friendly, chill atmosphere to the amazing food and incredible music… Old Settler’s was an incredible experience.

Baller ATX Heading to Old Settler’s Music Festival Next Weekend!

by Traci Mondragon

 

Now in its 30th year, Old Settler’s Music Festival is a celebration of music and art, and fun for the entire family. Since 1988, what was once a small bluegrass festival held at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock, TX, this eclectic festival has brought artists and musicians from Americana to Jazz to central Texas. Old Settler’s Music Festival rolls into Driftwood, TX this Thursday, April 20 through Sunday, April 23. Your Baller ATX crew will be hanging out at Old Settler’s on Saturday, so stay tuned for more coverage next week!

photos by David Gouldner

Not only does the festival feature headlining acts like Old 97’s and Sarah Jarosz, but also showcases local artists like Shakey Graves and Peterson Brothers. The most unique part of this festival is its emphasis on songwriting, and commitment to music and arts education. Songwriting workshops are featured on Saturday with artists from various genres, and are open to all festival goers. The festival also includes a youth competition for artists or bands 18 and under, with prizes ranging from cash, to professional coaching and feedback, to performance opportunities at the festival.

In addition to the focus on youth artists and songwriting workshops, Old Settler’s also awards two music scholarships each year to deserving students of music to either Austin Community College or Texas State University. Applicants must have excellent transcripts, essays, and musical talent in order to be chosen. This year’s recipients, Ernesto Hernandez, and Takahiro Shimada, an international student from Japan. Both will continue their music education thanks in part to Old Settler’s!

Family fun will be plentiful as always at this year’s festival. Arts & Crafts areas, playgrounds, a petting zoo, face painting, and environmental education for kids are just a few of the activities available for the little ones at Old Settler’s Music Festival. If you’re taking advantage of the camping at the festival, the family can also enjoy swimming in cool Onion Creek, sing-alongs, and storytelling by the campfire.

There’s something for everyone at Old Settler’s Music Festival, and tickets are still available, including weekend passes and daily tickets. The festival also utilizes volunteers, so check here to see if they still need help this year!

SxSurvival Tips – How to Have the Best, Safest SXSW Ever!

by Traci Marie Mondragon

SXSW is a marathon, not a sprint. Let that be your mantra from March 11-20. Your body, your friends, and your spirit will thank you. If you take nothing else away from this post, let it be that. Slow your roll. Stop and enjoy the week. Pace yourself!

Living, breathing, and going to the bathroom.

If you’ve heeded my other advice throughout this series, then you are well-equipped with a plan for loads of parties with free food, drinks, and amazing live music. You want to make the most of all this planning you’ve worked hard at! This means staying WELL throughout the week. This means:

  • Load up on Emergen-C
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Drink WATER (one after every 1-2 boozey beverages)
  • If a party has fruits/veggies available as part of their free snacks, eat them!
  • Take sit-down breaks when seats are available
  • A break could be as simple as sitting under a tree at one of those free parties, or going inside the convention center to cool off in the A/C (if it’s hot).

Speaking of the Convention Center… there are a TON of free, clean bathrooms inside! Most hotel lobbies also have lovely bathrooms, and because so many people are going in and out of all these downtown hotels, no one will stop you from using their facilities if you’re not staying there.

Pack the essentials.

  • Photo ID (everyone ID’s during SX)
  • Cell phone
  • Phone charger, extra battery, and/or wireless/battery-powered charger
  • Cash (preferably small bills for tipping)
  • Credit/Debit card
  • Refillable water bottle (there are water coolers all throughout the convention center also)
  • Maps, schedules
  • Light snacks
  • Emergen-C
  • Sunscreen
  • (because I’m a super girlie girl) powder, lip gloss, eyeliner  *optional

A cross-body bag or backpack can store all these items, as well as any swag you might collect throughout the day. Oh, and if you DO have a badge… DON’T be an idiot and keep your credit cards/photo ID inside the plastic badge sleeve. Taking that thing in and out of that is a great way to lose your badge, lose your ID/cards, or make it more difficult to scan your badge at official venues.

Getting downtown, parking, getting home safe!

If you’re driving yourself…

Give yourself about 2 hours to drive downtown, find parking, and get to where you’re going on time. No, this isn’t an exaggeration. Parking will be a nightmare, as will traffic in and around downtown.

A good tip for where to park, in regards to your plans for the day… park near where you plan to end your night. You’ll be so incredibly tired by 2am, especially if you’ve been out since before noon. It’s better to have a long trek at the start of your day, than at the end.

Many of the street meters will be wrapped up and only allow special permits to park by them, so don’t rely on where you “know” there is street parking. Garages may cost up to 5x as much as usual. So budget for parking, or be prepared to park much farther from downtown than expected.

Take Public Transporation!

If you just read the above, I might have scared you off from driving yourself. And while Austin isn’t exactly the most public transpo-friendly city, we’ve still got some great options.

Capital Metro runs later than usual during SXSW, and this site will help guide you to your destination with ease! Key tip if you live central/west: Highland Mall is pretty much shut down, and has a huge parking lot right across the street from a Metro Rail stop! The Metro Rail that also stops RIGHT in front of the Convention Center!

If you partied way too hard, use ride-sharing. GET HOME SAFE.

Above all else… make sure you get home safe. The ride sharing options in Austin no longer include Uber and Lyft, but we have Fasten and Fare, which are both good options.