Austin, Texas is a pretty rich town when it comes to musical history. Given that, it’s tough to narrow down what venues are the best of the best to take in a live show. You could choose from any number of places. However, when you’re at SXSW, you only want to hang out at the cream of the crop. Instead of wandering around to find out what places are best, check out this list of six really great places to experience live music.
The first club on 6th Street, this Austin SXSW hotspot first began presenting music back in 1975 with none other than Clifton Chenier. Blues greats like B.B. King and Muddy Waters have also played there. It’s credited with helping jumpstart Stevie Ray Vaughan’s career, back when he first started and hosted more recent up-and-comers, like Los Lonely Boys. Any band that plays the blues would kill to perform here. Antones: 213 West 5th Street, Austin, TX 78701. (512) 320-8424.
Although this club has had other names over the years, someone named Emo took over in the ‘90s, and the rest, as they say, is history. Perhaps its most famous customer was Johnny Cash in 1994. Its MySpace site describes its occupation as a watering hole (emphasis on hole), and that it’s a Pisces, for whatever that information’s worth. You just need to know that it’s a great place to experience live rock & roll. Emo’s: 603 Red River Street, Austin, TX 78701. (512) 693-3667.
Located on Congress Ave., this club has been presenting music since 1957. That’s long before SXSW even existed. The club even has a history for presenting entertainment other than music. In the ‘60s, it was a burlesque club, with dancers like Candy Barr and Bubbles Cash. Those traditions have fallen by the wayside, but a fella can hope, right? Continental Club: 1315 South Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78704. (512) 441-2444.
Opened in 1979, the Cactus club is famous for presenting acoustic music. Singer/songwriters, like Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, helped make their names there. This is a great SXSW club for those quieter moments. It’s been praised by Billboard magazine. It features both local talent and touring acts. Cactus Cafe: 2247 Guadalupe Street, Austin, TX 78712. (512) 475-6515.
Bass Concert Hall
With 2,900 seats, this is the largest arts center in Austin. It’s the place for those bigger SXSW acts. The hall’s orchestra pit can hold up to 100 musicians. It’s also relatively new, having been built in 1981. If you have a big name and you want to dress up, this is the place to be during SXSW. Bass Concert Hall: 2350 Robert Dedman Dr Austin, TX 78705. (512) 471-2787.
La Zona Rosa
The La Zona Rosa features two stages. The club hosts everything from singer/songwriters to hard rock acts. Almost any kind of SXSW act would fit there. It holds 1,200 patrons. Therefore, it’s perfect for a larger showcase. La Zona Rosa: 612 West 4th Street Austin, TX 78701. (512) 651-5033.