The future of music

15 Best Austin Music Venues (Live Music)

June 1, 2023
austin music venues

If you have your finger on the pulse of musical and creative culture, you’ll probably struggle to remember a time when Austin wasn’t constantly ranked one of the foremost cities in the U.S.

But Austin’s glittering, buzzy, painfully hip reputation is fairly recent.

Ultimately, Austin’s rapid-fire rise to the top of the proverbial pyramid can be traced to an intentional, experimental, eclectic flourishing arts and music scene.

Hipsters the country over began to leave rain-soaked Portland in the dust and set their sights on breezy, charismatic Austin instead.

Stocked to the rafters with kitschy dive bars, craft beer patios (open year-round, no less), and whimsical vintage stores, Austin is amicable and easy to love, and it’s the kind of city that loves you back with riotous live acts and mischievous indie bands.

These are the fifteen best Austin music venues that are keeping Austin weird. 

1. The Continental Club

The Continental Club

A storied fixture on the Austin cultural map, Continental Club has a sixty-year legacy of bringing together an eclectic and fervently innovative selection of music on buzzy South Congress.

Whether you want a riotous punk night or a sublime, sophisticated evening of blues and jazz you can get your fix at the Big C.

Some of the most imposing names in classic rock, jazz, and street punk have graced the stage: The Replacements, Robert Plant, Double Trouble, and Wanda Jackson. 

The 200-capacity venue is intimate and allows for a vivid, compulsive ambiance where electricity animates musicians and spectators alike. 

Nowadays, they have opened their hearts to a distinctly country, rockabilly, and garage rock listenership and host a breezy, effortless Sunday event where tourists and locals alike can two-step. 

2. ACL Live at Moody Theater

ACL Live at Moody Theater

Austin City Limits America’s longest-running music series iteration at the Moody Theater does not disappoint. 

From the Willie Nelson statue to the flawless sound system, you can enter your name in a lottery to be included in the audience of a live taping, or you can go the old-fashioned ticketed route for any of their big-name performers.

With a generous capacity of 2,750, the focus here is unadulterated, top-tier, class-act sound and an unparalleled experience dedicated to the immersive potentials of live music. 

They are celebrated not only for their legacy of twentieth-century culture-making but also for their one hundred-plus concerts a year.

3. Stubb’s BBQ

Stubb’s BBQ

Located in the thriving and energetic Red River District, Stubb’s can pack 1,800 music-loving souls into its massive amphitheater and its wild-west-equipped bar.

The nature-made incline from the stage allows for blessed vantage points and allows you to soak in the temperate Austin climes while feasting your ears on the best sounds on the block.

As the name would suggest, you can also indulge in one of Texas’s most famous culinary offerings, Southern BBQ.

With their down-home, kitschy commitment to “cold beer, live music” Stubb’s is the kind of venue where you leave your pretensions and high-flying conceits at the door.

If you seek organic, unadulterated glee and want to embolden your hedonistic side, get to it.

4. Antone’s

Antone’s

Revered as the “World Famous Home of the Blues”, Antone’s originally opened on 6th Street in 1975 but the new 5th Street location embodies the same lush elegance that animated Clifford Antone’s vision when he first opened the joint.

Nearly every formidable, esteemed blues act or musician in twentieth-century history has passed through Antone’s doors – think Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Jimmy Reed,  and Double Trouble. 

Antone’s has a capacity of 450 but still retains a well-appointed, confidential charm that belies the sultry, emotive magnetism of the genre it has dedicated itself to.  

They have an early evening and a late evening show, enabling music lovers to gave an upmarket, elevated night on the town, far from the hay bales and boot stomping.

It was once the bar of choice for tragic, fervently talented Stevie Ray Vaughan, and if it is good enough for one of the best guitarists of all time it is good enough for you.

5. Cheer Up Charlies

Cheer Up Charlies

Not for the normies or the mainstream apologists among us, Cheer Up Charlies is defiantly, eccentrically itself and it brazenly celebrates vegan and queer communities.

Cheer Up speaks to the quirky, unflappable heart of Austin – the free-wheeling foundation that was there before the bachelorette parties and the social media buzz.

You can take your fresh-squeezed cocktail and vegan snack and hop between the bohemian indoor stage or the outdoor stage (backed by a limestone cliff backdrop) with its mellow patio.

This is your one-stop shop for vibrant, anti-establishment countercultures in Texas’s strangest city.

6. The Mohawk

a mini bar

Crusty, campy, and packed to the rafters with the ephemera and artifacts of High Americana, the Mohawk encapsulates the delightfully seedy atmosphere you want when you find yourself in a bar in Austin.

Join the stuffed grizzly bear and take in the wood-paneled interiors, the cozy fireplace, and the outdoor stage and mezzanine where you can scope out the city’s unfazed, unflustered cool kids.

If you gravitate towards the eclectic edge of rock and lowbrow culture, you’ll be salivating at the tectonic, hedonistic output that Mohawk’s musicians dish out. 

If that doesn’t appeal, treat yourself to the rooftop where you can take in the glittering Red River hood and imbibe in craft beer in style.

7. Parish

performing music concert with a lot of people

Considered one of the best places for technical purists, Parish puts heart and soul into delivering music at its unvarnished, immaculate best–fuzzy feedback begone.

Don’t let the warm, densely atmospheric wood-floor interior and low-flung, miniature stage fool you, the unfussy venue can fit 450 music fanatics into its well-appointed interiors.

Managed by independent music promoters, Parish embodies a passion for off-kilter, indie, garage-n-basement-born DIY acts who swing upstream from the main current.

Important point of business, though: Parish is general admission only so if you’re keen to spend a thrilling and divine evening here, get there early or get ready for the crowds.

