Who's coming? What's free? We have all the answers to your SXSW questions.

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South by Southwest is rapidly approaching and while the sprawling festival can seem intimidating to tackle, we think starting with some basics can help.

We're talking frequently asked questions, y'all. Let's get into it.

When and where is SXSW?

SXSW runs March 8-16 mostly in downtown Austin. Most conference sessions are held at Austin Convention Center, JW Marriott, Fairmont Austin and other downtown hotels. Events and showcases take place in the Palmer Events Center and the Long Center, the Rainey Street District, the Red River Cultural District, clubs on Sixth Street and other sites around South Central and East Central Austin. There are also free community concerts at Auditorium Shores. Movies screen at Paramount Theatre, Violet Crown Cinema and Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar Boulevard. Satellite screenings of film fest selections happen at Austin Film Society's complex on Middle Fiskville Road.

Who are the big names at SXSW this year?

SXSW is always packed to the brim with big names at panels, red carpet premieres and on stages. New artists and speakers are being announced daily as we get closer to the festival. This year's highlights include actors Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ilana Glazer alongside comedians Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee and John Leguizamo.

In addition, WNBA legend Sue Bird, Hollywood icon Jane Fonda and NBA star Dwyane Wade will be at the fest. Austin-based drag queen Brigitte Bandit, Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, and "Call Her Daddy" podcast host Alex Cooper will also appear on panels.

Patrick Carney of the Black Keys performs during the band's Let's Rock Tour at the Frank Erwin Center in November 2019. Carney and his fellow Black Key, Dan Auerbach will deliver a keynote address at SXSW 2024. They also have gigs at Stubb's and the Mohawk.
Patrick Carney of the Black Keys performs during the band's Let's Rock Tour at the Frank Erwin Center in November 2019. Carney and his fellow Black Key, Dan Auerbach will deliver a keynote address at SXSW 2024. They also have gigs at Stubb's and the Mohawk.

What bands are playing SXSW?

The biggest name we have thus far is the Black Keys. The arena rockers will be unveiling a new documentary "This Is A Film About the Black Keys" and playing sets at Stubb's and the Mohawk. Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At the Drive-In and Mars Volta will be in town to premiere their documentary "Omar and Cedric: If This Ever Gets Weird." They'll be playing as their dub project De Facto while in town. Peso Pluma, Teezo Touchdown and Flo Milli are all logging free sets during Rolling Stone's Future of Music showcase and funk legend Bootsy Collins is playing a free show at Auditorium Shores.

Beyond the big names, look for top talent and rising stars from around the world. Global highlights include Irish punks Kneecap, Spanish rockers Hinds and psychedelic Japanese and Korean family band TENGGER.

Keep an eye out for our full SXSW 2024 music guide coming next week.

What do the different badges mean?

A Platinum badge gets you primary access to all the festivals within SXSW: Film & TV, Music and Interactive.

The other badge types are for specific festivals — either Music, Film & TV or Interactive. They get you primary access to events on your specific track and secondary access to other events.

Badge rates are currently $1,990 for a Platinum pass (walk-up Rate $2,095.00); $1,595 for an Interactive festival pass (walk-up Rate $1,695); $1,495 for a Film and Television festival pass (walk-up rate $1,595) and $945 for a music festival badge (walk-up rate $995.)

Are there SXSW wristbands this year?

SXSW Film and Music festivals have wristbands for locals. Those grant secondary access to their respective festival events. Music wristbands are currently $169 (walk-up rate $189). Film festival wristbands are currently $120 (walk-up rate $150). Wristbands can currently only be purchased online via the SXSW website using a credit card with with an Austin-area billing address. Here's a link to approved Austin-area zip codes. During the festival, locals and visitors will have the opportunity to purchase wristbands at the SXSW merch truck which will be cruising downtown. There's a rough schedule of where the truck will be on the film wristband page of the sxsw website.

Are there free SXSW events? Can I attend without a badge?

A limited number of advance pre-sale tickets are available for select SXSW film and TV screenings and single tickets are sold 15 minutes before showtime (no badge or wristband needed), as capacity allows. Some music showcases also allow a cover charge at the door, if there's room.

More: Billboard's THE STAGE at SXSW features PARTYNEXTDOOR, Christian Nodal and ILLENIUM

Nina Rush, left to right, Ziggy Baker, Parker Sutliff and Kat McDonald-Wilson cheer for the New York City punk band sorry mom at the Women That Rock day party at Cheer Up Charlie’s during SXSW 2023. There will be numerous day parties and events that don't require credentials at SXSW 2024.
Nina Rush, left to right, Ziggy Baker, Parker Sutliff and Kat McDonald-Wilson cheer for the New York City punk band sorry mom at the Women That Rock day party at Cheer Up Charlie’s during SXSW 2023. There will be numerous day parties and events that don't require credentials at SXSW 2024.

What about free things or music that doesn't require a SXSW badge?

