The second round of wristbands for the South by Southwest Music Festival go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. They’ll set you back $189 and sales are limited to residents of the loosely defined “Austin area” which includes San Marcos, Killeen, College Station and much of Waco, but oddly, not San Antonio.
SXSW representatives say they’ve omitted Alamo City zip codes to keep passes accessible to local fans. “Expanding online wristband sales to San Antonio, the seventh largest market in the U.S., is problematic,” festival reps said. “The Waco, Killeen and College Station combined population is 1 million less than San Antonio.”
In terms of bang for buck, $189 for five days of non-stop music is a decent value. Passes to Austin’s other major music festivals Austin City Limits and Fun Fun Fun Fest, will run you $200-$250 for three days. The primary difference is guaranteed access and proximity to artists. You know you’ll actually get to see Florence and the Machine at ACL Festival, but you’ll be standing in a field with 40,000 of your fellow fans. If she were to play a more intimate setting, say Stubb’s, during SXSW, your wristband might not get you in, because you’ll be in line behind all the industry and media folks with badges. Of course, if you were ahead of the curve, you could have caught Flo in a tiny crowd at SXSW 2008, a year after Adele sang her heart out to an empty room.
Florence is highly unlikely to be at SXSW this year. Her tour routes her through South America during the fest and she plays the Austin360 Amphitheater in May, but now is a good time of the year to start playing the “likely candidates” guessing game, by looking at upcoming album releases and tour schedules.
Anyone with a major release slated for February to April is a possibility, but our favorite likely long shot is Kanye West, whose new album “Swish” is scheduled to drop on Feb. 11. West has played SXSW multiples times, including the 2011 festival when he played the Seaholm Power Plant with Jay Z and brought the Reagan High School marching band along for the ride.
Iggy Pop and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme recently announced a new collaborative album “Post Pop Depression” with a March 18 release. Both have played the fest multiple times and this one seems very possible.
Macklemore, who spent the weekend blowing up the Internet with “White Privilege II” drops his latest release with sidekick Ryan Lewis on Feb. 26. He reminisced about playing the fest when he recently swung through town, but he’ll be touring in Europe by fest time.
Elton John, long rumored to be a coveted keynote speaker for the fest, also has a new album “Wonderful Crazy Night” scheduled for a Feb. 5 release. He has one open date, March 17, on his U.S. tour, but if he didn’t make it to the fest last year when he was touring in Texas during the fest, a cross-country jaunt seems unlikely.
Other likely candidates? M. Ward, whose new release “More Rain” drops March 4 and Miike Snow whose “iii” is out the same day. Miike Snow has a three-day tour break after playing Dallas on March 15, which makes them look like a sureshot. DJ/electro innovator RJD2, whose album “Dame Fortune” comes out March 25, also seems like a solid possibility, and Weezer, whose tour kicks off in New York right before their “White Album” comes out on April 1, could happen.