05/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Rocking SXSW on a Budget: Enjoying America's Best Festival for Free

The common misconception amongst people is that SxSW is incredibly expensive to attend.

In some instances that may be true. However, over the past two days I've seen some of the hottest bands at SxSW (including Broken Bells' second show of all time), enjoyed a popsicle, drank copious amounts of beer, ate a personally prepared pasta dish and saw Miike Snow perform from 15 feet away. And how expensive was my tab after all these adventures? Three dollars.

That's the untold thing about SxSW that sponsors desperately want to stop being a secret: you don't need a wristband or a badge to have a good time. The Local Natives, indie rock's latest poster child, is playing 17 shows during SxSW. Only two of those shows are official showcases that require a wristband or badge, so by simply RSVP'ing in advance and flashing your government issued ID you could be rocking out on a budget.

It's almost comical how quickly people flock to free things, but the recession has been tough on everybody and a meal on the house is always appreciated. Hot dog carts serving up Chicago dogs, pizza from Austin's Home Slice, breakfast tacos from El Arroyo, organic mango chili popsicles...the list of free goodies goes on and includes a lot of free beer and liquor as well.

Another thing SxSW doesn't want you to know is how easy it is to sneak into the showcases. A lineup that included Choir of Young Beleivers, Fanfarlo and Miike Snow was deemed 'badge and wristband only.' So after scoping out the venue my friend drew the attention of all three door guys with the enveloping question: "So how does my wristband work?" Meanwhile, I slipped in unnoticed. When somebody grabbed me from behind I was genuinely concerned I'd been busted, but it was just my friend celebrating.

Not feeling the David Blane route is for you? Lots of showcases invite the badgeless in for an admission price that is rarely more than $12. You won't be able to bounce around to different venues and you might not get into everything that you wanted to see but you'll spend infinitely less than you would on a wristband.

The amount of free stuff at these parties is so incredible it almost makes up for the outrageously overpriced beer.