Considered the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin is famed for its amazing nightlife, bars and eager fans with an ear for great music. Fans of live music could, if they so desired, catch a live music show every day for a year in this amazing town—a town that boasts more than 250 live music venues, dozens of annual music festivals and events, in addition to the spur of the moment jam sessions and house concerts that are bound to pop up in a city so deeply rooted in music.
Austin has so many live music venues, ranging from massive concert halls to dance houses to back alley bars and restaurants, that it is difficult to be definitive in terms of naming the “best of the best.” Regardless of this dilemma, in the following article we will highlight some of the most popular live music venues in the city, both large and small and in between, and describe some of the characteristics and amenities that have made each so popular among the rocking, music-loving residents of Austin.
The Continental Club
The Continental Club self identifies as the “granddaddy of all local music venues” in Austin, a title it has definitely earned and embraced throughout the years. The club dates way back to 1957, and since then the club has hosted shows by Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Joe Ely, Gary Clark Jr., Kinky Friedman, and residencies by Junior Brown and James McMurty, the latter of whom still plays acoustic solo sets Tuesdays and full-band midnight sets on Wednesdays when he’s not on the road.
The Broken Spoke
Dating back to 1964, the Broken Spoke is a country music fan’s dream. The special venue still delivers a genuine Texas dance hall experience, playing all the old classic country hits from opening to close, and luring boot-stomping partygoers onto the dance floor for a two-step, line dance or country swing number.
Customers of the Broken Spoke, most of who lean to the older side of the age spectrum, love the club for its old-time feel and simple western décor. Much of the crowd arrives before the party gets started to munch down on the Broken Spoke’s renowned chicken fried steak and to wash it down with a cold Bud, Coors or great cocktail, which are always on ice and ready to serve.
Recently named Austin’s “Best Live Music Venue,” the Mohawk is a popular and well-loved bar and live music venue, located on the corner of 10th and Red River Streets.
The Mohawk was built in 2006 with the goal of becoming a one-of-a-kind place for music, drinks and good friends. Its mission, according to its website, is “to host friends, musicians and staff that represent all musical tastes and all walks of life—and all are welcome at the Mohawk.”
In terms of music and overall vibe, the Mohawk is driven by a hard-working staff of bartenders, servers and stage managers, all of whom strive every day to bring something different to the table, from postal and digital art on the walls to clever renovations to its booking and blogging policies and procedures, the Mohawk is home to a creative culture of people, music and décor.
In addition to the great music played daily at the Mohawk, the innovative venue boasts two bars: an inside bar, with a Happy Hour daily from 5PM to 8PM; and the “Live Music Bar,” which is open daily from 8PM until 2AM and where those catching a rock, country, indie or even punk concert can quench their thirst on hearty craft beers and ales, local wines and fine spirits.
Historic School Inn
If you find yourself traveling in and around East Austin, be sure to catch a show at the Historic School Inn. This musical gem was founded and first opened in 1871. It is known throughout the state as the oldest bar in Central Texas and it has strived over the years to preserve as much of the old décor as possible, as well as the old Texas-style vibe.
The Historic School Inn has expanded bit by bit in recent years. The result has been an awesome and much larger music venue that can now accommodate 1,000 people. In terms of the music on tap at the bar, all shows are performed by various local and national artists and bands. Some of the recent performers here include Spoon, Houndmouth, Crocker and Mayor Hawthorne.
The White Horse
Situated about a mile away from the Historic School Inn is the music venue known as the White Horse, another popular establishment in the Eastern part of Austin. This great bar and stage gives audiences a more modern, updated take on the vintage honky-tonk vibe, with powerful performances that range in genre from classic and modern country music to Cajun to Americana.
Most of the shows/performances at the White Horse Bar are completely free of cost for bar patrons, and if you happen to be there on a Sunday morning or afternoon, you can use that money you saved to check out the East Side Flea Market located just a few blocks away.
The Rattle Inn
The Rattle Inn is a relatively new club in the city of Austin, having been built in 2012, but you couldn’t tell due to its amazing popularity among the local people. The Austin club is owned by a group of partners, one of whom is Ray Benson. Benson is the former (and sometimes current) front man for the wonderful band Asleep at the Wheel, an Austin-based country music group that has won nine Grammy Awards over the years since the band first hit the country music scene in 1970.
The Rattle Inn hosts all types of bands and performers. The club is made up of three different spaces: the Rooftop Deck, the Whiskey Lounge, and for live music, Ray’s Backstage, where singer/songwriters, roots rockers and Americana artists hold court.
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