As celebrities make their ways to penthouse suites for South By Southwest, a large number of festival-goers will call Firehouse Lounge & Hostel and Drifter Jack’s Hostel home for the week.
When Collin Ballard co-founded Firehouse two years ago, there were no hostels in Austin. Currently, Firehouse is fully booked during SXSW. The hostel can house up to 72 people, has private or dorm-style rooms, and is located a block off of Sixth Street in the oldest standing firehouse in Austin.
Ballard said he opened the hostel because it was the perfect combination of his passion for travel and love of hosting. Working the front desk as concierge allows Ballard to direct guests to different spots in Austin depending on their interests. He enjoys tailoring his suggestions to make sure guests take full advantage of all Austin has to offer.
He recommends his guests visit East Sixth Street’s “off the beaten path” bar scene, Rainey Street, and the shops on South Congress.
If guests aren’t interested in leaving the cozy confines of the hostel, Firehouse will be hosting its own festivities.
The shows will take place in the dimly lit hostel bar with warm red walls and comfortable black leather booths. Firehouse kicks off its SXSW week Tuesday around 3 p.m. with a number of local bands, and it will finish up with a laid-back lounge Saturday.
“[Firehouse is] a nice little place to come and meet your friends and recharge,” Ballard said. “Charge your phone, charge your body. Get some water [and] get some more alcohol before heading out to the last shows of the week.“
Across town, Drifter Jack’s is preparing for incoming SXSW guests. Drifter Jack’s is not only a hostel; it’s a showcase of Austin artists’ murals. Located off Guadalupe and 26th streets, Drifter Jack’s will house artists and bands from all over the world.
Three weeks before Drifter Jack’s opening in October 2013, more then 25 artists worked to cover the hostel’s walls with murals. Andy Ward, UT alumnus and owner of Drifter Jack’s, said he gave the artists free reign to paint the blank walls however they pleased. As a result, each room has a different theme that exhibits the artists’ individual styles.
Painter and graffiti artist Chris Rodgers, who created murals downtown such as the #BeSomebody mural and Russian House mural, painted one of the rooms. The wall is a an East Coast meets West Coast theme with Tupac’s and Biggie’s faces covering the wall from top to bottom.
Miranda Lewis, local artist and co-founder of visionary art collective Third Coast Visions, painted female goddess figures on the yellow, orange and green walls of the female-only dorm.
A tree of life mural with double-helix DNA detailing on the tree’s trunk adorns the walls of “The Sacred Geometry Room.” Chance Roberts, Austin artist and co-founder of Third Coast
Visions, created the art for the room.
With SXSW’s ensuing influx of visitors, Ballard agreed that staying at either hostels will diversify festival-goers’ vacation experience.
“Meeting people and interacting with guests from all over the world is the biggest pay-off,” Ballard said.