Maybe you avoided SXSW this year because paying $1,250 for an all-access badge and waiting in line to see obscure musicians doesn’t sound like your idea of “a gay ol’ time.” But you are so wrong, gurl. There’s tons of queer fun happening at SXSW every year, most of it inexpensive and easy to get into. In fact, we found 10 of the queerest (and semi-secret) festival delights — with tons of links to some of this year’s hottest acts — so that if you decide to go next year, you won’t feel like the only gay in the village. Check out our top 10 after the jump.
10. The Austin Chronicle‘s Gay Place – Though Austin’s a big city with a small-town feel, its cornucopia of cultural offerings can confound even the most cosmopolitan queer. Thank goodness The Austin Chronicle‘s Gay Place blog and weekly tabloid section provides a great rundown of each week’s best events. During SXSW they suggested catching awesome lesbian rap duo God-Des and She and Barbarella’s kickin’ weekly dance party Tuezgayz. Plus, you can usually find the delightful dyke editor Kate X Messer and her wily band of contributors popping around town, always willing to have a chat and a drink (or three).
9. The loads of cute folk — Whether you like social media tech dorks, artsy fartsy film fags, or lesbian music lovers you’ll find plenty of eye-candy strolling around the festival. Admittedly, everyone looks so darned stylish that it’s sometimes hard to the queers from the merely hot, but striking up conversations with random hotties helped me meet the bi-podcaster of Beyond 6th Wade Ober, Outcast radio host Stephen Rice, and gay music promoter Kip Kouri.
8. All The Gay Films — SXSW Film is no Outfest or Fort Worth’s QCinema, but it still has loads of pro-queer films sometimes showing up in Austin long before they hit the festival circuit. This year’s queer lineup included a drama about a three-day hookup (Weekend) and documentaries about Hole’s openly lesbian drummer Patty Schemel (Hit So Hard), two pandrogyne rockers in love (The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye), and the sexism and homophobia experienced by Le Tigre (Who Took The Bomp?). There was even a film with Ewan McGregor coming to terms with his newly out 75-year-old dad (Beginners). Something for everyone, and many of the directors and producers attend the festival too.
7. AGLIFF and Homoscope — Outside of SXSW’s queer films, the Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (AGLIFF) holds a friendly meet-up filled with BBQ and free drinks, and this year the city’s alterna-queer film group Homoscope held a mini-showing of its own. AGLIFF shows polished queer films from up-and-coming directors whereas Homoscope shows DIY politically charged, avant-garde art films and animations from unruly queer artists. Between the two, they represent the latest in queer cinema and a wealth of gay celluloid knowledge should you corner one at the festival.
6. The Gay Bars – Sure, sure, every big city has gay bars, but every big city doesn’t use its gay bars as music venues during one of the world’s largest music festivals. With over 2,000 musicians from 80 different countries Austin’s newest gay bar Kiss & Fly, lesbian bar Lisptick 24, and gay haunt The Beauty Bar all featured queer musicians including sissy bounce star Big Freedia, drag terrorist Christeene, lesbian rapper Shunda K, and Violent Femmes-influenced Hunx and His Punx. Oh how the liquor flowed and the booties shook! Plus a few of the bars offer good hideaways when the movies and music have all become too much.
5. Queer Music Events – Not content to let the downtown gay bars monopolize all the musical fun, several local queer groups organized their own musical events most of which required no badge, wristband, or cover. The Glitoris hosted a bunch of awesome dance bands like Xylos, and Totally Enormous Exitinct Dinosaurs, biker bar Chain Drive had two days jam-packed with experimental music, and several queer artists put together a killer lineup at Loft 718 with gender bending bounce artist Rusty Lazer and the jammin’ New Orleans stylings of Jean Eric (with proceeds going to Project Transitions, which provides hospice, housing and support for people living with HIV/AIDS) — good music and community fundraising? Double-score!
4. SXSWhomo — It’s impossible for anyone to know about every LGBT event going on during the festival, right? WRONG. The tech savvy web-homos at SXSW interactive have made a handy, dandy website called SXSWhomo with a downloadable calendar of all the queer South By happenings and a hashtag (#sxswhomo) so that we can keep each other up to date on Twitter. The gays involved plan regular dinners and meet-ups so you never need to miss a magical moment. Consider it a secret cache of information that only the geekiest gays know about.
3. The Streets – Not only does 6th street make for great people watching (especially if you like watching frat daddies and hoochie mommas stumbling around and slurring their words), but when the music festival begins Austin becomes much louder and more international. Walking around you can hear accents, languages, and music from around the globe; see international performers duded up in dashikis, lederhosen, or spangly day-glo bodysuits; and watch rollerbladers, stilts walkers, and underwear-clad men promoting the countless businesses that visit the festival to hawk their wares. And if you get hungry you can stop by one of Austin’s many famous food trucks like Mmmpanadas, Ropolli’s Pizza, or Lulu B’s sandwiches for a quick taste of street meat.
2. Gay bands – As if there weren’t already enough opportunities to see gay music outside of the festival, the SXSW line-up always has a slew of bands with either gay members or the word “gay” in them. This year’s queer musicians included Austra and Trust from Toronto, 8-bit remix artist Unicorn Kid from Edinburgh, As for bands with “gay” in their names, there’s Gayngs, Gay For Johnny Depp, The Gay Blades, Gay Witch Abortion, and MY! GAY! HUSBAND! Just a warning though, we learned that just because the band has “gay” in their title doesn’t mean they’re actually gay… and how I wish the drummer for The Gay Blades was.
1. GayBiGayGay – For six years now, lovely lesbian locals Silky Shoemaker and Hazey Fairless have concluded South By Southwest with a glorious unofficial queer music festival called GayBiGayGay. They used to throw the event in their very own backyard but this year they changed the location to a large country field this year with a merch booth, a coffeestand (affectionately named “Starfuckers”), a beer and food stand, and nonstop music acts from 1pm until after midnight. Even better, local drag performers Arcie Cola and Rebecca Havermeyer emceed, a fairy-winged hula hooper performed burlesque between sets, and Homoscope played an hour-long loop of queer films in their own private viewing room opposite the stage. Plus the festival always brings out queer Austin families who bring their dogs and children to enjoy the open air entertainment—a great and gay way to unwind after a week full of walking, watching, and waiting.