The moment you step into Austin, you can feel its magic.
Maybe it’s the wave of tech innovation that moves at blistering speeds. Maybe it’s the charm of the sidewalk cafes, somehow unobstructed by the ongoing new construction in Downtown Austin.
Or maybe, as you inhale the mouth watering aromas of Austin’s famous smokehouses, you’ve wandered into the music halls that earned Austin the title of "Live Music Capital of the World."
It’s a lofty title to prove, but if any city has the packed-out event calendars to back up its claim, it’s Austin. And don’t just expect cowboy boots and country classics. Though there’s plenty of that in Austin, the live music scene here is diverse and far-reaching.
From authentic honky-tonks to one of the city’s famous BBQ joints and its outdoor amphitheater, the team from Prevu Real Estate has outlined their top picks for the best live music places in Austin.
Best Live Music in Austin
- Historic Scoot Inn
- Cheer Up Charlie’s
- Donn’s Depot
- White Horse
- The Broken Spoke
- Skylark Lounge
- The Continental Club
- Stubb’s BBQ
Historic Scoot Inn
Scoot Inn first opened its doors in 1871. Today, it is the oldest working bar and music venue in Austin, Texas.
One glance at the staged exterior, and you feel transported to an Old West saloon. But one step inside and you will find a fully-equipped, rustic bar and a dazzling interior sporting southwestern themes.
Scoot features two stages, the primary outdoor venue and the more intimate indoor stage. Most big-name acts will take to the outdoor stage and its 1050-standing-room capacity. In addition, Austin’s largest music festivals, the South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits (ACL Live), regularly feature performances here.
There are two bars to enjoy, with plenty of craft beer on tap and an extensive liquor selection. Even without the headliner music festivals, Scoot Inn’s calendar features live performances almost every other day.
Address: 1308 E. 4th St. Austin, TX 78702
The first thing this Austin-born-and-raised bar and music venue touts is its motto: "All Are Welcome."
Mohawk opened in 2006, delivering an eclectic mix of live music that caters to various genres and tastes ever since. It is one of the first on our list in the historic Red River Cultural District, the nucleus of Austin’s most celebrated live music haunts.
Mohawk’s appeal stems from its design. There’s the rowdy, ground-level stage, where you can get up-close-and-personal with the performers, and the more laid-back second floor. The outdoor patio is always alive during the warmer months, and an indoor fireplace by the bar provides coziness for colder days.
The stages are set up for live performances almost every day of the week. Patrons enjoy everything from punk rock, indie, and alternative or psychedelic rock, along with cocktails and beer from the venue’s prized drink menu.
Address: 912 Red River Austin, TX 78701
Cheer Up Charlie’s
Grab a pint of kombucha on tap and find a spot under the parachute canopy. From there, you’ll be treated to some of the best drag shows, comedy hours, and 90s Queer Country Nights available in Austin.
Cheer Up Charlie’s fashioned itself as a vegan and LGBTQ+-friendly bar. From its humble beginnings as a food truck in 2009, it has since become one of Austin’s best live music bars, sporting numerous "Best of Austin" awards bestowed by the Austin Chronicle.
It is also the only female-owned live music venue in Austin, headed by the duo of Maggie Lea and Tamara Hoover.
Cheer Up Charlie’s stage hosts everything from book releases and musical showcases to electrifying concerts and colorful drag shows. The cocktail menu is just as exciting, offering kombucha-based drinks and organic juices.
Address: 900 Red River St. Austin, TX 78701
It’s easy to walk past Donn’s Depot and mistake it for a typical dive with nothing to offer. But inside the unassuming wooden frame and the three strange derelict train cars next to it is one of the richest parts of Austin’s musical history.
Bob Ogden, the original owner, purchased an abandoned train depot in 1972 for $300. He then hired Donn Adelman, a tire salesman and self-taught pianist, to play the baby grand, and so, an Austin legend was born.
"If Austin is the live music capital of the world, this is the oval office," reads a quote from a performer on the bar’s website.
Fifty years later, Donn still plays at the piano and regularly holds performances. Self-styled as a honky-tonk, piano bar, and sometimes a wedding chapel, Donn’s Depot proudly touts its remarkable history and the unique stories that were born inside its halls.
You can hear some authentic Austin country sounds on the stage of Donn’s Depot. The bar has a lively happy hour every weekday from 2-8 p.m., and plenty of beer and drink options are available to get you in the groove.
