Hotspots to Fill Up at on a SXSW Day Trip

With SXSW coming up in just a couple weeks, you might be trying to figure out a way to work a trip down to Austin into your schedule and your budget. I have one answer: Austin on a 24-hour turnaround is not all that hard to pull off. A few years ago, a bunch of us at UNT did just that. We devised a plan to road trip down to Austin and catch a few must-see shows, while taking in the city on the cheap all in one night and day.

Can it be done, you ask? Well, that depends on how ambitious you are.

Knowing that midterms would interfere with our plans, we each pleaded with our professors to pull a couple all-nighters and knock out any assignments early. Knowing how fast the free shows fill up, we hit the road Thursday evening in order to get in line for Hot Water Music's 2008 reunion show the next morning. If you are lucky enough to find a free show that takes place during the middle of the day or week, your chances are pretty good for getting in and scoring a pretty decent spot. But be prepared to wait in line for a while and bring plenty of coffee, water and cigarettes during these moments of downtime.

By leaving work or school in time for traffic to subside, the trek down to the capital will allow you to arrive just in time to catch a few hours of Austin nightlife. If you want to get into the spirit, check out Casino el Camino (517 East 6th St.) for its monster movie ambiance, cheap drinks and the best damn burger and fries you could ever sink your teeth into for under $10. Warning: These burgers are not for the faint of heart, they are massive -- topping out at over three-quarters of a pound. You really can't go wrong though, ordering any one of their six burger offerings, but I got the Amarillo burger for its spicy kick that melts in your mouth. Just be prepared for leftovers unless you haven't eaten in a week.

After a few hours of sleep and an attempt to shake off the daze of the previous night, no better way to greet the day than with a chorizo, egg and cheese breakfast taco from Tacodeli (4200 N. Lamar). For a couple bucks, this heavenly taco will give you the boost you need to fight the crowds without robbing you of your beer and merch money. But if you like to stick with the traditional, and can part with a bit more change, there is definitely no shame in stopping by Kerbey Lane or the Magnolia Café.

If I had my druthers, I'd be there for the March 18 show at Red 7 (611 E. 6th St.), the venue where Hot Water Music played the year we went. This year's bill includes some of my personal favorites like Strike Anywhere and the Denton-born Riverboat Gamblers. Like previous years, the show will be free with doors opening at noon, which has me thinking pretty hard about calling in sick that day.

Since SXSW will involve a lot of walking, waiting and rocking out, at some point you will need to refuel. With the beer flowing, check out some of the street vendors and food trucks selling shish kabobs, tacos, barbecue and pizza while you wander from show to show.

Since we are talking about keeping things cheap, check out all the free shows at Auditorium Shores. I know my high-school friends will be there, reveling in the nostalgia of the Strokes, Blue October and Bright Eyes.

Not all is lost for those of us clinging to the bottom rungs of the economy. Before heading back to DFW, stop by Thunder Cloud Subs (1010 South Lamar). My advice: Try the fresh Austin Club. For under $7, the sultry combination of smoked chicken, avocado, bacon and cheese can ease the heartbreak of yet another unrealized love affair.

With sub in tow, time to head back home, racing through those few remaining deserted patches of Interstate 35 quick enough to catch a few hours of sleep before reporting for work, or in my case, class the next morning.

With a little ingenuity and some hardcore Googling, there is no doubt that SXSW can be conquered in 24 hours. Of course if you had two days, the possibilities would be limitless.

Follow City of Ate on Twitter: @cityofate.

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James A. Keith
Contact: James A. Keith

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