Given its moniker as the Live Music Capital of the World, it’s not surprising that the live music venues in Austin are as varied as the city itself. There are more than 250 places in town to experience live music every night of the week, featuring everything from rock and blues to country and hip-hop. However, these are the best the city has to offer in terms of variety and sound quality, and overall fun places to check out your favorite bands and discover new music.

ACL Live at the Moody Theater

No live music venue list is complete without this downtown joint. Situated next to the Willie Nelson statue on the portion of Second Street renamed as Willie Nelson Boulevard, this venue offers some of the best views and sounds in town. Practically no seat is a bad one, and the variety of musical genres is almost paralleled. Even better–the longtime running musical show ACL Live is now housed here and is one of the hottest tickets in town.  

Broken Spoke

Open for more than half a century,  Broken Spoke may not be the swankiest place to dance in Austin, but its dance floor is still one of the most boot-scootin ’boogie good times, and its hallowed walls are practically a museum for some of the most famous musicians who have played its stage like Willie Nelson, DollyParton, and Kris Kristofferson. Partake in a country-western dance lesson before hitting the dance floor, or grab a seat around the stage to stomp your feet. Make sure to check out all the photos and memorabilia that line the walls.

The Historic Scoot Inn

Folk, country, and rock are the big genres at the Historic Scoot Inn. Established in 1871, the name of this historic building is very appropriate and the Scoot Inn is believed to be the oldest continuously-operating watering hole in Central Texas. However, the current iteration has been around since roughly 2016 and has been booking beloved local musicians, like Gary Clark Jr. and others, on its outdoor stage.

Emo’s Austin

Emo’s wasn’t always situated on East Riverside, and the punk and alternative club opened a second outpost east before shuttering its original Red River locale in 2011. The new venue now boasts a state-of-the-art sound system, complete with quality lighting and staging capabilities, and attracts popular as well as up-and-coming acts from all musical genres—everything from New Found Glory to Hanson.

Antone's Nightclub

Antone’s is still one of the top live music venues in Austin and is known for being the early stomping grounds of the city’s favorite guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Since 2015, it’s been housed on East Fifth Street in a space fitting of the caliber of bands that grace its stage. From blues to rock and even hip hop, there’s plenty of variety offered at this establishment, and it’s easy viewing from almost every spot with a great sound that reverberates the room.  

Stubb's Bar-B-Q

If it’s good enough for the likes of Adele, it’s probably a pretty good music venue. While this place serves BBQ and has a small indoor stage inside its historic 19th-century building on Red RiverStreet, the 2,200-capacity Waller Creek Amphitheater is what most people associate with Stubb’s. Recently taken under the wing of C3 Presents, which produces the ACL Music Festival every year, Stubb’s is known for snagging some of the biggest musical artists of practically every genre to pass through town, including HAIM, Jimmy Eat World, My Chemical Romance, Leon Bridges, and more.

Elephant Room

Head down the stairs of this venue to find yourself transported to the beatnik era of 1960s West Village. This premiere jazz music hotspot has been around for more than 30 years and was named after the discovery that the basement once housed the largest collection of mastodon bones west of the Mississippi. Jazz performances start daily at 6 p.m., so you can pop in and order a classic cocktail for a sophisticated night any day of the week.

Mohawk

Mohawk is still relatively young on Austin’s music scene, but this Red River music venue has played host to musical legends and local newcomers alike on both its indoor and outdoor stages. The Mohawk boasts “all are welcome,” and that is true of its acts. Whether you want to be front and center of the stage or check out the action from afar, the standing-room-only options abound here. Perch at one of the top mezzanine spots to overlook not only the main stage but the entire audience as well.  

The Continental Club

The rockabilly vibes of this SoCo club may take you back in time, and musically it’s still all about rock ‘n’ roll here. Hear classic local performers like Dale Watson (still a part-time resident), Charlie Sexton, or The Peterson Brothers. And, if you’re lucky, occasionally you can stumble upon a once-in-a-lifetime show, like Robert Plant playing with Patty Griffin or Johnny Depp playing with ZZ-Top. If you want to attend what will feel like a private living room concert being held just for you, try to snag tickets to the intimate shows upstairs at the Continental Gallery.

Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park

 This outdoor venue is still practically brand new but is already attracting top-level talents, such as Bon Iver, My Morning Jacket, and Brandi Carlile to its huge stage. It’s a part of Waterloo Park, Austin’s newest urban park that will eventually stretch from 15th Street down to the river. The Moody Amphitheater is the first large, outdoor music venue in downtown Austin with a seating capacity of over 5,000 people, with seats ranging from the general admission lawn area to reserved seating directly in front of the stage.

Darcie Duttweiler
January 26, 2023
4.0
min read

This native Austinite has written for local publications like Tribeza and Austin Monthly. When she's not at her computer, you'll find her at a movie theater, practicing her crow pose, or snuggling with her cat.‍‍

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