FREE WEEK & HOT SUMMER NIGHTS
Free Week and Hot Summer Nights are reoccurring FREE all ages festivals that provide additional revenue to musicians and staff during slow seasons. Performances take place across all of the district’s dozen live music venues, and focus on performances by local and regional talent. While the RRCD presents the event through fundraising, policies, marketing, and events direction – talent booking is a community collaboration through our Events Committee. All performances are done in partnership with our equity partner EQ Austin, who has helped with our capacity building by developing recommendations and training that provides an equity lens and criteria for our booking and hiring practices. Over 17,000 attendees are estimated to attend these two micro-festivals annually.
Free Week started in 2003 at the legendary Emo’s (at 6th and Red River St) as a way to keep the club’s lights on and staff working during the dead winter when business was historically slow. What started as a one-venue annual event grew into a movement, with venues Austin to Nashville participating, with tens of thousands attending city-wide. The RRCD redeveloped this as a community event in 2018 and has presented this 18-yrs old festival since then. Free Week generally takes place over the first weekend (four days) of the first week of the year. Free Week 2022 is tentatively scheduled for January 6th – 9th, 2022.
Hot Summer Nights is the district’s summer version of the same program, addressing need for paid gigs for workers and performers in the dog-days of summer. As our flagship district event, HSN was the RRCD’s first district-wide program, which has been active annually since 2017. Hot Summer Nights has historically activated during the second weekend (four days) of July.
Annual SIMS Foundation Benefit
Presented by Red River Cultural District and The SIMS Foundation, this annual boutique music and arts fest highlights the excellent, ongoing work that SIMS performs to help address the mental health and addiction centered needs in our community.
The inaugural event, “Safer Venues Fest,” took place in September 2019 across six venues in the Red River Cultural District including Barracuda, Cheer Up Charlies, Empire Control Room & Garage, Mohawk, Scratch House, and Swan Dive. In addition to live music performances from local artists, support from local organizations included SIMS Foundation, SAFE Alliance, Front Steps, Home Street Music, Rainbow Patrol ATX, and Other Ones Foundation, as well as the Austin Police Department.
In 2021, we partnered with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office of José Garza to present “Safer Together: Overdose Prevention & Harm Reduction Saves Lives” to highlight the tragic rise of overdose deaths in the county and to bring everyone together to work some solutions. The event included nine local live music performances across three district venues and the very special guest speakers DA José Garza, Rep Gina Hinojosa and County Judge Andy Brown.
Our newest district-wide music and cultural event, Oktoberfest has been hosted by the German-Texan Heritage Society for generations. Known as “the biggest littlest Oktoberfest in the world”, the daylong event is meant to help showcase the rich history and heritage of German-Texans, while raising funds for the local nonprofit organization and its German Free School off E. 10th Street.
In fall 2020, Oktoberfest was a sold-on event that was held safely outdoors at Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater & Bar-B-Que. Details on Oktoberfest 2021 will be announced later this year.