Riverboat Gamblers, 2007. Photo by Jay West

SXSWorld

A Look Back: 25 Years of the SXSW Outdoor Stage

Reviewing the history of SXSW's free concert series

For over 25 years, the SXSW Outdoor Stage has hosted free charity beneficiary concerts for the general public, enabling both Austinites and visitors to enjoy some of SXSW’s biggest names without a badge or wristband. In recent years, these shows have become SXSW’s largest venues, drawing more than 50,000 attendees over three days.

The concert series has been anchored both past and present at Auditorium Shores, on the south bank of Lady Bird Lake. Its beginnings were in 1992 with a one-night Columbia Records-sponsored show that featured future Grammy and Academy Award winner T-Bone Burnett, as well as a surprise appearance by the legendary Willie Nelson.

In 1994, the first multi-day concert series debuted on a stage located at the corner of 6th and Brazos Streets (outside of the Driskill Hotel), where it remained for four years. The Outdoor Stage then moved a few blocks north to Waterloo Park in 1998 where it remained for another four years. In 2002, the concerts returned to Auditorium Shores where they have remained aside from 2014, when due to park renovations, they were moved to a stage across Riverside Drive outside of the Palmer Events Center.

The Outdoor Stage is free and open to the public. Keep an eye on sxsw.com for announcements of the 2019 lineup.


Iggy Pop, 1996.
Photo by John Carrico
close icon

Charles Bradley, 2015.
Photo by Danny Matson
close icon

Ian Moore, 1998.
Photo by Michelle Dapra
close icon
Outdoor Stage - Photo by Tye Truitt
Outdoor Stage - Photo by Tye Truitt
Photo by Tye Truitt
close icon

Cafe Tacvba, 2013.
Photo by Richard McBlane
close icon

Crowd during Deftones, 2016.
Photo by Jessy Ann Huff
close icon

Lion Babe, 2014.
Photo by John Carrico
close icon

Wolfmother, 2016.
Photo by Andy Nietupski
close icon

The Strokes, 2011.
Photo by Daniel Cavazos
close icon

Jimmie Dale Gilmore, 1997.
Photo by Jana Birchum
close icon

Crowd during Bowling for Soup, 2011.
Photo by James Buchan
close icon

Riders Against the Storm, 2017.
Photo by Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Patti Smith, 2000.
Photo by @GaryMillerShoots
close icon

Counting Crows, 2012.
Photo by Debbie Finley
close icon

Childish Gambino, 2014.
Photo by John Carrico
close icon

JJ Grey & Mofro, 2013.
Photo by John Carrico
close icon

Outdoor Stage, 2015.
Photo by Danny Matson
close icon

Cheap Trick, 2010.
Photo by Scott Melcer
close icon

1992 Music Program Guide
close icon

Jim James, 2013.
Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Outdoor Stage, 2011.
close icon

Lucinda Williams, 2014.
Photo by Heather Kennedy/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Doug Pinnick and Slash, 2014.
Photo by Heather Kennedy/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Outdoor Stage, 2014.
Photo by Dustin Finkelstein/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

William Bell and Snoop Dogg, 2014.
Photo by Jordan Naylor/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Outdoor Stage fireworks, 2015.
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Spoon, 2015.
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Outdoor Stage, 1999.
Photo by Shelley Rutledge
close icon

Deftones, 2016.
Photo by Sean Mathis/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Systema Solar, 2016.
Photo by Waytao Shing/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Intocable, 2016.
Photo by Waytao Shing/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Outdoor Stage, 2011.
Photo by Scott Melcer/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Residente, 2017.
Photo by Nicola Gell/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Panteon Rococo, 2017.
Photo by Nicola Gell/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Outdoor Stage, 2017.
Photo by Nicola Gell/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

DJ Jester the Filipino Fist, 2017.
Photo by Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Outdoor Stage, 2015.
Photo by Daran Hermman
close icon

Flaming Lips, 2013.
Photo by Tye Truitt
close icon
DSC_7627-1
Outdoor Stage, 2017.
Photo by Merrick Ales
close icon

Boris, 2007.
Photo by @GaryMillerShoots
close icon

Public Enemy, 2007.
Photo by Brian Birzer
close icon

Shinyribs, 2018. Photo by Shedrick Pelt
Photo by Shedrick Pelt
close icon

Prince Tribute Concert, 2017.
Photo by Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, 2018.
Photo by Merrick Ales
close icon

Andy McKee, 2012.
Photo by Dan Slutsky
close icon

Nicole Atkins, 2017.
Photo by Merrick Ales
close icon

Albert Hammond Jr., 2018.
Photo by Merrick Ales
close icon

Nathaniel Rateliff and Shakey Graves, 2018.
Photo by Merrick Ales
close icon

Outdoor Stage, 2014.
Photo by Tye Truitt
close icon

Vintage Trouble, 2014.
Photo by Jim Antich
close icon

Riverboat Gamblers, 2007.
Photo by Jay West
close icon

El Freaky Colectivo & Friends, 2018.
Photo by Carol Watson
close icon

Erykah Badu, 2009.
Photo by John Carrico
close icon

Explosions in the Sky, 2009.
Photo by Gideon Tsang
close icon

Foster the People, 2014.
Photo by Nam Chau
close icon

Talib Kweli, 2008.
Photo by Daniel Lewis
close icon

Shiny Toy Guns, 2012.
Photo by Josh Anderson
close icon

Bowling for Soup, 2011. Photo by James Buchan
close icon

2018 Attendees.
Photo by Letitia Smith
close icon

Ozomatli. 2010.
Photo by Bobby Arispe
close icon

A Giant Dog, 2018.
Photo by Jordan Hefler
close icon

Ice Cube, 2008.
Photo by Daniel Lewis
close icon

The Cult, 2012.
Photo by Josh Anderson
close icon

Intocable crowd, 2016.
Photo by Tim Strauss
close icon

Los Lobos, 2018.
Photo by Carol Watson
close icon

Flaco Jimenez, 2018.
Photo by Carol Watson
close icon

Bomba Estereo, 2012.
Photo by Josh Anderson
close icon

2008 crowd.
Photo by Daniel Lewis
close icon

Rock Erickson, 2018.
Photo by Shedrick Pelt
close icon

Systema Solar, 2016.
Photo by Tim Strauss
close icon

Outdoor Stage, 2017.
Photo by Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW
close icon

More Galleries

Super Sponsors

White Claw logo
American Express logo
Austin Chronicle logo

Stay Tuned

Sign up to receive the latest announcements, tips, networking invitations and more.