Address: 1600 West 5th St. Austin, TX 78703
White Horse is a legend among Austin’s live music venues as it symbolizes the honky-tonk tradition and the fun that comes with it. Its well-stomped bar floor welcomes first-timers and veteran dancers to take in a traditional Austin live music bar.
Live music is played seven days a week at White Horse, treating patrons to bluegrass, country, and Americana. Two-Step classes are offered every Saturday, followed by a chance to try out your new moves.
The often-packed space doesn’t boast fancy decorum, but the classic red stage lighting and irresistible Western Swing draw crowds daily.
If you find yourself hungry amidst all the dancing, you’ll discover another perk that might make this your favorite bar in Austin.
The Bomb Taco truck is stationed outside the White Horse daily and serves up over 15 taco options from 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Address: 500 Comal St. Austin, TX 79702
The Broken Spoke
If you’re hellbent on finding the most cowboy-esque, boot-stompin’ joint in Austin, look no further than The Broken Spoke.
A true legend among Texas dance halls, The Broken Spoke is one of the few that cling tightly to Austin dancehall tradition. If you think White Horse is a classic, wait until you visit this Texas gem.
George Strait, Dolly Parton, and Willie Nelson all etched themselves into the Spoke’s rich history when they graced its stage. The Spoke has even hosted impromptu concerts and appearances by country stars and legends alike. So be prepared for anything if you decide to visit, but, most importantly, be prepared to dance.
Two-step classes are doled out from Wednesday to Saturday to get you primed for a proper honky-tonk experience. And the menu doesn’t hold back either, offering steaks and old-fashioned burgers since 1964.
Address: 3201 S. Lamar Blvd. Austin, TX 78704
The Skylark Lounge
Austin is known for its loud and oversized character. But hidden spots within the quieter parts of town house some of the best live music you can find.
Skylark Lounge sits on Airport Boulevard in East Austin, an unassuming street without a hint of glamor. But a close look will reveal a typical dive bar with the words "The Skylark Lounge" written on the front. Once you step inside, it is anything but unassuming.
The Lounge is home to some of the best jazz, blues, and R&B you can find in the Texas capital. The old-school vibe is prevalent in everything. From the green-baized pool table and the low-hanging Budweiser lantern above it to the intimate stage and simple outdoor patio, you get a sense that you’ve stopped into a no-nonsense dive that’s all about the experience.
Skylark hosts regular acts such as Soul Man Sam and the SMS Band and Butter & Jam, who bring forth a mix of Funk, Hip-Hop, and Gospel. But many up-and-coming blues and jazz performers eventually find their way to Skylark’s stage.
The joint also offers pizza, popcorn, and a solid selection of cold beers and cocktails.
Address: 2039 Airport Blvd. Austin, TX 78723
The Continental Club
If it’s your first time in Austin, it might be tempting to go on the hunt for local flavor while staying away from the "tourist traps." But some tourist-favored spots are not to be ignored.
The Continental Club’s famous halls are regularly packed by visitors and locals alike, and once you’re inside, you’ll realize you’re standing in over 60 years’ worth of Austin musical history.
The Continental has gone through many iterations since it opened in 1955. It began as an upscale supper club, transitioned into Austin’s first burlesque club, and finally settled as one of Austin’s premiere live music venues. It also underwent a renovation in 1987 that styled it as close as possible to the original 1950s version.
Iconic names such as Robert Plant, Wanda Jackson, and The Replacements, have all appeared on the small but legendary stage. The space can only host around 200 people, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for with excitement.
Address: 1315 South Congress Ave. Austin, TX 78704
Live music goes hand-in-hand with top-notch barbecue in Austin, so we would be remiss not to mention a place that combines the two.
Stubb’s Bar-B-Q has featured heavily on "Best BBQ in Austin" lists, but it also holds its weight as one of Austin's most exciting live music venues. Located in the Red River District, Stubb’s has been serving tender ribs and brisket since the 1970s. Its food menu is full of BBQ essentials, such as Pork Spare Ribs and Angus Beef Brisket.
But what sets Stubb’s apart from many of Austin’s top BBQ joints is its electrifying, 1,800-capacity outdoor amphitheater. The stage once hosted legends such as Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson and has a schedule regularly booked with performances from local and celebrity artists.
Address: 801 Red River Austin, TX 78701