It may happen only one night a year, but the reverberations last all year long. In a city where music is everything, there isn’t a local band within earshot that wouldn’t love to see their name in lights at the Austin Music Awards.
The 31st annual Austin Music Awards took place at the height of SXSW 2013 at Austin Music Hall. Much-loved Austin musicians like Ben Kweller, Alejandro Escovedo, Brownout, and Gary Clark Jr. graced the stage, and there were even rumored sightings of Johnny Depp.
There are similarities between the Austin Music Awards and awards shows like the Grammys or the Country Music Awards that you might see on television. But if you’re going to give up a night in Austin during one of the most exciting times of the year – and shell out a little bit of cash in the process – I want to make sure you know what you’re in for.
What to Expect at the Austin Music Awards
Purchasing Your Tickets
You can purchase your tickets at Waterloo Records or online through The Austin Chronicle. This year, general admission tickets were $15 a piece.
If you decided to invest in a SXSW badge or wristband, good news: your admission to Austin Music Awards is already included.
If you’re not the planning type and you wait until the last minute, you may be disappointed. This year’s show ended up selling out. Plus, the door price is $20.
How to Dress
No matter how you dress for the Austin Music Awards, there will be other people who look like you. The largest chunk of folks will go casual, and the next largest chunk will go slightly dressy.
Before our first Austin Music Awards, a friend suggested that we go all out because the Austin Music Awards are Austin’s version of the Grammys. When I showed up in a long formal, I felt like I had been the victim of a practical joke and spent the rest of the night feeling somewhat out of place.
Though some of the folks on stage are in formal attire, including many of the organizers, they’re definitely in the minority. Dressy casual is my recommendation.
No way around it – this is a tough one. There is a state parking garage right across the street that’s probably your best bet. This year, it was $15 to park there.
If you don’t want to take that hit, you could be driving around for a while. Remember, this is SXSW. I overheard a guy saying that he drove around for an hour looking for parking. Ouch.
When to Arrive
For 2013, the Chronicle was extremely insistent that everyone arrive in a timely fashion because “the winners will be announced at 7:09 SHARP.” I haven’t gotten to the bottom of the significance of 7:09 yet, but either way this proclamation was inaccurate. The first musical performance – a tribute to the late Brent Grulke (former SXSW Director who passed away suddenly last August) – started somewhere in the 7:15-7:30 window. Announcements started afterwards.
If you need to stand in the will call line, give yourself a good 10-15 minutes extra. That line is long.
What the Night Is Like
The general admission Austin Music Awards experience isn’t complicated. If you appreciate solid music – and especially if you have any familiarity with the local music scene – you’ll love it.
The night is a mixture of award announcements (see all the 2012-2013 winners here), acceptance speeches that range from heartfelt, to comical, to awkward, and musical performances.
You may not appreciate the awards ceremony too much, but this is your chance to show your support for local musicians. Multiple Hall of Fame awards are given, recognizing icons who have blazed trails and left a legacy. Grab a beer and soak it in. The awards, that is.
For most attendees, the musical performances are the highlight of the night. Throughout the history of the Austin Music Awards, there have been surprise performances from The Who’s Pete Townshend, Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, and Bruce Springsteen. I think there’s an expectation among some regulars that the Awards will feature a major guest act every year. This year, there was no big surprise and some people were disappointed.
But even without Springsteen, the Austin Music Awards gives you access to a slate of solid performers for a relatively low admission price. Ben Kweller and Brownout were my favorite acts of 2013, but Gary Clark Jr. (who swept the Awards this year), Bill Carter and the Blame, The Trishas and many more gave stellar performances.
You don’t have to stay in your chair, either. Feel free to leave your seat and stand up towards the stage – you’ll have an amazing view from there.
If you have the hookup and land VIP tickets, you’ll have access to a great view from the upper tier, as well as complimentary food from local businesses. Teo Gelato, Maudie’s Tex-Mex, Frank and others supplied some delicious treats to sweeten the night even more.
Austin Music Awards: Bottom Line
There’s so much going on during SXSW that it’s challenging to choose between events. But if you love and support local music – icons as well as up-and-comers – then the Austin Music Awards is the place for you. Hopefully this mini guide helps you plan and know what to expect. See you there next year!
Have you ever attended the Austin Music Awards? What tips or insight can you give to first-timers?