For those of you who aren't familiar, SXSW is the biggest music festival in the U.S., happening over five days and four nights each year in gorgeous Austin, Texas. More than 1,200 bands play the fest while thousands of music industry folks and fans run amok in true Spring Break style. We're sure at least some business gets done, but overall it's an excuse to stay out late, hang with your friends and (over)indulge in margaritas and tasty Tex-Mex food.

After unsuccessfully requesting a last minute press badge, we headed to Austin with only our hopes and the coveted free party list. We don't know who compiles the free party list, but we thank the gods each year when some kind soul forwards us a copy. All of the official showcases happen at night and require an expensive badge or wristband for entrance, but the free parties happen during the daytime when press, record, marketing, and Internet companies rent out a venue, serve free beer and get great bands to play. We figured we could see enough free music during the daytime to warrant our trip down south. Luckily our thoughtful friend John Doe saved a wristband for us, so by Thursday afternoon we had access to the evening showcases too. (John's new record Forever Hasn't Happened Yet was released today. Read more about it here.)

We admit it's a bit strange to travel all the way to Texas just to hang out with our San Francisco friends, but we had SFist content on our minds. Arriving late Wednesday night, we managed to find SFist Jackson for a few minutes before our hunger drove us further down 6th Street for sustenance. During dinner at Paradise, a nondescript college burger and beer joint, none other than Joanna Newsom swanned past us in her colorful regalia. She was cozied up at the bar with a beau, whose identity we would discover later. Having not yet gotten our free wristband, we wandered about, unable to see any shows, and called it an early night.

We actually see some live music, after the jump.