Austin styles itself as the Live Music Capital of the World – and with good reason. The Austin City Limits Music Festival takes over the city in October, there are statues of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Willie Nelson, and contemporary artists such as Gary Clark Jr. and Shakey Graves hail from here. Seeing a live band is an integral, nay, unavoidable part of a night out on the town in Austin – discover the best venues for it below.
The Continental Club
This small historic spot on South Congress Avenue has been hosting live music since 1955. There’s seemingly always a band on stage and a crowd on the floor, no matter what time of day, and the performing styles run the full Americana gamut, from blues and rock to country and bluegrass.
ACL Live at the Moody Theater
This 2,750-seat theater is where PBS tapes the Peabody Award–winning Austin City Limits series. It puts on around 100 concerts a year, featuring some of America’s brightest talents. (Last season featured Gary Clark Jr., Steve Earle, and Vampire Weekend.) If you can’t catch a show, venue tours are available.
The White Horse
If you’ve never been to a honky tonk, the White Horse is a great place to get your feet wet. This East Austin institution is open every night a week with dance lessons—ranging from swing to Texas Two Step—most nights. If you work up an appetite cutting the rug, grab a bite from the taco truck on the patio.
One of Austin’s most beloved venues, this Red River District spot has indoor and outdoor stages and hosts local and nationally touring indie acts. There’s a generous happy hour and a roof deck with arcade games and views of the outdoor stage.
Cheer Up Charlie’s
This fun-loving LGBTQ+-friendly venue for is known for its vegan menu, limestone wall, kombucha-based drinks, and shows that ranges from punk to hip hop to electronic music.
One of the best-known music venues in the city, Stubb’s serves highly regarded barbecue and also hosts nationally renowned artists. (Among those to appear on the lineup recently are Andrew Bird and Sharon Van Etten.) The Sunday Gospel Brunch is a can’t-miss affair.
This downtown club is where Austinites go to get the blues. While the venue has moved several times since its days of hosting legends such as Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, James Brown, and B.B. King, it still remains a shrine to the flatted fifth note.
West Sixth Street is a stay-away for most people above the age of 25—the locals call it “Dirty Sixth” for a reason—but hiding amid the Bourbon Street–style revelry is this indoor venue, which has hosted the likes of Pete Townshend, Perry Farrell, and Tom Yorke.