Not all the SXSW fun requires a badge or wristband. Each year, SXSW programs free public shows at Auditorium Shores, This year's shows include a celebration of old Austin venue Steamboat with Bob Schneider and Joe "King" Carrasco and a funk night with genre legend, Bootsy Collins. There are also the afore-mentioned free Rolling Stone Future of Music showcases, and the fest hosts the free Flatstock 92 poster sale in the Convention Center. SXSW maintains a list of free showcases and events at sxsw.com.

Over the past few years, the festival has been hosting premium ticketed events, including Billboard's Stage at SXSW shows in Waterloo Park. You can sign up for a free and premium events newsletter on the fest's website.

Unaffiliated events and parties pop up around the official festival every year and we've been keeping track of those. Our guide to free parties is coming soon.

Pop artist AJ Smith performs at the Community Concert at Lady Bird Lake during South by Southwest 2023. This year's free public concerts include a tribute to old Austin venue Steamboat and a funk showcase with Bootsy Collins.
Pop artist AJ Smith performs at the Community Concert at Lady Bird Lake during South by Southwest 2023. This year's free public concerts include a tribute to old Austin venue Steamboat and a funk showcase with Bootsy Collins.

What's the bag policy for SXSW?

Check the website for any venue you plan to enter during the festival. Some venues, like the Paramount Theatre, may require clear or small bags.

How should I get to SXSW?

Oy. To avoid a headache, we recommend not trying to park your vehicle downtown during SXSW. Get a ride-hailing service to drop you off on the edge of downtown and walk over, or hop on a rentable scooter or bike instead. A bicycle is a better option for getting downtown than a car, but a ride-hailing service or public transit beat anything else.

You can look up bus and train schedules on Capital Metro's website.

What do I wear?

Amazing question, sweet reader. SXSW happens in Texas, which means you need to be prepared for a myriad of temperatures and conditions. Our best advice is this: wear comfortable shoes and pack layers. Even if it's not going to be cold that day, you may want to bring a light layer to your SXSW events in case the venue you're in is chilly. Also, umbrellas are for amateurs. Pack a raincoat or poncho in case it rains.

What should I bring?

Bring a water bottle and snacks for daytime sessions. (You'll, of course, need to check the rules at each venue you plan to visit beyond the convention center and downtown hotels.) SXSW can be tiring and we want you to stay hydrated and energized. That includes your phone — bring a phone charger.

If you're planning to hit up day parties, be sure to pack sunglasses and sunscreen (we also recommend a hat). And if you're going to music showcases, don't forget your earplugs.

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Alex Garland's new movie "Civil War" will receive its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival.
Alex Garland's new movie "Civil War" will receive its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival.

What movies and TV shows are premiering at SXSW?

Buckle up, y'all. Lots of big movies are premiering at SXSW this year and the casts are full of big names. "Roadhouse" starring Jake Gyllenhaal will open the film portion of the festival. "Fall Guy" stars Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt and will premiere on March 12. Dev Patel's "Monkey Man" will premiere on March 11 and Alex Garland's "Civil War," a combat thriller starring Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons premieres on March 14.

Season three of HBO's "Hacks" and "Babes" starring Ilana Glazer will show at Paramount Theatre on March 9. "Immaculate" starring Sydney Sweeney will premiere March 12. "The Idea of You" starring Anne Hathaway will close out the festival on March 16.

What do you need to know about tech, business and health at SXSW?

It may feel like AI is popping up everywhere lately and SXSW will be no exception. The conference includes a number of sessions related to the emerging technology, from how AI will impact shopping to a discussion with OpenAI’s head of ChatGPT, Peter Deng.

The conference will also feature a number of big names in the business and tech world including Texans Mark Cuban and Kendra Scott, AMD’s CEO Lisa Su, and Twitch CEO Dan Clancy.

Space will return as a big focus with a range of sessions, including the conference opener on March 8 exploring space and poetry with NASA and poet Laureate Ada Limón.

Dive into virtual worlds at a number of XR (virtual, mixed or augmented reality) experiences or at Johnson and Johnson’s healthcare innovation lounge, which aims to let participants explore the future of healthcare. Health-related tracks will also include discussions on mental health, neurotechnology, brain computer interfaces (brain chip technology) and psychedelics.

Vehicle technology, including autonomous (or self-driving) vehicle technology, as well as electric vehicles will also once again be the focus of a number of sessions, including a discussion featuring Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana. Porsche will also rev up a new activation this year at Brazos Hall from March 8th to 12th.

What about comedy at SXSW?

SXSW announced its comedy lineup Feb. 28 and it includes: Conan O'Brien, Judd Apatow, Hannah Einbinder, Dulcé Sloan, Punkie Johnson and Andrew Rannells, among many more.

Variety is hosting its "Power of Comedy" awards show on March 8 at SXSW. Comedians expected to attend include Samantha Bee, Nick Kroll, Rannells, John Leguizamo, Pamela Adlon, Jaboukie Young-White, Lilly Singh, Einbinder, Robbie Praw, and Cazzie David.

We'll be updating this story with more highlights as the fest approaches. Stay tuned!

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: When is SXSW 2024? What to know about lineup, free events, and more