austin live music

Check out music fests like Levitation. (Photo: Getty Images)


Feel the Funk: Where to Delve Into Austin’s Live Music Scene

Austin’s musical heritage is the stuff of legend, and it goes well beyond glossy, nationally known festivals. The global capital of music has Mexican, Swedish and German origins that date back centuries — in fact, General Custer and his soldiers used to frequent the city’s many German music halls when they were deployed here in the 1860s.

In the 1920s, several jazz and blues venues set up shop, followed by the sounds of country and classic big band in the ’40s and rock ‘n’ roll in the ’60s and ’70s. “Austin City Limits” (the TV show, not the mega-festival) began as a series in 1976 — hometown hero Willie Nelson was the debut performer — and this was the musical turning point for the city in terms of worldwide recognition.

Today, Austin’s vibrant, diverse live music scene truly knows no bounds.

austin live music
Music in the streets during SXSW. (Photo: Getty Images)

Visit Iconic Spots

The famed Continental Club is well worth a visit. The venue opened its doors in 1955, and is one of the oldest continuously running clubs in Austin. Come here any night of the week for your dose of roots rock, traditional country and blues, and rockabilly.

Home of the long-running “Austin City Limits” TV show, ACL Live at the Moody Theater is a fantastic place to catch your favorite musical acts when they come through town, thanks to the state-of-the-art sound system and comfy seating. Venue tours are available, too.

Antone’s has been a fixture on the local live music scene since 1975 — Fats Domino, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Muddy Waters have played here — and it’s still going strong, though it’s since moved to a new location on the corner of Fifth and San Jacinto. There’s live music here every night of the week, sometimes for as little as a $5 cover.

And Stubb’s Bar-B-Q and The Mohawk are two of the best downtown live music venues, hosting both big-name touring acts and local artists (we recommend buying tickets in advance for shows at both venues).

Pro-tip: For a side of live gospel music with your brisket, southern-style grits and extra-strength bloody mary, check out the Sunday Gospel Brunch at Stubb’s.

austin live music
Grooving at Flamingo Cantina. (Photo: Getty Images)

Go off the Beaten Path

While wandering downtown, keep your eyes peeled for the Elephant Room, a cozy, candlelit underground jazz bar that has nightly live music and happy hour shows.

Meanwhile, south of the river, there’s probably a soul band or R&B singer bringing the house down at C-Boy’s Heart & Soul, a SoCo neighborhood joint that retains a retro-cool vibe all its own. After the show, wind down in the upstairs “Jade Room,” which was styled after the ’50s-era Japanese GI bars and sells Japanese beers and sake.

The White Horse is always a rollicking good time — this heavenly East Austin honky-tonk boasts live music every night, free two-stepping lessons and whiskey on tap.

Push past the rowdy college crowds on Sixth Street to get to Flamingo Cantina, an intimate local fave that’s always packed with enthusiastic regulars. Music acts range from reggae to ska to Latin and worldbeat.

It’s a tough call (and maybe a bold claim), but the Skylark Lounge just might win out as the coolest live music venue in the city. This beloved establishment has been a staple of East Austin’s diverse musical landscape for more than 30 years at this point; you’re guaranteed to leave giddy and sweaty from the dance floor. Don’t miss Soul Man Sam’s delightfully groovy, soul-stirring performance on Sunday nights.

austin live music
See a classic music festival. (Photo: Getty Images)

Check Out a Festival

Austin City Limits and South by Southwest tend to get all the festival glory in this town, and to be fair, they’re both a total blast.

But if you’re in the mood for something a little more laid-back, Austin has plenty of other music fest options. Held across multiple venues in the Red River District and the East Side, Levitation is like a mini-SXSW, minus all the corporate swag.

The Urban Music Fest is a family-friendly festival for jazz, funk, reggae and R&B fans. And less than an hour from the city limits, Old Settler’s Music Festival is an idyllic springtime festival that offers folk, bluegrass and Americana on three stages spread out over four days.