Austin’s Concert and Music Scene: The Live Music Capital of the World
When legendary singer and proud son of Texas, Willie Nelson once sang; “There’s nothing quite like Texas on a Saturday night” in his critically acclaimed song, Texas on a Saturday Night, he was most definitely referring to Austin, the capital city of Texas. Nelson must have been in a typical Texan understatement mood when he talked about Saturday night only. Well, that’s because on any given night of the week in this wonderful city, you’ll find hundreds of venues playing a wide-ranging variety of extremely affordable or free live music.
The Live Music Capital of the World: This is a widely-known and merited official nickname of Austin. This moniker might be bold and self-styled, but Austin has everything to back it up. Imagine a city where you’ll always find live music performance at its main airport and close to a thousand clubs and twice that many local bands! No doubt, Austin has a rich music history; history that every local is very proud of. That’s why Austinites like to let everyone know and rightly so that no other city not just in the U.S., but in the world has more live music per capita. This locals’ favorite claim, may seem a little far-fetched, but it’s the truth.
History of Austin's Music Scene
Austin’s music history lives on its numerous stages. For more than a century, the vibrant live music and Austin concerts are well documented. The city’s early musical tradition began when early German, Mexican and Swedish settlers brought their musical heritage with them.
By 1880s, German music halls began lining along Pecan Street, which is presently known as 6th Street. This trend continued for several decades before jazz venues began cropping up in 1920s. This was then followed by country and classic big bands that came about in the 1930s and 1940s. Not to be left behind, an all-Hispanic band led by legendary trumpeter, Nash Hernandez graced the Austin music scene in the late 1940s and with it came Tejano music. The 1960s and 1970s saw the introduction of rock and roll while other music genres such as country, jazz, blues, Tejano and folk continued to grow in popularity.
With such a wide mix of music genres in one city and patrons backing them up, it only became appropriate to introduce a show that would showcase to the world such a wide variety of music styles in one place. This led to the birth of Austin City Limits (ACL) live music TV show in 1974 and it’s still going strong today. The 1970s and 1980s was also a time when clubs such as Armadillo World Headquarters, Soap Creek Salon, Raul’s, Antoine’s, among many others became gathering places for patrons who embraced virtually every music genre ranging from rock, punk, blues, soul, Tejano, new wave, zydeco, indie to roots.
Today's Music Scene
Even though many clubs that served patrons during Austin’s past music golden eras have shuttered, the lively music spirit still endures and strongly so. The streets, particularly 6th Street, are still dotted with numerous music venues offering not just affordable, but probably the greatest live music in the country. These music venues and bars still define Austin’s music scene, but don’t be surprised to come across musicians play everywhere from grocery stores, central markets and even in city council meetings!
The most famous music area is the Red River District in downtown Austin. With clubs situated just about four blocks from each other, it’s quite possible to walk down the street on any given night of the week and find close to 20 clubs offering their packed patrons a wide variety of artists, music genres and traditions.
Great Places for Live Music
With such a seemingly unending appetite for live music and varying genres of music, it’s only proper that Austin has countless venues offering something for everyone. These venues are so many that it’s impossible to name them all, but whatever your taste of music, you’ll find in Austin, bars that showcase everything from edgy newcomers playing in their first-ever gigs, jazz crooners, rappers, country singers to veteran big-name acts playing in their thousandth show. Some of the best places to consider include, but are not limited to; Mohawk, Emo’s East, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, Saxon Pub, Parish, The White Horse, Skylark Lounge and Beerland.
Austinites love their music that having no music festivals would be some kind of a tragedy. That’s why you’ll find numerous festival acts and concerts throughout the year. The city is home to the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) film and music festival, as well as an interactive media conference. It’s been active for 31 years and is in fact, currently ongoing and often draws thousands of attendees. Another popular music festival in Austin is the Old Settler’s Music Festival held each spring. Others include; Austin City Limits Music festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Chaos in Tejas, Carnaval Brasileiro, Urban Music festival, Austin Reggae Festival and many more.
To this end, there can be no qualms that Austin rules the world’s live music scene and truly deserves its self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World” title. It is home to an endless number of wonderful places showcasing limitless amounts of concerts. From historical sites to new and upcoming clubs, there’s always to a place to chill, relax and enjoy a wide variety of music genres from various artists. So if you love music and yet to write your own chapter of Austin music history, you should probably start making plans because the music experiences in Austin are quintessential, authentic, and unique, and probably the best you’ll ever experience in your lifetime.