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.