Find live music everywhere in Austin, from historic nightclubs and high-tech halls to corner bars, kitschy coffeehouses and spirited outdoor festivals.
While you’re visiting Austin, take a moment to just stop and listen. Undoubtedly, you’ll hear the sounds of live music that seem to permeate nearly every pocket of the city. We’ve rounded up some of Austin’s best music venues and festivals to point you in the right direction.
ROCK ‘N ROLL SHOWS
If you’re ready to rock, grab a ticket for any show at Mohawk. Their lineups are always killer and there are often two shows happening simultaneously, inside and out. Just across the street is Stubb’s Bar-B-Q. This amphitheater/barbecue joint has played a huge part in making Austin the Live Music Capital of the World®, and on a starry summer night there’s no better place to be drinking a cold Firemans #4 beer. Empire Control Room & Garage is a unique space that presents everythingfrom themed dance parties to electronica and hardcore bands. There’s room to spread out at the Historic Scoot Inn, where the indoor vibe is lumberjack chic and the expansive outdoor stage features some of the best sounds in the city. Alternative music was practically born at Emo’s. And though it has a newer, larger location, its spirit of indie rock remains unchanged. For something a bit more intimate, power duo Hotel Vegas and Volstead pack people in for high-energy, up-close-and-personal shows and DJ nights. 3TEN ACL Live showcases almost as much talent as the larger ACL Live at The Moody Theater, but has a more local feeling and is easier to get tickets to.
Austin icons own the stage at Antone’s, where you can also get your shoes shined and peruse records at Big Henry’s next door. Just down the road is famed barbecue joint Lamberts, where you’ll find lots of live music in a little upstairs, shotgun-style bar. C-Boy’s Heart & Soul’s name says it all, with daily happy hour performances and late-night shows under a spinning disco ball. Head to East Austin to find real deal, down-and-dirty blues at both Skylark Lounge and King Bee. Sahara Lounge is renowned for its eclectic lineup that encompass everything from ‘70s ladies nights to singer/songwriters and Africa Night (with a free buffet of African foods).
JAZZ MUSIC SCENE
There aren’t many basements in Austin, but that’s not the only thing that makes the downstairs Elephant Room special — it’s the musicians. Some of the finest jazz performers in the city grace this underground bar on the regular. A newer jazz cat on the scene is Parker Jazz Club. Snap your fingers at the trio onstage while sipping a chilled martini. Look for Monks Jazz Club, a pop-up jazz event held in various spaces around the city and set up “listening room” style. Hush and let the artists work.
CUTTING EDGE MUSIC CLUBS
If there’s any place for music that’s a little out of the ordinary, it’s Austin. Stop in to Cheer Up Charlies for boozy kombucha and a chance to catch the next big act or a themed dance party. Stay Gold keeps it sexy with a lounge vibe and glittery gold backdrop for everything from Vinyl Night to bluegrass quartets. You can eat, drink and sit front-and-center at Native Hostel, where they host regular music in the ballroom and lounges. Speakeasy is a staple of the downtown music scene and you’ll often find tribute bands rocking the main room. The Continental Club is one of the most famous live music spots in Austin, with nightly shows and frequent celeb appearances onstage. Any show you see at The Far Out Lounge & Stage will be a good one — the talent is top notch. On Sundays, follow the brassy strains of the Big Band Brunch at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden.
LOW KEY LOCAL MUSIC
Located on the campus of the University of Texas, the Cactus Cafe is the stuff of legend. Lyle Lovett, the Dixie Chicks, Guy Clark, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and more have gotten their starts here. The Saxon Pub has a place in the heart of every Austinite. Its quirky setup hasn’t stopped it from hosting some of the best musicians from around the city.
LIVE COUNTRY MUSIC
It’s okay if you don’t know how to two-step, because the folks at The White Horse will teach you for free. The dance floor is always packed with twirling couples. The Broken Spoke is about as old-school country Austin as you can get (it’s even on the cover of George Strait’s latest album). Johnny Cash fans will be in heaven at the Mean Eyed Cat, where his song lyrics and folk art grace the walls. Check their calendar for Johnny Cash tribute band nights. The Little Longhorn Saloon is great for honky-tonk acts and drinking on the cheap, with $1.50 happy hour Lone Star Beers.
DANCE CLUBS & NIGHTLIFE
There’s nothing like a pulsing dance floor, and that’s what you’ll find at the Miami-style Coconut Club, complete with DJs and a laser light show. Almost every night is a theme night at Barbarella. Drop in for Tuezgayz, Grits ‘n Gravy on Wednesdays, ‘80s night on Fridays and more. If you’re chasing a DJ sound, check out Vulcan Gas Company. House, techno, broken beat, dubstep, drum and bass — Vulcan Gas Company is always hosting a show with up-and-coming or established DJs. Elysium is a catch-all for DJs, dance bands, drag shows and goth nights. It’s definitely the home for alternative nightlife in Austin and it’s always fun.
AUSTIN’S ICONIC MUSIC VENUES
Austin’s big venues attract the biggest artists. The Frank Erwin Center is a popular stop for headliners of all genres, from pop singer Lady Gaga to hip-hop star Drake. Home to Austin City Limits television show tapings, ACL Live at The Moody Theater is a jewel of a theater that hosts incredible talent, along with local events like the Austin Music Awards. There’s not a bad seat in the house at the iconic Paramount Theatre that dominates Congress Avenue or at the smaller One World Theatre, which attracts legacy acts and eclectic music. With a capacity of 17,000, the open-air Germania Insurance Amphitheater at Circuit of The Americas is a heavy hitter on the concert scene, hosting everyone from Maroon 5 to Megadeth. See theater, music and dance performances at the Long Center. In spring 2021, look for the opening of the Moody Amphitheater. The new live music venue will be the centerpiece of Waterloo Park, a sprawling green space with trails and play spaces.
MUSIC FESTIVALS IN AUSTIN
Many a band has made it big after shows at SXSW, and this festival just keeps getting more influential. Zilker Park is home to Austin City Limits Music Festival. This little indie festival has become Lollapalooza-esque in recent years, attracting the biggest names in the industry and stretching out over two weekends. All the venues along Red River and East Austin light up with music from LEVITATION, a psych-rock festival that encompasses everything from dark wave to experimental punk. JMBLYA may have started in another Texas city, but this urban music festival has quickly found a devoted following in Austin.
5 LIVE MUSIC EXPERIENCES
- Hop a Twisted Texas Austin Live Music Tour Experience and enjoy tunes while you’re touring courtesy of a live band that plays on the bus.
- Listen to real honky-tonk music at The Little Longhorn Saloon, in between rounds of the wacky Chicken Sh*t Bingo.
- Austin’s favorite record shop, Waterloo Records hosts intimate in-store performances for record releases and offers an incredible music selection.
- On Wednesdays, catch the Texas Radio Live broadcast at Güero’s Taco Bar’s Oak Garden.
- H-E-B Terrace + Hartman Concert Park at the Long Center hosts a summer event series that includes Sound & Cinema (featuring movies scored with live music) and outdoor symphonic performances.