As always, the South by Southwest Music Festival anchors the spring music calendar, and Austin City Limits Music Festival holds down the fall. In between, long-running local fests like Austin Reggae Fest and Old Settler’s Music Festival return, and new events like the Two Step Inn in Georgetown, the Austin Blues Festival and the Country Music Television Awards saddle up for their first go-round.
Here’s what’s on the books so far for Austin music festivals.
Bruce, Janet, SZA and the CMT Awards:Your guide to live music in Austin for 2023
JANUARY 5-7: Free Week in the Red River Cultural District
Scenario 1: You just moved to Austin and are curious about the local music scene, but don’t know how to start exploring. Scenario 2: You used to go out all the time, but life happened and also, you’re on a budget. Scenario 3: You and your homies rule these streets. If any of these scenarios describe your life, we have good news. Over a three-day period, a dozen venues in the Red River Cultural District will throw open their doors to present no-cover shows by more than 100 local acts. Clubs on the roster include staples like Cheer Up Charlies, Mohawk and Empire, as well as Flamingo Cantina (on Red River-adjacent Sixth Street). Latin dance club Mala Vida, vampire hangout Elysium and the 13th Floor will also be in the mix, and there will be food and drink specials at restaurants and bars throughout the district. Bands on the roster include rising soul artist Chief Cleopatra, Sweet Spirit’s Sabrina Ellis and the Bright Light Social Hour. redriverculturaldistrict.org.
MARCH 13-18: South by Southwest Music Festival
Even before the pandemic, the sun had set on the March music fest’s celebrity heyday. In the past few years, SXSW organizers have refocused on the event’s original purpose as an international discovery fest. Will your wristband include Lady Gaga playing Stubb’s or a Megan Thee Stallion pop-up at a parking lot in East Austin? Probably not. But you might catch this year’s Wet Leg, a sensation in the making who uses the spring fling to catapult themselves into the spotlight before summer touring season. There will be plenty of other opportunities to catch talented up-and-comers from around the globe, including a new Future of Music series that aims to peg breakouts, produced in partnership with Rolling Stone. $695 badge; wristbands will go on sale this year. sxsw.com.
More:A guide to movies recently filmed in Austin (hello, Ben Affleck)
MARCH 30-APRIL 2: HonkTX! Community Street Band festival
Locations and lineup for the scrappy street band festival are not yet available, but ragtag bands of brassy merrymakers will be marching through the city all weekend long. HonkTX! events are free, family-friendly jams that celebrate street music traditions from N.O.L.A. second lines to European klezmer acts. Last year’s event included a Friday evening show behind Jo’s Coffee on South Congress and daylong parties at Mueller Lake Park on Saturday and Pan Am Park on Sunday. honktx.org.
APRIL 1: Austin Urban Cultural Fest at Auditorium Shores
Scheduled to coincide with the Texas Relays track meet at the University of Texas, the event formerly known as Urban Music Fest has become the premier annual R&B happening in Central Texas. In recent years, organizers have expanded the event’s vision. Beyond music, the celebration spotlights Afro-centric food, clothing, dance and visual art from the Austin area. Seventies electrofunk influencers Zapp take top billing on a musical roster that also includes Mint Condition’s Stokley Williams, Lyfe Jennings, Chrisette Michelle and more. $75-$150. urbanmusicfest.com.
APRIL 2: CMT Music Awards at the Moody Center
For the first time in history, the only fan-voted country music awards show is leaving Nashville. A few thousand tickets to the Kelsea Ballerini-hosted ceremony will be released to the general public soon. But even if you don’t manage to snag a seat, you might be able to boot up and boogie with the Country Music Television crew. “It’s the first major award show in our city, and beyond what happens at the arena through the actual show and the red carpet ceremony, CMT is planning a citywide takeover,” Moody general manager Jeff Nickler told the Statesman in December. CMT live shows will broadcast on location from Austin, and Nickler said to expect pop-up parties and other events leading up to the show. moodycenteratx.com.
APRIL 15-16: Two Step Inn at San Gabriel Park in Georgetown
Brought to you by the team that produces ACL Fest, this new fest in the northern ‘burbs has a mission: to unite “old school and new school country” and “everything in between.” Headliners Zach Bryan and Tyler Childers represent the new school, while veterans like Wynona Judd, Tanya Tucker and Travis Tritt hold it down for the old school. I suppose in this analogy, country-inspired sets from T-Pain and Diplo fall into the category of “everything in between.” Technically sold out. twostepinn.com.
