Food gets all the attention around here, but my love of live music is on par with my affection for chocolate chip cookies. Particularly local music and divey bars with an intimate, bright stage. As you explore the city looking for your favorite dishes and cocktails, I encourage you to swing by some of my favorite places to hear local tunes from musicians of all sorts.
C-Boy’s Heart & Soul
This one’s my all-time favorite. Maybe because I can walk there, maybe because I wound up there every Saturday during Covid times, or maybe it’s the gold streamer stage backdrop. My reasons for loving this cozy place are endless. There are booths lining the place, a tiny, albeit bumpin’ dance floor, outdoor smoking porch if you’re into that, and don’t miss the Jade Room—the upstairs bar with a jukebox. You’ll catch my buddy and owner Steve (my good friend’s uncle) there at all hours of the day watching over his special place and creating the experience for us all.
The Continental Club
This place is a classic, and just down the street from C-Boys.
It’s a little bit bigger, so ideal if you’re rolling in with a bigger group. I like to sneak upstairs to enjoy the music from the Gallery—it’s a smaller venue that feels like you’re in someone’s living room.
Stay late for dancing, and don’t miss the weekly Peterson Brothers show, a duo of young brothers from Bastrop.
Whiskey, cheap beers, and two stepping every night—if you want to tap into your Texas roots—this is your stomping ground. I remember when I first moved back to Austin five years ago, the dress code was pretty casual. These days, men are showing up decked out in fur coats, have their facial hair groomed perfectly, and it’s a great space for talking to strangers. There is a food truck in the back and also a gal that sells jewelry some days. Check out Sagebrush, their South Austin outpost, for more live tunes and two-stepping just across the river.
I saw St. Lucia here a few years back and loved it. It’s got a pretty sizable outdoor space with a bar, but small enough to feel like you’re in someone’s backyard (can you tell I like house parties?) You’ll never have trouble getting a drink.
This is the place where you will see the biggest acts. I wouldn’t randomly pop in, but it’s a fun spot if you’re a fan of the band. It’s pretty big as far as this list goes, so if you’re a front row fan, you best get there early. They also offer VIP tickets that are above the stage and well worth it.
The place where college kids, post grads and 80 year-old long-timers convene for a beer and good company. It’s a quintessential dive bar with a homey feel, free popcorn, and a familial and everyone is welcome atmosphere. They deck the place out for Christmas, making it a great post-holiday party spot.
ACL Live at The Moody Theater
If you’re looking for the best sound in Austin, this is your spot. I’ve been able to hear St. Vincent, Vampire Weekend, The XX, Gary Clark Jr., among others here. I love that you can snag a seat in the balcony, or choose GA standing when you really want to be front and center, depending on the show. You can also try your luck and enter the lottery for their private tapings, which is such a unique and intimate experience. Make friends with someone who has season tickets 🙂 Thank you, KVD!
Another classic. It’s an iconic blues’ bars that’s seen the likes of B.B. King, James Brown, Ray Charles, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and more. It’s not always huge acts, but if you’re into music, you definitely want to check it out. I saw Lizzo here years ago and now look at her! They always know who are going to be the up-and-coming musicians. if you’re an Austin first-timer, I definitely recommend a stop here.
Spazmatics at Cedar St. Courtyard
In the mood for a late, and slightly wild night? Brush up on your 80’s hits and catch the Spazmatics at Cedar St. Courtyard every Wednesday night at 9:30 PM. They are a ridiculous trio wearing sweatbands, neck braces, and have amazing dance routines for each song that keep you boppin’ and entertained all evening.
Cheer Up Charlie’s
Red River St. gay bar with a killer atomosphere—happy hour, great local shows, surprisingly good cocktails, a colorful neon stage, frequent drag queen sightings and a crowd that skews slightly younger. The outdoor stage is surrounded by a beautiful limestone wall, giving it a special feel for being in the heart of the city. I recently saw THEBROSFRESH here and will be back.
Neighbors with Cheer Up Charlie’s and a super fun spot with an indoor and outdoor stage. You can see a range of indie rock bands like The District, Beach Bunny, Whitney, and more. There’s not a bad seat to watch the outdoor stage—the stage is covered with a large slanted roof, and you’ve got a few perches to choose from—a front and center pit to watch or balcony to the side.
Empire Control Room & Garage
This spot doesn’t have much going on for it architecturally, but keep your eyes open for indie bands coming through here. Golden Dawn Orkestra, HeartByrne (Talking Heads Cover Band), and more are known to play fairly frequently.
The Long Play
Formerly Stay Gold, if you’re on the east side, it’s a good laid back, casual vibe. If you’re into crafty cocktails, craft beers, vinyl, and nice low-key patios, this is your place.
A little wild and a lot of fun. This place is super far east and the only bar where I feel like I can escape and bump elbows with people that I wonder where they live and how have I never seen them. Everyone near and far is breaking it down on the dance floor and happy to be there. Check out their Africa Night every Saturday with a buffet dinner included with entry (although I’ve never had it!).