12 Can’t-Miss Music Festivals in Austin, Texas
Austin didn’t earn the title of Live Music Capital of the World for nothing—you can catch high-quality shows at bars and music venues across town any night of the week! Plus, plenty of green space and year-round sunshine make the capital city ideal for hosting music festivals highlighting almost every genre imaginable.
After a couple of years of hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, festivals are experiencing a renaissance, as musicians are regularly touring again and fans are coming back out to mix, mingle, and experience their favorite acts performing live again.
Whether you’re headed to town to attend one of these incredible music festivals or decide to move to Austin to experience it all, let this article serve as a handy guide to must-see festivals happening around town throughout the year, including:
- Austin City Limits
- South by Southwest
- Oblivion Access
- Old Settlers Festival
- Eastside Kings Festival
- Austin Reggae Fest
- Float Fest
- iHeartCountry Music Festival
Let’s get started!
1. Austin City Limits
The crown jewel of Austin music festivals, Austin City Limits (ACL) began as a one-weekend event in 2002 and expanded to two October weekends starting in 2013. ACL draws an estimated 200,000 visitors to town each year for performances by over 100 artists on nine different stages. Past headliners include Billie Eilish, Miley Cyrus, The Cure, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Paul McCartney, Arcade Fire, and LCD Soundsystem.
Spread out across Zilker Park, it’s known not only for world-class performances by award-winning artists, but also for its incredible selections of food and drink (including plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options) plus an art market peddling wares from local vendors.
Austin City Limits is also a very family-friendly event, with an entire section called Austin Kiddie Limits providing its own live music, arts and crafts, and other entertainment for kids.
2. South by Southwest
Each March, South by Southwest quite literally takes over Austin, bringing 10 days of music showcases, panels, parties, film and television screenings, and other interactive programming to the city. SXSW was founded as primarily a music- and film-focused event in 1987, but the innovative global conference has grown by leaps and bounds each year.
Under the main SXSW umbrella, there is now programming dedicated entirely to industries such as education, fashion, cannabis, travel, and more. Though around 300,000 people from across the globe are said to attend South by Southwest, we can assume it’s much more than that because, in addition to all the official programming (which requires a wristband or badge to attend), there is also a plethora of unofficial shows, parties, and other events happening everywhere, many of them sponsored by brands and free to attend.
Recent years have brought plenty of VR experiences, NFT-sponsored blowouts, and talks on the metaverse and Web3— and we can expect the already tech-savvy conference to head even further in that direction with future events.
Formerly known as Austin Psych Fest, Levitation is a three-day psychedelic music festival put on by the Reverberation Appreciation Society, which includes members of the Austin-based band The Black Angels. In its early days, Levitation was held at a number of different venues, including a ranch where festers could opt to camp, but now the performances occur at different venues around the city for the weekend (namely, Mohawk, Empire, and Stubb’s).
World-class visuals are also a big part of Levitation, and many shows feature laser lights, strobe effects, liquid light projections, and more. The festival typically takes place on Halloween weekend, and past headliners have included The Flaming Lips, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Spiritualized, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Brian Wilson.
Musician Travis Sutherland founded UTOPIAfest in 2009 because he wanted to create a music festival without any of the downsides of most: overcrowding, long lines, and overpriced food, drinks, and tickets.
UTOPIAfest was originally held on his family’s land in Utopia, three hours southwest of Austin, but Sutherland has since expanded the event to Reveille Peak Ranch in Burne in an effort to maintain these same tenets. Attendance is capped at 1,500, there is no corporate sponsorship, parking and camping are free, there are only two stages with no performance overlaps, and guests are free to bring their own drinks and cook in their camps if they so choose.
Reasonably priced food, drinks, and other provisions are also available for purchase, with a focus on locally made products (Travis and his wife Noa actually own Zoi Market in Buda, too!). There are even opportunities for yoga, hiking, biking, disc golf, and horseback riding!
Past headliners at this event include Dr. John, Ratatat, Patty Griffin, Shakey Graves, Valerie June, and Rubblebucket.
Willie Nelson’s “Luck, Texas” ranch in Spicewood has long been the site of some unforgettable music showcases, including Luck Reunion, which occurs each year during South by Southwest. But this year, the Luck Family Foundation is really rolling out the red carpet for a 10-day music festival spanning from late October to early November, with ticket sales benefitting Central Texas Food Bank.
