The city of Austin is rich in the history of music and entertainment, dating back to the immigration of the late 1800’s. With the arrival of German, Swede and Mexican settlers, came a musical mosaic.
Today the city is known as the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ and is home to festivals like South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits (ACL). Through the decades, different genres have had their moment in the spotlight, but Austin’s always kept true to its diverse heritage and being known as a place for musical misfits.
Today, you’ll find the majority of music venues around 6th Street, South Congress, the Warehouse District, Downtown, Central East Austin, the Red River District, the University of Texas, South Austin, and South Lamar.
To find out more about where the best music is found, we hit up Austin-based R&B singer-songwriter Tje Austin (yes, that’s his real name).
When did you start playing music?
My parents forced me to take piano lessons when I was around 6 years old. I hated it. I complained so much they let me quit after two weeks. Now I kind of wish they would have encouraged me to stick with it. I started performing my own music freshman year at UT in 2001. I was playing my guitar in an empty bar. I only knew 5 songs. I played them repeatedly for 2 hours. I’m pretty sure the bartenders hated me.
How did you get into music?
My interest for singing and writing songs started in middle school, when I was trying to fit in and discovered that a lot of people thought I had a good voice. I wanted to be like Craig David and Ben Harper.
What’s your preferred music genre?
I love to listen to everything. My playlists include: Khalid, Vulfpeck, Childish Gambino, Matchbox Twenty, Phony Ppl, Emily King, Kacey Musgraves, Twin Shadow and Betty Who.
What do you look for in music venues?
A great sound system and an attentive sound engineer. In Austin, there are a lot of bars that are making the push to be live music venues, but sometimes they fall short on making sure the sound system is a good one. Also, it helps to have an inviting and cool atmosphere. By inviting atmosphere, I pretty much mean drinks.
What is Austin’s best kept secret on where to go for music?
I will say that is a tie between Stay Gold and Native Hostel. They make a great effort on providing a variety of bands. They’re both so different from each other in vibe but they deliver. Native Hostel also has a great selection of eats too.
How has the music scene in Austin changed over the past few years?
There are more and more hotels and condos being built downtown, which means people complaining about live music being too loud. It is causing music venues to pop up further away from the downtown area. There also is a noticeable increase in funk and R&B bands. I love that. I will never complain about that.
What does your typical weekend look like?
The weekends are usually filled with gigs. Friday is my Monday and my band stays busy. It’s showing up to the venue, having a few drinks, chilling with the crowd before and then hitting the stage. Then afterwards, we may head out to Rainey Street to see more friends performing somewhere else. All of my friends are musicians and we all like to hit up each other’s shows whenever we can. Then it’s sleep and before you know it, Sunday arrives and there are brunches to be had. Brunch is life.
Where’s a good place to go for dancing in Austin?
One of my favourite dance spots is at Icenhauer’s on Thursdays. The Moontower Collective always gives a good show performing 90’s and 00’s R&B tunes, as well as some newer top 40 hits. You’ll definitely want to check out the Highball for Motown Mondays. The Matchmaker Band gives a killer show and it’s the perfect way to let loose and get rid of your case of the Mondays.
Best place to have a relaxing mid-week drink?
If you can get the secret code, one of the best places is at the Floppy Disk Repair Co. It has an unassuming store front. You honestly would miss this place just walking by it. There is a keypad that you have to enter a code to get in, which they change often. Once you walk inside, its a dimly lit bar, with incredibly friendly bartenders who make amazing drinks. One of my favourite spots for sure.
Best places to catch good music?
Geraldine’s – lovely dining room with a killer stage. this spot you can always see Austin’s best singer songwriters. Drink of choice – 24 Carat Magic (Titos vodka / carrot juice / canton ginger / tamarind / lemon/ mole bitters) 605 Davis St. Austin 78701
The Continental Club – an Austin staple giving the best in blues. I always check out The Peterson Bro’s for Monday Happy hour. Drink of choice: Bulleit bourbon neat. 1315 S Congress Ave Austin 78704
The Elephant Room – if you are looking for an underground bar that hosts Austin’s best Jazz Musicians this is it. Drink of choice: dirty martini extra olives. 315 Congress Ave Austin 78701
Native Hostel – craft cocktails, killer Sunday brunch and serving delicious live music while also being a cool Hostel. Drink of choice: Grapefruit Negroni 807 E. 4th Street Austin 78702
Stay Gold – a local favorite with talented bands and friendly bartenders. R&B, Jazz, and Funk goodness. Drink of choice: Pearlsnap or EL DIABLO (Ghost Tequila, Blackberries, Lime, Splash of Ginger Beer) 1910 E Cesar Chavez Austin 78702
C Boys – a home for classic R&B and funk. great vibe. the music is loud and the drinks are louder. Drink of choice: Tequila. no chaser. 2008 S Congress Ave Austin
Antone’s – one of Austin’s most iconic stages. You never know when Gary Clark Jr will make a surprise appearance. Drink of choice: Fireman’s 4 305 E. 5th Street Austin 78701
Cheer Up Charlie’s – they have kombucha on tap. a wide variety of bands play here and it’s also a must see during SXSW. Drink of choice: Golden Ticket 900 Red River Austin 78701
Icenhauer’s – in the heart of Rainey Street, this bar offers djs and live band music, craft cocktails and the staff is hella friendly. must see-s: Thursday nights with the Moontower Collective or Sunday afternoons with the Nightowls. you won’t be disappointed. Drinks of choice: The Kasey or The Brittany 83 Rainey Street Austin 78701