Mark's Guide to Austin Music Venues, part one
This page focuses on clubs that have live music as their primary
focus. (Ok, and, in most cases, alcohol sales...) The
lists other places that have live music as a sideline.
The home of the Blues in Austin, Texas, and has
been for many years, and will be for many years to come
(Carole Keaton Rylander notwithstanding). While the current
location isn't the same one Stevie Ray used to frequent as
a member of the house band, the atmosphere is basically the
same (minus the terrible ventilation and grossly inadequate
bathroom facilities). No seating and they can be very pushy
about making sure you don't sit. It can be smoky and
crowded when someone popular is there but it's generally
worth it; I've never seen anything less than an excellent
show there and some of them have been extraordinary.
These days most of the blues is as in "blues-rock", especially
with the various local acts. Cover charges are a little
higher than some of the above mentioned clubs ($15-$20
depending on the act). A lot of touring acts play Antone's
while in Austin. There are also the usual T-shirts and
souvenirs for sale.
People come to the Spoke for one and only one
reason and that is to boot-scoot to those good ol' country
sounds. Do not look for Garth Brooks to be playing here anytime
soon (i.e. my lifetime or yours). As the owner states, "There
will never be another place like this in Austin -- the chief
building inspector for the city has personally assured me of
this." Get on down to find out what Austin was like back when
the Spoke was out towards the city limits. Recommended act:
Yodelin' Donnie Walser
(who can also be seen other places, but ...)
Despite what you might think by virtue of its location on the UT
campus, the Cactus actually attracts few UT students.
This is the real singer-songwriter home base in Austin. There
are those of us who suspect the ghost of Townes Van Zandt still
haunts the place. More often than not they feature touring acts,
but still book a great deal of local talent. The sound is good
and the volume is just right. Best of all, since it's in an
official State Of Texas-kinda building it is
no smoking. Depending
on the act it will either be empty or crowded, it's hard to tell.
The shows tend to be a little earlier than many of the other clubs.
The Continenal has a long history of featuring live, original music.
It first opened back in the 1960s as a martini bar (yes, it's been
around long enough to see trends fade and return) but in its most
recent incarnation lives and dies by its live music acts. Covers
are low for touring acts and really low for our local acts. Crowd
varies by show but you'll see a wide range of ages. Mostly this
is roots-rock or uptempo country; occasionally you'll see a performing
songwriter but generally only in their rock persona. The volume is
about normal for Austin clubs so bring your earplugs. The sound is
better than most clubs. Yes, cigarette smoking is prevalent. There
are a few seats and some bench-style seating if you feel the need
to lounge around. I don't think I've seen a bad show there yet.
They also have some "resident artists" some of whom
(Jon Dee Graham
in particular) are pretty good.
An intimate club where you won't need your earplugs (unusual
in Austin in that regard). Acts tend more towards the acoustic
here; you can also hear roots-rockers in a more "unplugged" mode.
Touring acts make up a noticeable percentage of the roster but
more than half are local. I've never seen a bad show here.
The emphasis is on the lyrics and the tunes at this club. Although
both alcohol and cigarettes are in evidence, neither are
particularly intrusive. Low cover charges and I'm told they
have good coffee. When the weather (and neighbors) permit,
they have early shows outside. (They used to have only outside
shows, but the neighbors finally prevailed.)
The Hole In The Wall:
A rock and roots-rock in an authentic "old Austin
funky" club. (Now don't you never mind the places where the
ceiling is falling in). No martinis, no cigars, no hoi polloi
in this crowd, the question is what kind of beer do you want and
how many glasses you want with that pitcher. Always consistenly
booking live, original, music, with the occasional touring act
from some wierd place or other (Amarillo? Finland?) Some
curmudgeons have been heard to say that when this place and
the Spoke are both gone, there won't be any "real" Austin left.
[Later update, much after this page was originally written ...
uh oh! On the other hand, there is a "rumor" that it may
reopen in the same location. We'll see.]
Always local, always blues, always low cover.
One of the last few remaining "real" live (not just pop-cover tunes)
places to hear music on 6th Street. Nice and run-down and relaxed.
The audience consists of the pierced people through the old farts.
You should stop in and leave a few dollars there to support this
outpost on 6th.
Originally more of a singer-songwriter place back in the days of
the big Progressive Country scare, now leans more towards roots-rock.
The crowd averages a little older here and the musicians are more
generally local than touring acts. The sound is fair to good, not too
loud (but bring your earplugs), and there are a good number of
seats. Unforunately this can be a real smoke-a-torium when
those seats are full. Occasionally they'll do a webcast from
the stage . Recommended act: the Replacements, every
Sunday at 7pm, a kind of local supergroup. (They have several
key members and then a varying cast of substitutes with various
guests sitting in and whatever. Their shtick is un-P.C. gags,
(thus the group name), so their between-song patter may not
be suitable for the easily offended.)
Other fabled live music venues missing in action (closed but
hoping to reopen in other locations):
Then there are the places that are primarily
restaurants with live music
as their feature.
Back to my main music page.
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©1997-2003, Mark Linimon. All rights reserved.
Sat Mar 29 14:17:39 CST 2003