Each night brings totally different events, such as a cowboy-themed Outlaw Masquerade Ball starring alt-country cult favorite Orville Peck, a German-inspired Luck-Oktoberfest night, a Dia de Los Muertos party starring four-time Grammy winners Los Lobos, and a night benefitting Texas’ Asian-American Pacific-Islander community, with a night market filled with amazing street food and a performance by Korean rocker SASAMI.
Guests can buy a Lucktoberfest-Long pass good for every day of the fest, or purchase tickets to individual shows.
Seismic 5.0, Austin’s ultimate congregation of EDM lovers, will take over The Concourse Project in November. Seismic will feature over 50 house, techno, and underground DJs on three different stages (dubbed Volcano, Tsunami, and Frequency) across seven acres of land in Southeast Austin.
In addition to globally recognized DJs and producers like Fatboy Slim, Cerez D, TESTPILOT, I Hate Models, Maceo Plex, Sampa Paganini, and Nora Van Elken, guests can expect world-class lights and visuals, art installations, food trucks, and vendors all weekend long.
7. Oblivion Access
Formerly Austin Terror Fest, this DIY underground music festival was originally founded by Austinites Dusty Brooks and Dorian Domi with a focus on heavy metal, darkwave, and other experimental music genres. But after the 2019 edition, they decided to rebrand the event as Oblivion Access to be even more inclusive of other forward-thinking genres.
The spring festival features a spectrum of performances spanning the metal forefathers of Carcass, Converge’s metalcore with a cult following, Liturgy’s transcendental black metal, the nearly undefinable music of The Microphones, and underground hip-hop from Lil Ugly Mane, Danny Brown, and Armand Hammer. It’s safe to say we can expect future lineups at this event to be just as captivatingly diverse.
8. Old Settlers Festival
This 36-year-old nonprofit music festival is an annual celebration of folk, bluegrass, Americana, and roots music featuring both world-renowned legends and up-and-coming talent from Texas and beyond. Located in Tilmon, just southeast of Lockhart, Old Settlers Festival is known for its campgrounds, where impromptu jams and picking circles happen well beyond set times.
Camping guests are able to bring food and drink in, while the main arena is reserved for the wide variety of food and drink for sale plus vendors selling arts, crafts, and jewelry.
Old Settlers Fest takes place each April, and past performers have included James McMurtry, The Head and the Heart, Jackie Venson, Charley Crockett, Calexico, Bob Schneider, and more.
9. Eastside Kings Festival
This East Austin music festival, now in its 10th year, was created by the nonprofit Eastside Kings Festival Foundation to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of African American blues, jazz, and gospel. This year, the Eastside Kings Festival will take place across Austin in September, kicking off with performances at Antone’s and the Austin Vintage Guitar Shop before the weekend festival on East 12th and Chicon starts.
This festival spotlights 20 musicians and bands a day like Guitar Slim Junior, Stan Mosely, Tail Dragger, and Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges.
10. Austin Reggae Fest
For the past 25 years, Austin Reggae Fest has been supporting the community, with ticket sales benefitting Central Texas Food Bank. The annual music festival takes place each year at Auditorium Shores in April and features world-class reggae performers like Julian Marley and the Uprising, Anthony B, Kabaka Pyramid, Lutan Fyah, and Third World.
In addition to music, you can bet there will be delicious Jamaican food and vendors selling art, clothing, incense, instruments, and more.
11. Float Fest
If you’ve ever gone tubing and not wanted the fun to end at the end of the stretch, imagine if there was an incredible concert waiting for you. That dream is a reality with Float Fest, an annual music festival located in Gonzalez, Texas.
After a two-mile journey down the Guadalupe River, participants end with a concert featuring an all-star lineup—and they can choose to camp under pecan trees that night, too. The summer festival, which takes place in late July, features headliners like Vampire Weekend, Chance the Rapper, Lord Huron, CHVRCHES, and Kaytranda.
12. iHeartCountry Music Festival
The city’s premiere, star-studded country music festival now takes place at the brand new Moody Center, which replaced the Frank Erwin Center on the University of Texas Austin’s campus. The iHeartRadio-sponsored music festival hosted by radio personality Bobbie Bones takes place in May and features pop country stars like Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Zac Brown Band, George Strait, and Tim McGraw.
Thinking about moving to Austin?
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