Austin club crawl: 13 music venues to explore downtown

Where should you go see live music in Austin? Glad you asked. Here are 13 music venues to check out downtown.

Soweto Kinch plays the Elephant Room during SXSW 2018. Deborah Sengupta Stith/American-Statesman

Elephant Room. This venue has been the heart of the city’s jazz scene since 1991. In this no-frills spot tucked away in a cozy cellar under a strip of swanky restaurants on Congress Avenue, hundreds of signed dollar bills tacked to the ceiling count as decor, the remains of saxophonist Tony Campise watch over the stage and Austin’s top players are all regulars. The club hosts free happy hour shows from 6 to 8 p.m. on weeknights. 315 Congress Ave.

Parker Jazz Club. This newcomer to Austin’s basement jazz scene, co-owned by Austin jazz-lifer Kris Kimura, provides a more upscale experience with a polished look and a full menu of craft cocktails. Experience live music Tuesday-Saturday. 117 W. Fourth St. #107B.

Austin singer Mélat performs at Antone’s. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Antone’s. The fourth iteration of the storied club founded by blues enthusiast Clifford Antone more than 40 years ago has an upscale vibe and swanky cocktail selections, but the well-curated calendar still reflects Antone’s love of American roots music. The best blues artists in Austin are all regulars, and national greats stop through regularly. Stop by for music most nights with happy hour shows generally starting at 6:30 p.m. 305 E. Fifth St.

The Parish. With brick walls, a wide wooden dance floor and one of the best sound systems in town, this mid-sized room, upstairs in a historic building on Dirty Sixth, is a fantastic place to catch hot locals and buzzy touring artists before they break out onto a bigger stage. The club is open intermittently, check listings. 214 E. Sixth St.

Cilantro Boombox performs at Flamingo Cantina. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

Flamingo Cantina. Opened in 1995, it’s one of the few live music venues to weather the typhoon cocktail of change that’s shaken Dirty Sixth Street. The club’s founding vision is centered on the irie vibes of reggae music, and it also hosts hip-hop, Latin music and other global sounds. The venue features live music Wednesday through Saturday most weeks. 515 E. Sixth St.

Cheer Up Charlie’s. Owners describe the club as an “ambiguous everybody space [for] LGBTQIA and friends.” The venue includes a small, often tightly packed, indoor speakeasy and a spacious outdoor patio bordered by a natural rock wall. Their well-curated programming mixes up local bands, DJ nights, poetry readings, drag shows and more. Grab food at the vegan food truck on site. 900 Red River St.

Rapper T.I. performs at Empire Garage. Robert Hein for American-Statesman

Empire Control Room and Garage. The former automotive shop has been converted into a spacious music hangar that hosts mid-size touring shows and larger local events, with sounds that run the gamut from hip-hop and EDM to rock. Adjacent to the Garage is an intimate indoor room with an excellent A/V system where you can sweat it out on the dance floor or hide away on one of the benches ringing the room. Alternatively, take a break and lounge on a small patio by the least seedy part of Waller Creek. You can see live music most Thursdays-Saturdays. 606 E. Seventh St

Barracuda. Once home to classic punk rock dive Red 7, this two-stage spot has been transformed into a warm and inviting space that maintains the adventurous spirit of its earlier incarnation. The inside club boasts pool tables at the front and warm wood paneling throughout, and the back patio has a beer garden feel with long picnic tables where you can sit and sip while you take in tunes. Check out live music most nights. 611 E. Seventh St.

White Denim performs at Beerland Feb. 23 as part of a series of Thursday night pop-up shows. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BeerlandThe heart of Austin’s garage scene is hard, fast and loud. This defiantly unpretentious dive serves cold beer, cheap liquor and the grimiest punk and rowdiest rock the city has to offer. Experience live music most nights. 711 1/2 Red River St.

Stubb’s BBQ. In 1968, Navasota native Christopher B. Stubblefield, a former mess sergeant in the last all-black U.S. Army infantry, returned to Texas after the Korean War and opened a barbecue joint in Lubbock. It became a favorite hangout of touring musicians such as Joe Ely, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and B.B. King. In the mid-’80s he shut down the Lubbock shop and relocated to Austin. These days the restaurant is a two-stage club with a large open-air amphitheater that hosts big-name touring acts. The indoor room features shows by local artists, smaller tours and a weekly gospel brunch on Sundays. 801 Red River St.

Future Islands plays the Mohawk outdoor. Tom McCarthy Jr. for American-Statesman

The Mohawk. With a spacious upstairs deck, great sound and an adventurous calendar filled with everything from hip-hop to punk rock, the outdoor stage is one of the best places in town to catch mid-size touring acts. Enjoy the intimate indoor space where you’ll see the best emerging artists in town. Features live music most nights. 912 Red River St.

ACL Live. The home base for the storied “Austin City Limits” television show is also the best place in town to see a large touring show. The sound system is excellent, the seats are comfortable and there’s not a bad view in the house. Check the website for listings; venue tours are available, too. Note: All conference badge-holders are welcome here during the ONA18 Opening Night Reception! 310 W. Willie Nelson Blvd.

3TenACL Live’s little sister venue is a great place to catch smaller touring bands and local acts. Check the website for listings. 310 W. Willie Nelson Blvd.


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