With 40 festivals, 160 venues, and 2,000 artists, it’s easy to see why they call Austin the “Live Music Capital of the World.” With SXSW around the corner, you may have plans to see some epic bands this spring. But what about the rest of the year? Where can you find live music without driving all over town? To find the answer, read on to see my list of live music venues close to campus.
Starting us off is The Hole in the Wall. Chances are, you’ve passed this bar on your way to class. Its distinct logo, green exterior, and prime location on Guad make it hard to miss. Originally created in 1974, this Austin landmark has served as a craft-honing space for many up-and-coming artists like Stevie Ray Vaughn and Bob Schnider. Today, the venue features a range of music styles from Bluegrass to Indie Rock while continuing to nurture the “underdog” bands of Austin’s music scene. Ages 21+.
Next, up is the classic Central Market located on North Lamar. In addition to providing fresh produce and quality groceries, this local hub features top-notch bands every Thursday through Sunday on its shady outdoor patio. The performances alternate between a balanced mix of Jazz, Country, Soul, Latin, and other timeless genres. Visitors are welcome to stay for a song or linger for the whole concert.
Just down the street from Central Market is another hoppin’ spot: New World Deli. This family-owned cafe offers homemade soups, old-fashioned sandwiches, and live music every night of the week from long-time Austin musicians of Austin. If you’re a Beatles fan, be sure to stop by on a Tuesday for the famous “Beatle Bash” with the Eggmen.
In the mood for swing dance? Head to the Austin Swing syndicate located at the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs just east of campus. Every Thursday night, folks gather in the historic mansion for “Golden Age” big band swing music and lively partner dance. Most weeks, the music is played by a DJ, but on special occasions, the club presents live performances by Austin’s premier jazz bands. Doors open at 9 pm. Check the website for schedules and vaccination requirements.
If you’d like to experience music in a theater or concert hall setting, you don’t have to venture far. Throughout the year, the University of Texas brings many performances to campus through The Butler School of Music and Texas Performing Arts. This semester, Texas Performing Arts are presenting large musicals and concerts featuring world-renowned artists, like Bob Dylan. Additionally, The Butler School of Music is showcasing orchestras, symphonies, ensembles, and operas, many of which are free to students. Most performances take place in one of UT’s premiere performances halls which range in size from 175 to 2,900 seats.
Want to check out student bands? Here’s your chance. Head to the WCP Ballroom on March 9th at 7 pm for “Battle of the Bands.” This contest, hosted by Campus Events + Entertainment Headliners, will feature student bands competing to perform for the Forty Acres Fest – the University’s own mini music festival (date TBA). Both events will include food, music, and a lively atmosphere so grab your friends and get ready to jam.
We end on a high note with the one and only Cactus Cafe, located in our very own Student Union. Since its founding in 1979, the venue has become a haven for singer-songwriters across the world. Upon walking in, you’ll find an intimate room filled with a dozen wooden tables clustered around a small corner stage. Over the years, legends like Janis Joplin, Townes Van Zandt, and Jason Mraz have left their mark in this special space. This semester, the venue is hosting concerts, comedy nights, and even a weekly Songwriters Open Mic – open to students, local artists, and anyone brave enough to share their music with the community.
The Magic of Live Music
There is nothing quite like live music. It brings us into the present moment and connects us to the rhythm of the surrounding world. College is the best time to discover this special form of art and Austin is the best place to do so. While this list covers just a few of the many unique venues in town, I hope it serves as a solid starting point for anyone looking to color their life with the magic of live music this spring.
Amber Williams is The Texas Horn’s Content Editor and a journalism student at the University of Texas. She has a passion for telling stories that inspire others to appreciate the world around them in a deeper way. In her free time, Amber can be found biking, gardening, and jamming on the ukulele.