From Austin City Limits to SXSW to Euphoria Fest, the central Texas area is no stranger to amazing music festivals. In a vast sea of music festivals, the Art Outside Music Festival stands out amongst the crowd as being one of the most unique experiences of its kind. Art Outside is more than just a festival; it’s a multi-sensory experience. This music, arts, and transformational festival takes place October 24 – 27th, on over 20 acres of lush grassland shaded by beautiful, old pecan trees. The grounds are peppered with everything from pop-up art galleries to giant art installations and interactive goodies. Arguably the most inspiring thing about this festival is that it fosters an environment where artists and guests can interact, bond, and share in a creative experience together.
In it’s 10 years of existence, Art Outside has grown from a small, localized event to a festival that attracts artists and festivalgoers from around the world. 2014 promises to be its most exciting year yet, with a killer lineup and more visual artists, performers, film and interactive art than ever before! Musicians on the roster include Conspirator, Emancipator, Desert Dwellers, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Mark Farina (Mushroom Jazz Set), Quixotic, Random Rab, and Thriftworks… just to name a few!
Art Outside is a family-friendly, tranquil environment by day, with many workshops, classes, and interactive events taking place. Imagine young ladies dressed as fairies, blowing bubbles as a group of children laugh and chase them. Off in the distance you can see people practicing yoga under a large tent, while a class on sound healing takes place nearby. This is a typical 3 o’clock PM at Art Outside.
As night falls, the energy builds as the workshops end for the day and the music gets louder. By 10 o’clock electronic music can be heard blasting from the Dome stage, while all genres of headliners grace the “main” stage. In years past, headliners have included The Floozies, The Polish Ambassador, Gladkill, Bluetech, Random Rab, and Kyle Hollingsworth Band.
Festivalgoers do their part to add to the funky atmosphere by dressing up in their festival-costume best. Tribal fusion gypsies, belly dancers, fire-spinners, circus performers and fairies dance with brightly clothed rave kids toting LED hula-hoops and glow sticks. Everyone is a performer at Art Outside, and no one is too eccentric.
The music at the main stage ends at around 2 o’clock in the morning, while the Dome stage keeps bumping until after sunrise. In fact, some of the most anticipated acts are the ones that play the sunrise set, something veterans look forward to every year. Depending on the volatile Texas weather, the early hours can range from perfect in temperature to almost freezing. As long as a jacket is worn, all is well. After a long night of dancing, night owls can walk the short distance back to the campgrounds and catch some shut-eye. Thanks to the abundance of shady trees, it’s easy to sleep in till noon before the tent gets too hot. It’s simply festival-perfection.
If you’re flying in from out of state, the closest airport is Austin-Bergstrom. From there, you can hitch a ride with a friend or rent a car to drive the 59 minutes to the festival. Make your life a little easier by taking the toll road most of the way. They charge a bit, but cars can travel at 85 MPH about half of the way there, cutting down on travel time. Apache pass is in (what people like to call) Downtown Texas. It’s deep in the country, so getting there can be a little confusing. There are directions on the AO website, and Google Maps seems to have gotten the memo, so this is much less of a problem than it used to be.
The best option for rest after a long, action-packed day at Art Outside is the campgrounds. As previously mentioned, the campgrounds are absolutely beautiful and full of shady trees. Most of the camping area is far enough from the late night shows that you won’t have trouble getting to sleep, even if you decide to hit the hay early. There is even a designated family camping area that surrounds a large tent that has light and drinking water. The tent acts as a common area where kids can play or sleep and parents can coordinate babysitting so that they can enjoy some night activities too! The grounds have basic facilities like running water and showers (although there may be a line if you go during prime hours!)
If you are opting for a more cushy experience, there is limited RV camping located nearby (across the street). You can walk to and from the festival from the grounds with no problem, and there are electricity hook ups if you need them. Many vendors, families, and more mature festivalgoers choose to camp in the RV area, so it tends to be much quieter at night.
If camping outside is just not your style, you can find hotels in the nearby town of Rockdale, TX. It’s about a 15-minute drive from the festival grounds and your best options are probably as follows:
Comfort Inn: 702 W. Hwy 79 Rockdale, TX 76567
Rainbow Courts Motel & Apts: 915 E. Cameron Ave. Rockdale, TX 76567
Days Inn: 221 N. U.S. Hwy 77 Rockdale, TX 76567
Be sure to book as far in advance as you can, because space is limited!
Inside the Festival
There are several stages inside the festival, each adding a little something different to the experience. There are tons of options, depending on the time of day. If you’re in a more peaceful mood, you will probably enjoy the “Folk It Up Stage”. Here you can find anything from singer-songwriters to bluegrass to renaissance style gypsy jams. This stage usually opens earlier than the others, and offers music throughout the day and early night. Some of the most unique acts of the festival can be found on this stage, it’s definitely worth spending some time there.
