Time Out Austin's favorite live music bars
Not just a beloved BBQ spot, Stubb's is a 1,800-capacity music venue nestled in the heart of the Red River District, which makes pre- and after-partying a cinch. The outdoor amphitheater features top-notch sound and light displays, and there's not a bad "seat" in the house—the natural, gradual incline leading up from the stage lets you get a clear view from wherever you stand. The best part—you can always enjoy barbecue treats like a chopped beef sandwich or jalapeño brisket taco while soaking up world-class concerts.
With its state-of-the-art lighting and sound, formidable capacity (2,750) and a larger-than-life statue of Willie Nelson to greet you at the door, ACL Live is pretty much the Holy Grail of ATX indoor concert venues. Here you'll find big-name acts (think: Sigur Ros and Future), along with a well-stocked bar offering beer, wine and cocktails. The only major pain is parking, as it’s smack in the middle of the highly populated 2nd Street District, right next to the swanky W Austin Hotel and Residences. But a few bucks for a meter or rideshare is a small price to pay for a consistently premium live music experience.
Locals and visitors flock to the Continental Club, which opened its doors in 1955 on South Congress Avenue. Legends like Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, Wanda Jackson and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons have all played the 200-capacity room—up to standard for a place that regularly billed the likes of Double Trouble, Paul Ray and the Cobras and Joe Ely back in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s a tiny stage in a small room, but the performances that occur in front of that iconic red curtain make for some memorable nights.
Elephant Room seems to harken back to a simpler time, its dimly lit basement layout providing just the right amount of mystique and ambiance while still providing the vibe of a laid-back watering hole. Here, jazz fanatics can get lost in nightly performances (often without a cover) and classic cocktails, tapping their feet to sets from the likes of Jon Blondell and Elias Haslanger while sipping on a smooth old-fashioned or beer.
Since opening in 2012, the White Horse has provided a venue for Austin’s best musicians playing everything from conjunto to country to blues. It’s easy to lose track of time here—there are no windows, and the churn of couples spinning on the dance floor never ends, whether they're first-time hipsters or seasoned Austinites. The saloon is famous for its ice-cold beer, and its dangerously cheap house special, the Two-Step (a shot of well whiskey and a beer).
On a busy stretch of South Congress Ave, C-Boy's Heart & Soul is an unassuming music venue where a sultry interior is illuminated with glowing red lights. It's no wonder, then, that classic soul and R&B are the genres of choice here, played on a small stage indoors. Named after Louis Charles "C-Boy" Parks—manager of the legendary Rome Inn club and a lover of blues—C-Boy's has a rich history that has attracted Austin regulars and newcomers alike. An upstairs "Jade Room" lounge is modeled after ’50s-era Japanese GI bars, while an outdoor patio is perfect for lounging with a beer our cocktail.
Located in an inconspicuous upstairs room just above Bat Bar and the Voodoo Doughnut storefront, the Parish is widely regarded as the city’s best venue for sound. While technically found amid the hustle and bustle of “Dirty” 6th Street, the 450-capacity top-floor feels like an intimate safe-haven (especially during the insanity of SXSW) with its cozy, wood-floor interior and tiny, just-below-waist-high stage that features all types of musicians. The only downside comes during sold-out shows—since it’s all general admission, you’ve gotta arrive early to snag the best sightlines.
The Rattle Inn has some true-to-Texas roots. Downstairs, those looking for a boot stompin' good time will find the whiskey lounge and Ray (Benson’s) Stage, where live music is offered on a near-daily basis. Upstairs, a rooftop deck is the perfect happy hour spot to take in city views or watch your favorite team play.
Scoot Inn has a history as rich as Austin itself. In 1871, the introduction of the city's railway prompted Sam and Nancy Wilson to open a grocery store next to the tracks. The business operated until 1955, when Aubrey Ivy (nicknamed "Scoot") and his wife purchased the store and renamed it Scoot Inn, where it has since served as a saloon and live music venue. A separate bar inside—dubbed Ivy's Room—features regular piano performances, while the rest of Scoot Inn plays host to bands like Harvest Thieves, Brownout, White Reaper and more.
You'll find Rustic Tap connected to the Hoffbrau, one of Austin's oldest family-owned restaurants where steaks come drenched in butter and the prices won't make you have a heart attack. Rustic Tap is an extension of this institution, a large patio offering over 20 beers and cocktails along with corn hole, Jenga and beer pong. A couple stages serve as the perfect place for up-and-coming (and established!) bands to share their material; be sure to check Rustic's calendar for their next show.