Austin Live Music Venues: Where to See Concerts and Small Shows
The capital of Texas also has another title, one with a more musical allure. Austin, a.k.a. Live Music Capital of the World, has more live music venues per capita than anywhere in the U.S. A total of over 250 in fact. With so many options, deciding where to go may seem like a challenge. That’s why we rounded up these top Austin live music venues.
Austin Live Music Venues: Where to Go and Shows to See
Austin Live Music Overview
First to note, musicians perform in virtually every locale, from grocery stores such as Central Market and Whole Foods to city council meetings. Upon entering the city via plane, visitors are treated to the sound of live music as they walk through the Austin Bergstrom International Airport.
Austin’s South by Southwest Music Festival is legendary, as is the town’s long-running television series Austin City Limits. More than 250 live music venues of all genres – from rock and blues to country and jazz – turn up the volume every night of the week in clubs, coffeehouses, bars, taquerias, auditoriums and concert halls. Never has a claim been truer: In Austin, there’s music for everyone.
The Continental Club
This historical Austin landmark opened its doors in 1955. For more than 60 years, The Continental has been one the oldest continuously running clubs in the city, operating what arguably may be the premier country and blues, rockabilly, punk, and garage rock club in the country.
A onetime upscale supper club and burlesque house, The Continental has hosted such diversified music legends as Link Wray, Junior Brown, Robert Plant, Wanda Jackson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and The Replacements.
The White Horse
Heaven’s honky-tonk, The White Horse presents local country, roots rock, folk and Western swing acts. The venue also prides itself on being the ultimate East Side dive. Perhaps the bomb tacos are the draw, offering a lengthy list of explosives that run from chorizo to pulled pork tacos. T
There’s big-time boot-scootin’ boogeyin’ going on too, with free lessons available so everyone can hit the dance floor. As The White Horse proudly says: “They don’t call us the champagne of bars for nothin’.”
For cozy settings with a laid-back vibe and the sounds of cool jazz, put Elephant Room on the must list. Exposed brick walls on the inside of this basement space help create an environment of quality hipness, the perfect setting for jazz lovers for more than a quarter of a century now.
Grab a table near the stage, and experience a warm intimacy with performers rarely found in other Austin clubs.
Hole In The Wall
Who wouldn’t love a spot whose shingle outside once read: Cheap Music, Fast Drinks, Live Women? This longtime hangout for University of Texas students and local regulars has been open for more than 40 years.
Hole in the Wall offers an eclectic musical mix that has brought folk-country artists Shawn Colvin and Nanci Griffith, blues rocker Stevie Ray Vaughan, alt-country/Americana stars Lucinda Williams and Lyle Lovett, and the poetic magic of Leonard Cohen to the stage.
Austin’s Eastside gem is often described as the way Austin used to be — laid back with plenty of good music in a relaxed atmosphere. The Sahara Lounge, whose two owners are musicians, lays out a smorgasbord of music delights for its patrons.
Hear African, Brazilian, funk, reggae, indie, folk, rock, soul, country, honky-tonk, Middle Eastern and jazz, as well as occasional DJ dance parties. The club’s decor shows off a strong African influence, along with a variety of historic music posters and maps.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Victory Grill dates to 1945, hence the Victory affiliation, as returning WWII African-American soldiers found a warm place they could frequent in the days of the segregated south.
During the era’s hey-day, Victory Grill brought in big names in jazz and blues. Billie Holiday, James Brown, Etta James and Janis Joplin all performed here. And the venue carries that same tradition today.
The Carousel Lounge
Since 1963, when it opened as an homage to New Orleans famous Carousel Bar and Lounge, this circus-themed venue has been home to an array of excellent music and good times.
Patrons delight in the off-beat decor: elephant and lion-tamer murals and a liquor-housing carousel behind the bar. Even the city’s Most Nostalgic Phone Booth resides here. The Carousel Lounge has also hosted a variety of grassroots acts and entertainment, from bands to belly dancers.
There are many historic venues in Austin. However, none go further back than Scoot Inn, whose location dates to 1871, when the site opened as a community grocery/mercantile store that did a little bootlegging and gambling on the side.
Since 1955, when “Scoot” Ivy and his wife bought the place, local and touring bands have generated come-and-see-us music on a semi-shaded outdoor stage that offers sight lines and comfortable viewing.
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