Your guide to grooving in Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World
As the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin's music scene and live music experiences are essential to the heart of the city.
First-time visitors might be surprised to find live music everywhere, from the terminal at Austin's airport to outdoor patios at some of the city’s most reputable restaurants.
Summer is full of live music experiences, from seasonal music series to festivals. Nightly, you'll find Austin musicians at clubs, coffeehouses, bars, taquerias, sporting events, and concert halls. And with hundreds of live music venues, it can be intimidating knowing where to start.
Don't worry, we've got you:
A glimpse of history
The Live Music Capital of the World has a long and storied history, interwoven with the many diverse cultures that have resided in Central Texas for generations.
Austin’s blues and soul music history can be traced back to the early 1900s through to Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and many big names can still be found on stages around the city nightly.
The Latin music community is expansive and the list of important names in its history seems endless, stretching back to the turn of the 20th century.
The city has also been home to legendary country music artists — like Willie Nelson — and monumental music venues —like the Broken Spoke — for decades, and today Austin's country music scene continues to forge a unique path.
Out of the Austin 1970s punk scene came new electronic post-punk genres, beginning an unstoppable era of synth-infused new wave.
Hip hop culture hit Austin like a tidal wave beginning in the late 1970s and early '80s, with rappers and hip hop crews forging a path that continues to push boundaries today.
Austin’s famous indie rock scene stretches back to the heyday of psychedelic rock. Today, the city abounds in rock clubs catering to indie artists and the DIY-spirited punk scene.
Even today's local pop music scene reflects the city’s love of crossing boundaries and creating a wonderful and playful fusion of sounds. Find more information on the city’s legendary music scene here.
Where to groove
You don't have to show up only during world-renowned festivals like SXSW and Austin City Limits Music Festival. Scope out these iconic Austin music venues all year long:
Broken Spoke:Do some Texas two-stepping at Broken Spoke, an old-fashioned honky-tonk that’s been around since 1964 and has hosted country legends like George Strait and Dolly Parton. Dance lessons are offered Wednesday through Saturday nights.
ACL Live at The Moody Theater:Artists of all stripes love playing ACL Live at The Moody Theater, home to live tapings of Austin City Limits, America’s longest-running television music series. Be sure to snap a selfie with the statue of hometown music hero Willie Nelson out front.
Antone's Nightclub: Legendary Antone’s Nightclub has been Austin’s home of the blues since 1975, hosting luminaries like Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton. Visit the club in downtown Austin.
Historic Scoot Inn: Opened in 1871, the Historic Scoot Inn is the oldest bar in Central Texas, with shows both indoors and out.
The White Horse: The White Horse is the place to catch live bluegrass, country-western, and Americana bands. Grab a two-step (shot of whiskey and a Lone Star beer) and get to dancing.
Mohawk: Get your rock fix at Mohawk in the Red River Cultural District. This unique indoor-outdoor multilevel space showcases emerging talent from Austin and beyond.
Stubb’s Bar-B-Q:Stubb's is a music institution that serves up lip-smacking barbecue along with some of the best live bands around. Sit down for the Sunday Gospel Brunch and enjoy live music with a buffet of Southern comfort food.
Fresh air and fresh tunes
Classical music lovers won’t want to miss Austin Symphony Concerts in the Park, held on the lawn of Hartman Concert Park at the Long Center. On Sunday evenings from June through August, bring a lawn chair or blanket and kick back under the stars, listening to classical music while soaking in city skyline views. Bring your whole crew — admission is free to all.
Pack a blanket and the family and make your way to Zilker Park for the summertime tradition of Blues on the Green. Held over two days in July, Austin’s largest free concert series welcomes performances by top local bands in Austin’s most beloved park.
Inspired by Austin's love of outdoor jams, the Drop-In Summer Concert Series brings the tunes to the Hartman Concert Lawn at the Long Center every Thursday through mid-August. Pack a picnic and bring your friends to this free outdoor concert series with a spectacular sunset view of the Austin city skyline.
