The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The Land of Free Music

Red River District Puts On Free Concerts
Kayla Le

Live music has increasingly gotten more expensive, making it progressively harder for venues and artists to stay in business. Free Week is an annual event that takes place in downtown Austin at the beginning of January in the Red River Cultural District. This Austin staple allows people to see live music for free every year while supporting local venues and artists.

During Free Week, local bands play at venues while Austinites and tourists come out to see them. This event has been around since 2003 when the concert venue and bar, Emo’s, formed it to keep the business together and people employed throughout the winter season. This year, Free Week took place on Jan. 5th and 6th. Callie Thoresen is the production manager for Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, one of the many venues for Free Week. According to her, Free Week allows musicians to find and create a following and helps venues to establish themselves as a place where people can see live music.      

“It definitely does help business because the winter months are probably our slowest time of year,” Thoresen said.

According to Thoresen, a few thousand people showed up for Free Week across all venues this year, which was very high in comparison to the previous few years, making this a very successful Free Week.

“Everybody was so excited and happy and having a good and safe time too,” Thoresen said. “If you don’t have a lot of money, like a lot of people don’t right now in this economy, it helps people get out and see this live music.”

Easy Compadre! is an Austin Band that performed at Flamingo Cantina on the 6th as part of one Free Week concert. Its members are guitarist Hector Tednoir, keyboardist Oscar Botello, and ​​percussionist Juan Alfredo Rios Rodriguez. 

“This is all free, but we’re still getting paid,” Tednoir said. “We’re not the best-paid workers, let’s put it that way.”

Easy Compadre! also played at Hot Summer Nights, Free Week’s partner event occurring every July. The percussionist of Easy Compadre!, Rodriguez, has attended both festivals in addition to playing at Free Week.

“It’s a round of events [Hot Summer Nights and Free Week] where the district supports the community,” Rodriguez said. “So it’s the same procedure. If you get selected by the district, it’s awesome because you’ll be playing for a very nice audience.”

Susan Ballesteros

Nicole Klepadlo is the Interim Executive Director of the Red River Cultural District. She believes that Free Week has a very positive impact on everyone involved. 

“I think one of the benefits of this festival is that it allows access to free shows,” Klepadlo said. “So people can come down, they can visit over 12 different venues, over 80 to 100 plus local acts, and they can really explore a new band that they’ve never heard of and find their new favorite while just coming to the festival.” 

The Red River Cultural District prides itself on mixing up each Free Week. It offers different genres of music, hiring new artists to play every year, and peppers the lineup with songs of many different tempos, lyrics, and nationalities. 

“Venues do their best to identify new talent, and new local talent, and so it is a mix of genres and types of music,” Klepadlo said. 

According to Thoresen, Free Week is very important to the culture of Austin. This event allows Austinites and tourists to experience the music in the self-proclaimed “music capital of the world” for free. 

“We wanna know that local music can still survive,” Thoresen said. “If we do these events, it does really matter. It does impact things.”

Free Week attendees don’t have to be exclusively adults. There are many venues where people under 18 can attend, one of which is Stubb’s Bar-B-Q.

“I think sometimes being in high school, you think that you’re not welcome to go because there’s older people around,” Thoresen said. “But music’s for everybody and everybody should get out there and experience it.” 

Paying for artists, venues, and advertising has gotten more expensive, making it tougher for the Red River Cultural District to keep Free Week running. This has caused the event to change substantially since it first started.

“[Free Week] used to be longer, and then it dropped down to three days, and now it’s two days,” Thoresen said. “The reason why is because of funding. If we don’t have the support from the city and the people, then these kinds of events like free week and supporting local artists is not gonna happen.”

Free Week and Hot Summer Nights are run by the Red River Cultural District, a non-profit organization providing live music for both the local community and tourists. To learn more about the Red River Cultural District and their mission of preserving authentic Texas live music heritage, visit their website at

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