It may seem like Texas bragging, but Austin really has a great claim to being The Live Music Capital of the World with literally hundreds of music venues and a reputation for nurturing talent. Some also call it the Third Coast because of the city's influence on popular culture. Music is king of course, but the theater, film and art scenes also are vibrant.
The premier showcase of the city's music scene is the annual spring SXSW Festival when musicians and fans from around the world descend on Austin. Visitors to the city quickly realize there is no one Austin sound. Clubs offer Country, R&B, Latino, Jazz, Rock and Western Swing.
Austin Entertainment Venues
Sixth Street, often called Austin's Bourbon Street, is home to many of the venues showcasing the multitude of Austin sounds and one of them is called Emos. Just off Sixth is one of the most famous venues, Stubb's Bar-B-Q, on nearby Red River -- don't miss the Sunday gospel brunch. Just West of Congress is the downtown Warehouse District, home to another top nightspot, Antone's, dubbed "Austin's Home of the Blues". South of the river is where several famous Austin nightspots are located, including the Continental Club on South Congress, and the Saxon Pub (look for the big knight in armor out front) and the Broken Spoke, the ultimate Texas honky-tonk, on South Lamar Boulevard.
Austinites have fought long and hard to keep some of the city's most famous nightspots from the wrecking ball, but they have not always succeeded. One of the most famous was the Armadillo World Headquarters, a ramshackle barn of a place where the stage welcomed some of the most famous names in music. Threadgill's World Headquarters now stands on the spot on Riverside Drive just south of Town Lake and the walls are covered with Armadillo memorabilia. The original Threadgill's was a gas station on North Lamar Boulevard where rock legend Janis Joplin played. Both Threadgill's still feature live music along with home style cooking.
Austin Entertainment Legends
Joplin is just one of the music legends who were nurtured by the Austin music scene; others include Joe Ely, Jerry Jeff Walker, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Dixie Chicks. Willie Nelson was the first featured artist on Austin City Limits, the show that has proved to be the longest-running series on public television -- visitors can take a tour of the set at KUT-TV studios on the University of Texas campus and shop for tickets on the show's web site.
Austin celebrates and even reveres its musicians, featuring them on stage at the Austin-Bergstrom Airport and even memorializing them -- a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn stands on the southern banks of Town Lake on the hike and bike trail.
Austin is more than Music
There is more to Austin music than just listening, dance clubs abound and some stay open into the early morning hours after state law mandates 2 a.m. bar closings.
Austin coffeehouses sometimes offer low-key musical entertainment, perhaps jazz or folk guitar, and they are also home to poetry slams and book readings. One popular coffeehouse, Jo's in Austin's hip SoCo area on South Congress, even hosts classic movies in its parking lot during the summer.
The Texas Film Commission is headquartered in Austin and increasingly the city and environs are being utilized as location spots. The city also hosts several film festivals and downtown is home to the original Alamo Drafthouse movie theater in the Warehouse District where there are adult beverages and even meals for sale during the flicks.
Theater venues around the city include the restored Paramount on Congress Avenue downtown, the Zachary Scott Theatre Center South of Town Lake on Lamar Blvd and several large facilities on the University of Texas campus. There are avant-garde and innovative theater groups in the city, also. One Austin tradition that should not be missed is a visit to Esther's Pool on Sixth Street where the comedy troupe Esther's Follies performs, usually taking aim at politicians and social trends.
For detailed listings of entertainment pick up the free weekly Austin Chronicle, or check out Xlent magazine, published as a supplement to the Austin American-Statesman newspaper on Thursdays.
Check out other Things to do in Austin.