Another stage that strays from the festival-norm is the Pavilion stage. Held underneath a giant tent, this stage focuses more on workshops and performance art than music (for the most part). In front of the stage a cozy living-room-esqe area is set up with couches and tables. Onlookers can hear (or participate in) anything from slam poetry to spoken word to various workshops. Check it out for an out of the ordinary festival experience!
The Main stage is just that, the main stage. Musicians start playing around 3 in the afternoon and the acts continue to get more well known as the night goes on. It’s the largest stage at the festival, and the genre of music can fluctuate throughout the day. There are always tons of talented acts at Art Outside, so stick near the main stage if you want to catch the most popular ones!
The Dome Stage is arguably the most popular stage. It starts going off around sundown, and will rage all night until after sunrise. The acts at this stage are primarily electronic, and the festival does a wonderful job of scheduling the more intense, bass heavy acts around midnight and drifting into more melodic, ethnic, or chill sets as sunrise nears. If you don’t do anything else at Art Outside this year, please catch a sunrise set.
Art Outside Pro-Tips:
To maximize the awesomeness of your festival experience, I’ve compiled a list of tips for Art Outside.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Seriously. There is NOTHING that will kill your festival faster than being dehydrated. If you start feeling irritable, fatigued, or sick, you won’t be catching that next set. Even if you don’t feel it yet, make sure you drink some water every hour. No, beer does not count.
- Bring your own snacks, but don’t skip the food vendors. Art Outside has some of the most wonderful, home cooked cuisine available for purchase at the vending areas. Almost all of it is healthy, and they have both meat-eater and vegetarian options. Fill your belly with some love to fuel your festival fire!
- BYOB in the campgrounds. The festival allows you to bring your own alcohol into the campgrounds, as long as there are no glass bottles. Splurge on a few six packs of “good” beer to share with your friends!
- Don’t over do it. If you want to make it to that sunrise set, you’re going to need to pace yourself! Too much fun too early can lead to an early night, and you will have to hear all your friends tell you about the shows you missed the night before! Trust me, I’ve been there.
- If you plan on leaving to a hotel, carry a cheap-o tent with you in your car anyway. If you get too tired or don’t want to drive, just pop that baby up and stay the night!
- Dress for success. By success I mean, to look as wild and artistic as possible! Bring the usual fairy wings, tutus, and striped stockings, but maybe add a crazy hat, some awesome face paint, or a beautiful belly dance costume into the mix! Men – you can costume out too! I’ve seen some amazing festie-fashion from guys at Art Outside too. Get creative!
- Bring a camera. You’re going to want to take pictures of all of the beautiful sights! There are always amazing art installations. Huge sculptures, interactive pieces… and if you took my previous advice, you and your friends should be looking pretty photo-worthy as well!
- What ever you do, don’t skip the pop-up art galleries. Some of the most amazing artwork is housed between those temporary walls, and much of it is for sale! I’ve come across some of my absolute favorite pieces at Art Outside… just try not to spend your entire festie budget.
- Last but not least… bring clothing for all types of weather. Texas is notorious for having the most insane weather. One day it will be 85 degrees and a cold front will hit and temperatures will drop to almost freezing. Several times we’ve experienced severe thunderstorms while attending Art Outside when it wasn’t even in the forecast. Bring some warm weather clothes, a warm jacket and pants, and your rain boots. You’ll be glad you did!
While You’re in the Area
Before or after the festival, especially if you are from out of state, you should spend a day or two in Austin. There is no shortage of fun things to do and see in central Texas.
Spend a day by the water. There are too many awesome spots around Austin to name, but some classics are Barton Springs, McKinney Falls, or Hamilton Pool Preserve. My personal favorite is Hamilton pool, as it is not only gorgeous but isn’t nearly as crowded.
Hamilton Pool Preserve
Shop and eat on South Congress. One of Austin’s most popular areas for visitors is the string of shops and restaurants on South Congress. Restaurants like Magnolia Café, South Congress Café, and Home Slice Pizza are Austin staples. There are also many good vintage shops, and shops that sell ‘out of the ordinary’ stuff. Don’t forget Lucy in Disguise… Austin’s favorite costume store!
Visit 6th street (including E.6th and Rainey Street). Austin is famous for the string of bars that line the edges of 6th street downtown. At night, they block off the streets and it becomes one big party. All partied out? East 6th, and the downtown East Side in general is full of relaxed cafes, eateries, bars, and coffee shops where you can soak up some of Austin’s awesomeness.
Grab a taco! Austin is known for being taco-obsessed. While you’re in town, check out Torchy’s Tacos, Juan in a Million, or Taco Deli. All have outstanding tacos.