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ACL Live Austin
Photograph: Courtesy ACL Live/Alison Narro

The best places to go for live music in Austin

These are the best places to go for live music in Austin, Texas, in one of the most exciting music cities on the planet

Written by
James Wong
Contributors
Sarah Medina
&
Gerrish Lopez
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The Live Music Capital of the World sure lives up to its name; in Austin, you can hear live music flowing out of virtually every corner of the city (and beyond). You could be dining at the best restaurants, downing margaritas at the best bars, or simply taking a hike, and still witness talented performers taking to the stage. Though many visitors come in for the biggies like ACL, SXSW or reunion gigs at COTA, the bread and butter of bat city are the charming little venues that host excellent musical notes night in, night out, throughout the year. They are where local legends are made, international artists tour, and where good ol’ Southern nights are spent.

Whatever your tastes; pop, rock, country, classical or EDM, here are the best spots to catch quality live music in Austin, Texas.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Austin 

Best live music in Austin

  • Nightlife
  • Travis Heights
  • price 1 of 4

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. 

  • Music
  • Warehouse District
  • price 2 of 4

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 2022 lineup includes Joss Stone, Conan Gray, Purity Ring, Alaska and Louis Tomlinson, to name but a few of their (approx) 100 concerts a year selection.

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  • Restaurants
  • Barbecue
  • Red River District
  • price 2 of 4

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.

  • Music
  • Folk, country and blues
  • Convention Center District

Though it’s not the same as the original 6th Street location (according to purists), 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 traveling 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, best enjoyed with a Knotty Vines cab.

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  • Bars
  • Red River District
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • Bars
  • Red River District
  • price 2 of 4

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.

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Perched within the enormous Texas Performing Arts center is Bass Concert Hall, a venue famed for hosting the most prestigious tours in town. This is for music fans who prefer things on the dress-up and jazz-hands side rather than classic casual Texan style, with a 2022 show lineup consisting of Diana Krall, Patti LaBelle, The Temptations and musicals from the Broadway in Austin series (The Lion King, anyone?). During intermission, stroll around the gorgeous glass front facade and deck for towering views over campus.

  • Music
  • Congress Ave District
  • price 2 of 4

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.

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  • Music
  • Red River District
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • East Cesar Chavez
  • price 1 of 4

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.

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  • 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 Wednesday to Saturday, 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 big) chicken-fried steaks.

Looking for more of a dance vibe?

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