At Auditorium Shores Saturday afternoon there was a calm before the coming storm as crowds for the night’s Garth Brooks show were still sparse and entry was easy. With many likely waiting until closer to the 8 p.m. showtime, fans were nearly outnumbered by security, staff and vendors even a couple of hours after the gates opened.
Entry was still moving at brisk pace with almost no lines through the Palmer Events Center as of 3 p.m., but the 20,000-person capacity space will surely fill fast as the day goes on and the country megastar’s set time approaches. Those attending should enter off Barton Springs Road.
Outside at Auditorium Shores, branded as the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake for the fest, it’s a sunny springtime day with super fans camping out early, sprawled on blankets and listening to simmering, foot-stomping old-time country and plucky folk tunes from gruff, bearded balladeer Colter Wall. Deep-fried fair foods, frozen margaritas and other food and drink vendors surround the perimeter.
Marty Starrett is a SXSW Music vet and wristband-holder who jumped at the chance to see a legend like Brooks. “I think he’s going to be big someday,” he laughed. “I couldn’t pass on the chance to see someone of his magnitude here.”
“It’s like getting to see Michael Jordan play with the Bulls,” added Buddy Castillo. Castillo and his wife Merry had just met Marty moments before as they rested under a rare spot of shade from a lighting rig back from the stage.
Closer to the stage, Andy and Jenny Viteo were camped out for a chance to see Brooks up close. The couple were in constant communication as they refreshed and scrambled to snag tickets online Friday. “He screamed,” Jenny said, when asked how they reacted to finding out they got tickets. Jenny and Andy have been in Austin for 12 years but said this was their first SXSW or Austin music festival ever. “This sets a high bar,” Jenny said.
“To see him like this is a once in a lifetime thing,” Andy said.
Passes for the free show sold out in minutes after the show was announced Friday. SXSW badge and music wristband holders can get access without a ticket. Re-entry is not allowed.