Austin has long been called the live music capital of the world, but below are 10 bars that can prove it.
- Moody Theater 4.5/4.6 [Yelp/Google]
This is a newer venue with great lighting, seating arrangements and sound quality. It’s on 2nd and Lavaca, and it has a parking garage in the same block. It hosts Austin City Limits live tapings, which bring in a lot of excellent talent from around the world, and you can register to win tickets to the shows by signing up for the lottery on their blog — usually about a week before the show.
- Cheer Up Charlie’s 4.4/4.7
A fun bar and a great venue for live music. The owners have worked hard to make this a welcoming place for all, and they put on lots of unique events. Local bands get to play frequently, as do the talented DJs. It’s known as a gay-friendly bar, but it’s frequented by all the locals. You’ll pay a small cover charge or none at all. People are especially grateful for all the seating both inside and outside the bar.
- Cactus Café 4.5/4.2
Part of the Student Union Building on the UT drag. Small, cozy atmosphere with a few tables and chairs and everyone else stands around the edge. This is definitely not your loud concert experience, but it’s a great way to chill and enjoy shows by talented musicians. cactuscafe.org
- Strange Brew 4/4.5
Strange brew is a music venue, study room and coffee lounge combined. They’re good at showcasing local artists, and it’s a welcome venue for those living south of 71/Ben White. There’s usually a cover charge for the music. Heads up: The service at the bar/coffee bar is notoriously slow.
- Stay Gold 4/4.3
On the east side of I35, Stay Gold is gaining a solid reputation quickly. There’s a large, outdoor, pet-friendly patio out the back, and you’ll mingle with a younger hipster crowd . Stay Gold finds unique/eclectic bands to put on their stage, and at times you’ll see a vinyl records spinner for the DJ.
- The Blackheart 4/4.2
A converted house on Rainey Street, like most of the bars there, the Blackheart is a dive bar with a small stage and intimate setting. You’ll hear good live music all night with no cover charge either inside or in their big patio out back.
- Empire Control Room 3.5/4.5
This is a great place to hear lots of genres of music you can’t really find anywhere else in Austin – indie, hip-hop, EDM included — and played on the bar’s three stages, two outdoor and one inside.
- Continental Club 4/4
The Continental Club is an Austin icon that typically draws an older, more mature crowd. Tons of famous people have come through the doors of this historical landmark. You’ll find the original flavor of Austin here – hippy, laid back and unpretentious.
- Cedar Street Courtyard 4/4
Four inside bars, a courtyard and outdoor stage, and a balcony. The Spazmatics are a very popular ‘80s cover band that plays on Wednesday nights, and the place can get crowded quickly, but the Spazmatics are more than worth the $10 cover charge. Other repeat evening bands include LC Rocks, Hip Hop Hooray and Memphis Train Review, while other time slots are filled by local singer/songwriters.
- Swan Dive
This place is very busy with the younger crowd on the weekends. Here you’ll find great bands and a decent crowd, and it shares larger shows with Barbarella (bar next door) in the connected courtyard. Expect to pay a cover charge.
Truth be told, no matter where you go in Austin, you’re likely to find talented musicians who play their heart out and share their souls. It’s a great city for music.