8. Empire Control Room & Garage

Empire Control Room & Garage

Not merely a turn-of-phrase, this venue truly is an Empire of sound, debauchery, and irreverent indulgence.

The space is kitschy and surreal and features three stages, one of which is in a repurposed auto garage, which lends a certain nostalgic light-heartedness to the scene. 

Indeed, in addition to the garage, there is a control room and a patio, so you can indulge in the sick and insatiable reverb from different angles of vision.

From buzzy indie acts to unbridled raves to urbane and unconventional hip hop, Empire doesn’t discriminate, ensuring acts that chart a broad trajectory have a medium through which to entrance new fans and old.

9. Scoot Inn

Scoot Inn

Scoot Inn is a historic artifact in its own right, dating back to 1871, in the heydey of Austin’s urban adolescence. 

Once a grocery store, it was converted into the Scoot Inn in 1955, where it maintained the wild west saloon atmosphere.

Now it has a distinctly spirited, welcoming aura that draws in locals and newcomers alike.

Indeed, it is the oldest bar in Central Texas, so if you’re a ghost-hunting, history-haunted, Americana-lore enthusiast, Scoot’s will be an event, and a pitstop in and of itself.

A miniature bar inside, dubbed Ivy’s Room, hosts luminous piano performances, and the indoor space is decked out in opulent velvet couches and weathered leather chairs. 

10. The Broken Spoke

The Broken Spoke

Legendary family-run business The Broken Spoke is a living, breathing, aesthetic shrine to Texas lore, history, and music.

It is the reigning country western dancehall fixture on Austin’s cultural map and they offer dance lessons from Wednesdays to Saturdays so you can have a breezy, uplifting night out without needing to descend into debauchery.

What I wouldn’t give to transport myself to a live Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, or George Strait show – imagine the restless, electric energy and down-to-earth appeal.

Break out your rhinestone-encrusted boots and hit the dance floor, learn to two-step, or sip on a Lone Star beer, soak in the welcoming, endearing energy, and people-watch.  

11. Hotel Vegas

Hotel Vegas

Austin live music fixture Hotel Vegas is kitsch and camp brought to life in the shape of a plush dive bar. 

The experience is one of unrestrained alchemy, a blend of trendier-than-thou sounds, unflappably cool musicians, and a cross-fertilization between high vibes and low culture. 

Hotel Vegas is a mashup of texture, ambiance, and eclectic offerings and they pride themselves on being the authority on new, indie bands and undiscovered gems.

Their musical scope is bold and endearingly frivolous: from psychedelic rock to gloomy metal to strange indie alternative, you’ll find your poison. 

With their cozy and cloistered stage and their cheeky, unassuming frozen cocktails, you are guaranteed a breezy time.

If you need a change of scenery, hop on over to the attached sister bar Volstead Lounge where you can get weird to frenetic, strident dance beats. 

12. The Skylark Lounge

The Skylark Lounge

Skylark will have you feeling like you are in a retro portal, a downtempo nostalgic playground with a jukebox and an aura of low-key cool.

The back patio is welcoming and disarmingly casual and will have you holding court with locals and regulars in no time or playing billiards with a stranger who’ll soon become a friend.

With a kitschy marquee and a sweetly relaxed environment, Skylark celebrates individuality, authenticity, and community.

Legendary soul and blues acts entrance and enchant with well-timed showmanship and gregarious theatricality. 

13. The Far Out Lounge & Stage

15 Best Austin Music Venues (Live Music) 1

Located on the other side of the galaxy, aka South Austin, Far Out has a hazy, old-school, aura too cool for the downtown crew.

Their DIY, neighborhood charm is encapsulated in the artistically rendered posters and flyers of previous shows decorating the walls, and the hip, down-to-earth food trucks.

With two outdoor stages, Far Out is more than just a musical Valhalla, it also plays host to artisan markets and homespun local vendors.   

If you want a sojourn back to the days when Austin was unbothered and unstudied, this is your mecca.

14. The White Horse

The White Horse

Dive?

Check.

Honky-tonk?

Check.

Live music seven nights a week?

Do we have to hit you over the head with the White Horse’s virtues?

Whether you need a fix of blues, swing, bluegrass, or country, White Horse is impatiently waiting for you to grace its dancefloor with your open-hearted, wild western-loving self.

If you want to go wild to Texan twang and practice your two-stepping moves, all the while making friends with rough-around-the-edges, and fascinating locals, then put down whatever you’re doing and shake on over to White Horse. 

Pool tables abound and the outdoor patio will serve you well when you need a moment’s respite from the plucky glee of dancing to their Southern best.

15. Sahara Lounge

Sahara Lounge

Long inhabiting a buzzy, insiders-only place under the collective radar, Sahara Lounge couldn’t stay a secret for long and is now lauded as the “jewel of the Eastside.”

Electric, fervent, and dreamily debauched, Sahara is the place to shed the politesse and conceits of the corporate world and get intimate with your unbridled, wild inner self.

Their Saturday “Africa” night is an absolutely uninhibited riot of a time and unlike any other experience in the city.

It is here alone that you can vibe to the swift magic of reggae, afro-beat and Brazilian funk.

It has a distilled essence like no other dive in the city and lacerates the preconceived expectations you have of Austin nightlife.

Patio-based food trucks, pool tables, and African artifacts enhance the space with a cheerful charisma.

Best Austin Music Venues – Final Thoughts

Ready to explore the unlimited creativity and musical prowess to be found within the Austin City Limits?

Want a hit of country western one night, a dose of reggae the next?

Want to round out the week with a swill of Lone Star beer in a gritty and neon-apparelled dive?

Austin welcomes one, welcomes all, and allows you to experience the best of Texas without needing to hop in a pickup truck and hit the great open plains.

You may also like: Best Denver Music Venues

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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