Country superstar Garth Brooks, already scheduled for an afternoon keynote at South by Southwest, announced at a press conference Friday morning that he will play a free show Saturday at Auditorium Shores.
Gates will open at 11 a.m. with music all day, including Sunny Sweeney, Nicole Atkins, Holly Macve, Shannon McNally, Cale Tyson and Colter Wall. Free tickets were available to residents of Austin and surrounding areas (with proof of residence via credit card billing addresses). Registration for tickets was available at noon Friday, but tickets sold out within minutes.
SXSW badge-holders and music wristband holders will also be given access without a ticket. According to organizers, special space will be allocated for primary and secondary access.
PHOTOS: Garth Brooks through the years
10:35 update: Garth Brooks posted on Instagram late Thursday night after making an appearance in Houston, further raising suspicions of a potential show at SXSW. In the video clip, he says, “As far as South by, down in Austin — What’s gonna go on there? I know. Ask me how I know.”
He’s not saying yes, but he’s also not saying no. Now that’s just shameless.
Earlier: South by Southwest has been sitting on an announcement of its final free Auditorium Shores show for two weeks, after revealing Thursday and Friday lineups back on March 2. That same day, they announced Garth Brooks would deliver the final music keynote of this year’s conference on Friday, March 17. Put those things together, and it seemed to add up to something.
Speculation that Brooks might be the Saturday evening headliner ramped up a notch late Wednesday when South by Southwest notified the media that Brooks would hold a press conference on Friday morning, a few hours before his keynote conversation with Amazon’s Steve Boom.
If it happens, it would probably be the biggest Auditorium Shores show SXSW has ever presented. Willie Nelson did one in the early 1990s, but Brooks, who recently returned to performing after taking more than a decade off, has been selling out multiple nights in arenas across North America in recent weeks.
Another potential wrinkle: Could Garth be introducing the return of Chris Gaines, his rocker alter-ego from 1999’s album “In the Life of Chris Gaines”? That seems less likely, but not out of the question given the SXSW’s platform has always leaned more toward rock than country.
The bet here is that it will be a straight-up Garth show, if it happens. It could be a recipe for mayhem along Lady Bird Lake, as the multiple-night stands in other cities have drawn a cumulative total of far more people than the usual Auditorium Shores capacity of around 20,000. (And those other shows have been ticketed, whereas this one presumably would be free, if it followed SXSW’s pattern of admitting anyone who signed up for a free SXSW guest pass.)
We’ll know more after the 11 a.m. Friday press conference. Stay tuned.