Austin’s not just for serious slackers anymore. Over the past decade, the hustling South by Southwest Music Festival has mushroomed into a four-day, Texas-size buffet of 700 bands and free barbecue where performers from Beck (’94) to the Fugees (’96) have launched their careers. The perfect weather has helped turn this annual event into “the spring break for the music industry,” so first make a very early reservation at the laid-back Austin Motel (already booked solid for 1999) or the upscale Omni. Weekend all-access music badges are $245 in advance, but if you don’t mind skipping the seminars, you can try your luck at Waterloo Records, where unsold showcase wristbands, with more-limited access, are sold to locals for $65. For dinner, avoid the crowded downtown restaurant corridor and make a detour east of the I-35 to Sam’s BBQ for a rib plate that will power you through those late-night showcases. And the breakfast tacos at Juan in a Million will tame any and all Lone Star hangovers.
DETAILS South by Southwest Music Festival (512-467-7979; www.sxsw.com); the Austin Motel (512-441-1157; rooms start at $90); the Omni Austin Downtown Hotel (800-THE-OMNI; rooms start at $189); Waterloo Records (474-2500); Sam’s BBQ (478-0378; entrées, $5.95 to $7); Juan in a Million (472-3872; breakfast taco, $1.85).