Places to feel like a true blue, old school Austin music lover.
Whether it's Gospel Brunch Sundays or a regular old Friday night, Stubb's hosts some of the best local gigs in town. While their outdoor stage is reserved for the big guns -- national acts like oh, say, Bob Dylan -- it's the intimate indoor stage that I like best.
Back in the day (by which I mean, the late '70s), Antone's was the place to listen to the blues: B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker all played here. It's still an Austin institution, having birthed the career of several new school blues guys -- think Black Joe Lewis and Gary Clark Jr. -- alongside rock guys like Bob Schneider.
Broken Spoke was built on what used to be the outskirts of town, and it was here, in this mysterious Austin in-between, where cowboys and hippies worshipped at the altar of Willie Nelson. Two-steppin' here is an Austinite must.
What with its giant knight out front, you'd think Saxon Pub wouldn't be as under-the-radar as it is. I think that's a condition of its S. Lamar location, but either way I'm happy about it. On any given night, you can see local Austin favorites like Joe Ely, Carolyn Wonderland, or Guy Forsyth in a small, personal setting.
The Continental Club has been with us since 1957, and was the first burlesque club in Austin (which makes sense, since touristy SoCo used to be the seedy side of town). Its stage has seen the likes of Hank Williams III, Junior Brown, and even Robert Plant.
You can really only fit two people and one upright bass on Hole in the Wall's Guadalupe-backed stage, but that's precisely what makes it so fantastic. One of the bumper crop of 1970s Austin music venues, Hole in the Wall is where a whole slew of Austin musicians got their start.
Cactus Cafe is housed inside a red velvet curtained, low-lit room inside UT's Student Union building, and hosts some of the best musicians you've never heard of on their stage. Then again, maybe you have -- hello, Townes Van Zandt! Good to see you, Dixie Chicks! -- but the cocktail tabled, smal jazz club set-up of this place makes every act you see feel like your own personal discovery.
OK, I lied -- this won't make you feel like a 1970s Austinite. But even if its digs are fancier and its artists increasingly world-renowned, Austin City Limits Live IS a classic Austin experience that you have to do at least once in your life. Preferably if Willie is playing.