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Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater
Photograph: Courtesy ACL Live

The best places for live music in Austin

There's no shortage of live music in Austin, but these are our favorite spots to get up-close-and-personal with musicians of all sorts

By Gerrish Lopez and Sarah Medina

You don’t get dubbed the Live Music Capital of the World for nothing. You can hear live music in Austin spilling out from almost every bar, brewery and honky tonk on a Friday night. But if you're looking for a specific sound or you want to broaden your horizons, then we've rounded up our favorite spots for reliable music on almost every night of the week. These fantastic stages—with just the right lighting, sound, and crowds—host memorable shows from legends and up-and-comers. Alongside the best restaurants in Austin and the bars in Austin, be sure to check out these venues, the best spots for live music in Austin.

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Best live music in Austin

Court Yard Hounds at Continental Club
Photograph: Courtesy Austin CVB/Dave Mead

1. The Continental Club

Nightlife Travis Heights

The Continental Club on South Congress should be at the top of any Austin list for both visitors and locals. It opened its doors in 1955, and the 200-capacity room has since hosted the likes of Double Trouble, Paul Ray and the Cobras and Joe Ely back in the 1970s and ’80s as well as legends like Robert Plant and Wanda Jackson more recently. The tiny stage and small room make any show intimate and electric. 

Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater
Photograph: Courtesy ACL Live

2. ACL Live at the Moody Theater

Music Warehouse District

A larger-than-life statue of Willie Nelson lords over the home of the longest-running music series in television history (KLRU-TV/PBS’s Austin City Limits). With state-of-the-art lighting and sound, and a formidable capacity (2,750 seats), every show at the Moody Theater sounds crisp, looks spectacular, and feels epic. The only major pain is parking, as it’s smack in the middle of the highly populated 2nd Street District. But a few bucks for a meter or rideshare is a small price to pay for a consistently premium live music experience.

The Mohawk
Photograph: Courtesy The Mohawk

3. The Mohawk

Bars Red River District

This joint at the northern end of the Red River District is a top destination for musicians and one of the most-loved locales among live music fans. Rowdier fans flood the ground level in front of the stage while others seeking a more laid-back feel choose between three balcony levels including a rooftop patio and a bird’s-eye, side-stage viewing space. There’s also a homey, fireside bar and indoor stage. Even when there’s no live music, the Mohawk is mainstay happy hour haven.

Stubb's BBQ
Photograph: Courtesy Austin CVB/Denise Chambers

4. Stubb’s BBQ

Restaurants Barbecue Red River District

There are myriad reasons why Stubb’s is one of the best venues in town. The 1,800-capacity spot is nestled in the heart of the Red River District, which makes pre- and after-partying a cinch; the outdoor amphitheater features impeccable sound and light displays, plus clear sightlines from almost anywhere on the natural, gradual incline leading up from the stage; and—huge bonus—you can always enjoy barbecue treats like a chopped beef sandwich or brisket platter while soaking up world-class concerts.

Learning Secrets at Parish
Photograph: Flickr/Eli Watson

5. Parish

Music Congress Ave District

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. Despite its location amidst the hustle of 6th Street, the 450-capacity upper floor feels like an intimate safe-haven 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.

Photograph: Courtesy Antone's

6. Antone’s

Music Folk, country and blues Convention Center District

Though it’s not the same as the original 6th Street location (according to purists), the new Antone’s (now on 5th Street) still maintains the spirit of the “World-Famous Home of the Blues” originally opened by Clifford Antone in 1975. The Texas base for travelling and local blues acts like Albert King, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Double Trouble back in the day, Antone’s still hosts renowned blues and roots musicians in its 450-capacity room. Almost every evening features an early and a late show.

Cheer Up Charlie's
Photograph: Courtesy Cheer Up Charlies/Bryan C. Parker

7. Cheer Up Charlies

Bars Red River District

Located next-door to the Mohawk in the Red River district, this self-described vegan and queer establishment is an ideal space to experience a more contemporary, bohemian side of Austin’s music culture. Cheer Up Charlies books mostly local acts for intimate performances on the indoor stage or on the larger outdoor stage, which connects to a spacious patio (a prime spot for enjoying kombucha on tap and fresh-squeezed juice cocktails). The outdoor stage features a natural limestone cliff face as a backdrop, perfect for expertly projected visuals.

Empire Control Room
Photograph: Courtesy Empire Control Room

8. Empire Control Room & Garage

Music Red River District

If kitschy spaces and trippy light shows are your thing, check out the varied events at Empire Control Room and Garage. With concerts of all sorts on one of three stages (one of them inside, another a repurposed auto garage) on almost any given night of the week, it’s no wonder Empire has become one of the most popular live music spaces over the past few years. Come for the live music, and stay for the DJ-fueled dance parties on the patio.

Broken Spoke
Photograph: Kristen Maurel

9. The Broken Spoke

Nightlife Clubs South Lamar

This definitive Texan dance hall is all about letting your hair down. It doesn’t get much more Texan than two-stepping to live country music. There are dance lessons at 8pm most nights, so hesitant toe-tappers can fit right in with boot-scootin bosses. Grab an ice-cold Lone Star or three so you’re more willing to say yes when a stranger asks you to dance. After all that dancing, refuel with one of the Spoke’s famous (and famously enormous) chicken-fried steaks.

Scoot Inn
Photograph: Courtesy Historic Scoot Inn

10. Historic Scoot Inn

Bars Beer bars East Cesar Chavez

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.


11. Skylark Lounge

This funky East Austin dive is a little hard to find, but the search is worth it as you’ll be rewarded with excellent live jazz, blues, R&B, and soul music. Pick up some free popcorn before choosing a spot in front of the intimate stage. Happy hour gigs feature great shows for the early bird crowd (like pianist Margaret Wright on Thursdays and Fridays), and Soul Sundays with Soul Man Sam is one of the best ways to get your week started. There’s also a lovely garden patio for outdoor chilling.

Looking for more of a dance vibe?


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