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I've been in Austin about 5 and a half years, and have tried to make an appearance at as many different music venues as I can. Some I love and some I don't, but I think almost every one has a character that makes it unique. It's sad to see several of the good venues close in the last few years, I sure hope it doesn't continue. Clubs like Liberty Lunch and Steamboat were some of Austin's coolest clubs for a long time, especially in the mid-nineties when I got here. There were some classic shows there, that's for sure. But on a more positive note, there are several great clubs in Austin now and many others worth checking out. Not only do each of them vary by music styles and genres, but they each also possess a personality all their own. Here are some of my favorites.

 

Antone's

Probably my favorite club in Austin (although maybe not my FAVORITE place to see music, see below....) Even though the club relocated to it's current location a few years ago, it still exudes Austin music history...Sure, it's known for being a blues club, and that's what it does best, but they are showing more different types of acts every day. It's just got a great vibe to it and a very intimate feel. You can literally get inches from the performer. I think it's become a little too "hip" lately where people are going more for partying than to see who's playing, but the music still reigns supreme. It probably has more artists that I like than any other club...And for some reason, I think the club brings out the musician's best....It's almost like they have to prove something when playing there....

 

 
 
 
 
 


213 W. Fifth St.
www.antones.com

 

 

La Zona Rosa

Very cool live music club/restaurant. I think the quality of acts has fallen a little bit over the last few years, but they still book good shows fairly frequently. There's actually two different venues- the "club" and the main music stage, both catering to different size acts. You'll tend to see solo singer/songwriters in the club, which has probably about 20 tables.....this provides for a great "tiny" place to see music. There is also the main area which is used for most of the larger bands. It is one of the more spacious places to see music in Austin, and has a very good feel to it. The stage is fairly elevated, so it's not hard to see the musicians from any angle. I recommend trying the restaurant and then staying for a show. La Zona hosts all different kinds of music, so at one time or another, it will cater to anyone's interests.


612 W. Fourth St
www.lazonarosa.com

 

Cactus Cafe

Even though the Cactus isn't the place I go to most to see music, it's probably my favorite place to see it. Part of this reason is it mainly hosts singer-songwriters, and I am way into singer-songwriters. But the thing about Cactus that's different from any other club I've been to in Austin is it's ALWAYS about the music. It's an extremely small and intimate venue, and the stage doesn't hold more than 3 people usually. It is mostly seating, so it's easy to relax and enjoy a good show. Most of the shows at Cactus are acoustic, and I've always thought the sound quality is outstanding. Usually, they don't sell advance tickets here, so it's best to get there before doors open to get a good seat and to beat a sellout. The Cactus Cafe is located in the Texas Union building on the University of Texas Campus. I think on any night you can see a great show here, even if you don't know the musician who is playing. You'll tend to hear a lot of good stories to go along with the music.

 

The Saxon Pub

Another club that hosts mainly singer-songwriters (though some "bands"), it's also a great place to see music in a small intimate setting. Better get there early though, or the tables up front will fill up and you will be left standing near the back of the venue or by the bar. Located on South Lamar, this place pulls in a good crowd almost every night. People like Guy Forsyth, Patrice Pike, and Bob Schneider are often regular performers there, but I think almost any established musician in Austin plays there from time to time. Just hop on South Lamar and look for the knight in armor.


1320 S. Lamar
www.thesaxonpub.com
 

Other Cool Venues to Explore:

The Backyard- Beautiful outdoor venue. Great acoustics, and a large area to walk around on. It usually hosts bigger acts like Sheryl Crow and Lyle Lovett. Quite hot if you go in the summer, though.

13101 Hwy 71
www.thebackyard.net

  Stubbs BBQ-Both a BBQ restaurant (inside) and an outdoor music venue (although there is also music inside sometimes)... Consistently has well-known acts play, as well as a pretty neat design outside. Drink selection and prices suck however.

801 Red River
www.stubbsbbq.com

  The Backroom- I don't go there too often anymore, but it's a good club for all you closet metalheads out there. Good, elevated stage and thrashing acoustics. It usually has unknown metal bands, but I've seen people like Sebastian Bach and Strutter here. Pretty wild.
  The Mercury- Has a consistently interesting act list. Mostly local stuff like Golden Arm Trio, Drums & Tuba, Steamroller, etc, but continues to book fresh and different bands. Located on top of Jazz. Grab some catfish or gumbo and then head upstairs to the show. Go on, go for it.  
  Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar - Nice little jip joint once in awhile. I don't think it's that great for the music because the stage is right by the doorway, so if it's somewhat crowded, you have to contend with people coming and going the whole time. It's a good hang out place, especially on Tuesday with dollar Honey Brown's! www.barfish.com
  Hole in the Wall- Alright, this isn't the greatest music place in the world, but hey, it's been Austin flava for a LONG time...You can't miss it if you walk or drive down the drag. Usually unheard of bands, and is famous for the Rock and Roll Free For All every Sunday (no cover). Wait, this Sunday ritual just ended.. Oh well, pay the 4 dollar cover.