Every summer, the Red River Cultural District hosts Hot Summer Nights: four days in July of free live music held at multiple venues throughout the neighborhood. Besides catching popular local acts, you’ll have the chance to sample scrumptious foods from local eateries.
Stop in the Oak Garden at Güero’s Taco Bar every Wednesday (rain or shine) for the Texas Radio Live series presented by Sun Radio. Listen to Texas singers, songwriters, and musicians while you chow down on homestyle Mexican dishes and tip a margarita or two.
More outdoor venues
Visitors will find an array of unique outdoor music experiences, from parks with amphitheaters to hidden hot spots like a car garage that doubles as a concert venue. Here are a few of the best places to catch music outdoors in Austin:
Moody Amphitheater: Catch concerts year-round at the Moody Amphitheater on the grounds of Waterloo Park, a gorgeous, green oasis in downtown Austin. Bring a chair or blanket, stretch out on the Great Lawn, and enjoy everything from local artists to internationally touring acts.
The Far Out Lounge & Stage:From tribute bands to classic rock, country, and punk, live music of all stripes is played nightly on The Far Out stage. Order anything from birria tacos to plant-based options from the food trucks parked on-site.
Empire Control Room & Garage: Touring bands and local opening acts bring their best to this former auto shop’s stage. Take a break from the concert crowd at Empire's more intimate creekside patio bar.
Cheer Up Charlies: Explore the outdoor patio hidden under a parachute at this LGBTQ+-friendly home to live music, colorful drag shows, and delicious vegan eats from Arlo’s food truck. Cheer Up Charlies will have you ready to dance the night away with upbeat tunes, kombucha on tap, and organic juice blend cocktails.
Hotel Vegas: Catch an outstanding lineup of cutting-edge bands or watch a live DJ in the backyard of this venue in Austin’s East Sixth Street neighborhood. Hotel Vegas shares its outdoor patio space with neighboring club, The Volstead.
Eats and beats
The Live Music Capital of the World has also become a robust foodie city with some of the most iconic barbecue pitmasters in the state, a surplus of fine dining establishments, and various walk-in, sit-down, no-frills watering holes. Here are some of Austin’s best restaurants with live music.
Lamberts: Located in the historic Schneider Brothers Building in the 2nd Street District, Lamberts serves up its live music with slow-smoked barbecue and modern Texas cooking. The bar is stocked with local beers, classic cocktails, and new-world wines, and the restaurant regularly features live music in its upstairs bar and lounge.
Geraldine’s:Located on Austin’s infamously lively Rainey Street within the Hotel Van Zandt, and named humbly after a wild guinea fowl adopted and later memorialized by the neighborhood, Geraldine’s hosts local songwriters in its dining room almost every night of the week. The restaurant is the true definition of hyperlocal, from the Austin-inspired cocktail program to the menu of contemporary Austin fare. You don’t want to visit Austin without experiencing one of Geraldine’s famous Saturday jazz brunches.
Meanwhile Brewing Co.: On any given day, listen to Latin, soul, dance, bluegrass, and more played live at Meanwhile Brewing Co. This South Austin destination serves a huge selection of beer and is also home to some of the city’s hottest food trucks dishing out pizza, Mexican food, and barbecue.
Radio Coffee & Beer: If you find yourself deeper in South Austin, Radio Coffee & Beer will serve you the perfect cup of coffee while you enjoy their frequent live music events and a well-curated selection of some of Austin’s best food trucks: Veracruz Tacos, Dee Dee Thai, and others. A local favorite since 2014, Radio is known for its specialty espresso, craft beer selection, cocktails, and shady live oak trees. Don’t miss the weekly bluegrass night on Mondays, regularly voted the city’s best ongoing music residency.
Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden:With live music in its sprawling beer garden, 100-plus craft beers, and more sausage varieties than you can imagine cooked in its own smokehouse, Banger’s is a must-do on Rainey Street. Don’t miss the eatery's popular big band brunch on the weekends.
Learn more about Austin's music scene here.