AUSTIN — In the Live Music Capital of the World, one must know where to wander to find that world-class music Austin is known for.
Sure, a meandering down Sixth Street might yield some live tunes, but don't you want to find the best experience possible?
From large venues for well-known acts to cozy, more intimate clubs, we've put together an all-encompassing list of live music venues of all sizes. Here's 20 of Austin's best live music venues we think you should check out.
ACL Live at the Moody Theater is home to one of the most notorious music television programs of all time, Austin City Limits. It also hosts around 100 concerts a year, bringing in both huge and small names alike. Perched right outside its doorsteps is the iconic Willie Nelson statue, so, of course, it has to make the list.
Dating back to 1975, Antone's was established by the late Clifford Antone and remains Downtown Austin's most iconic blues venue. Over the past 40 years, greats like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, James Brown, Stevie Ray Vaughan and even Lady Gaga have all graced the stage.
Since 1979, any University of Texas student with just an inkling for live music or even the most ambitious of dreams of a musical career, the Cactus Cafe is likely to bring back fond memories. A time-honored Austin music tradition, the intimate live performance venue on campus has gained a national reputation showcasing local, regional, national and international artists.
Austin's premiere venue for queer-friendly millennials, Cheer Up Charlie's is a hotspot for both indoor and outdoor music. Home to some of the hottest showcases during the SXSW Music Festival (and the resident vegan food truck, Arlo's), this colorful venue is a must when it comes to Austin nightlife.
Now located on Riverside Drive east of Austin -- quite the upgrade from the infamously grungy punk downtown paradise of yesterday -- Emo's promises it will always be a little rough around the edges. Formally known as the Back Room, Emo's has the history of two legendary venues in its blood.
Empire is dedicated to bringing Austin revelers quirky, warehouse-style events that "feel more like adventurous discoveries than everyday affairs." With three unique stages, this venue is home to all kinds of events, from SXSW showcases to electronic dance parties.
Another Downtown Austin haunt that's been around since the '70s, Hole in the Wall has survived Austin's turbulent cultural storms to remain a go-to club for generations of beginning bands. Bands and artists like Spoon, Shakey Graves, Fastball and Gary Clark Jr. have all gone on to better things with a little help from this hole in the wall.
At The Mohawk, "All are welcome," as they say. This venue also has indoor and outdoor stages, making it prime real estate for SXSW showcases. Located off Red River, this club's mission is to host friends, musicians and staff that represent all music tastes and walks of life.
Located in the historic Sixth Street district, the Parish has been widely regarded as one of the best indoor live music venues in Austin. Its intimate atmosphere has brought fans together for performances from artists like Pete Townshend, Slash, Thom Yorke and Alt-J.
While this venue may be off the beaten path a bit, it's worth the trek to the Eastside. Live shows span genres like Indie, African, Blues, Rock, Country, Swing, Brazilian and Funk. Its unique building and decor give you Texas juke joint with an African twist.
The historic Scoot Inn dates back to 1871, when the railroad came to Austin. A family created a small grocery store right next to the tracks, which later became home to all sorts of activities from bootlegging to gambling and everything in between. Fast forward decades upon decades, it's now home to a music venue that brings in well known and up-and-coming artists from around the globe.
This restaurant off of Barton Springs is home to KGSR's Unplugged at The Grove. With 25 years of bringing free live music to the grove, thousands upon thousands have enjoyed the serenades of well-known artists while enjoying a meal and a margarita at The Grove.
This dive bar and live music venue is great for those who seek a cool and relaxed atmosphere. While it's centrally located, it's still tucked away east of Austin away from all the commotion of downtown. Bringing in both local and touring talent, Skylark Lounge is the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail while discovering your next favorite artist.
Both barbecue and live music -- the epitome of Austin culture! Stubb's has brought in world-renowned artists to both of its stages, including its outdoor Waller Creek Amphitheatre. Don't forget to check out their Sunday gospel brunch.
Many of those who enter Swan Dive as a shortcut to get into the dance club next door (Barbarella's) wind up staying, giving in to the siren call of local artists performing on its intimate stage. If you'd like to enjoy a few live performances before a night on the dance floor, Swan Dive is the only option.
Vulcan Gas Company touts itself as a state-of-the-art music venue designed to host cutting-edge experiences. When it's not hosting private brand activations and parties, this two-story venue attracts worldwide artists to its Sixth Street home.
With its bizarre circus theme, there's a big elephant in the room at The Carousel Lounge. No, literally, there's a big, pink elephant in the room. You never know what you're going to get when you visit this 52nd Street staple, from smaller musical acts to belly dancers.
Located on South Congress Avenue, The Continental Club has been rocking South Austin since 1955. With a long Austin history, all kinds of musicians have performed here -- from Dale Watson to The Killers.
The White Horse or the Broken Spoke
A couple of the last honky-tonks still standing in Austin, The White Horse or the Broken Spoke are the places to be if you're looking to boot scoot to live country music, each with their own unique histories.