APRIL 20-23: Old Settler’s Music Festival in Dale
After significant restaffing during the pandemic shutdown, organizers say the 36-year-old roots-and-Americana music celebration will return to its, well, roots as a family-friendly campfire jam. In this case, it’s a jam that includes one of the most powerful voices of her generation, British singer-songwriter Yola, alongside top pickers the Wood Brothers. Americana duo Shovels and Rope and Austin fave Shinyribs round out the top tier of the roster. Festival organizers are also scaling back to daytime acts on the campground stage only and removing fences so campers can bring their own beverages throughout festival grounds. Advance prices: two-day for $100; three-day for $175; four-day for $225. oldsettlersmusicfest.org.
APRIL 21-23: Austin Reggae Festival at Auditorium Shores
The lineup has not yet been released for this mellow-groove bash, but let’s be real: Does it matter? Flamingo Cantina, the Sixth Street club that has been home base for reggae in Austin for over 30 years, helps with booking, and there will be at least one or two international reggae heavies on the roster. But the event, which misses the stoner holiday 4/20 by one day this year, is about more than music. It’s an old-school Austin vibe fest with an extensive multicultural vendor market, diverse food offerings and blatant public celebration of a certain plant that was recently decriminalized in the city of Austin. austinreggaefest.com.
APRIL 29: Austin Blues Festival at Waterloo Park
Back in 1999, Clifford Antone, founder of his famed namesake nightclub and the greatest blues patron in Austin history, launched a short-lived festival. Over three years, the Antone’s Blues Festival brought the likes of Ray Charles, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker to Waterloo Park. Fast forward a few decades, and the team from his namesake club has joined forces with staff at Waterloo Greenway to revive the festival in the park’s beautiful new amphitheater. The festival traces the way the blues have moved through our culture, with a diverse lineup helmed by Latin-rock titans Los Lobos and Booker T’s Stax Revue, an ensemble led by the most famous Hammond B3 player in history. Adrian Quesada will bring a live rendition of his excellent new album, “Jaguar Sound,” to the stage, alongside BLK Odyssy, whose breathtaking expanded release, “BLK Vintage: The Reprise,” was one of the best albums of 2022. $50 and up. waterloogreenway.org.
MAY 6-7: Pecan Street Festival
Celebrating its 48th year, the free event that sprawls down Sixth Street is not only the largest arts and crafts festival in Central Texas, it’s one of the oldest events of its kind in the country. In addition to art vendors and street food, the festival operates multiple stages featuring live music from top local and regional acts. The fall edition of the fest takes place on Sept. 16-17. pecanstreetfestival.org.
MAY 25-28: Hot Luck Fest in the Red River Cultural District
The food’s the real draw at this event created by Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue, James Moody of the Mohawk and Mike Thelin, co-founder of Feast Portland. But organizers generally provide a solid soundtrack to your noshing. The 2023 lineup has not been release but past artists include the Motts, Robert Ellis and DJ Jazzy Jeff. All access “whole enchilada” packages on sale for $450 plus fees. A la carte tickets will be available closer to the event. hotluckfest.com.
MAY 19-20: Seismic Spring Lite Edition at Concourse Project
The little sister to Seismic’s fall event, one of the largest underground house and techno festivals in Texas. Two-day for $119 and up.
JUNE 16-18: Oblivion Access Festival in the Red River Cultural District
The cult fave festival has been steadily expanding and the 2023 edition will bring the noise to seven venues in the Red River Cultural District including both stages at Empire and the Mohawk. The lineup isn’t out yet, but organizers present a well-curated mix of eardrum-shattering metal, hip-hop and experimental music. All-access passes are sold out, but tickets to individual events will come online this year. oblivionaccessfestival.com.
OCTOBER 6-8 and 13-15: Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park
The massive multistage blowout draws roughly 75,000 daily to the crown jewel of Austin’s parks system. The lineup won’t drop until late spring, but it’s safe to expect a cross-genre mix of chart-toppers playing songs you might have heard on the radio or at the gym, alongside up-and-comers playing songs you might hear at the gym in a few months. Also expect a few legacy rockers for the silver foxes, and a few TikTok stars the silver foxes have never heard of, in the mix. The first round of tickets went on sale and sold out in November. Three-day passes start at $300. aclfestival.com.
OCTOBER 26-29: Levitation in the Red River Cultural District
The local experimental music festival returns with four days of boundary-pushing music. The lineup won’t be out for a while, but past headliners have included Jesus and Mary Chain, L7, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and host band the Black Angels. levitation.fm.
NOVEMBER 10-12: Seismic Dance Fest at Concourse Project
The lineup for the two-day, multi-stage house and techno festival in Southeast Austin won’t be out for a while, but past headliners have included international stars like Jamie XX, Black Coffee and Fatboy Slim. In addition to music, the event includes art installations, food trucks and more. Three-day $169 and up. concourseproject.com.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to correct the date of Austin Blues Festival.