Music Monday: The 7 Best Venues to See Live Music in Austin
At many shows that I photograph around town, I'm constantly asked for venue recommendations. It's kind of funny, because I usually don't think to care about the venue—just the band that's playing! I would follow any artist I love to any venue but I realize that a lot of folks who are either new to Austin or just want to discover new bands, might care a whole lot about how cool the venue is.
I did some thinking and compiled a mini list of the top venues I love to shoot at because I think they deliver the best live music experience to fans.
Based on the photo alone, need I say more? The wildest, craziest, most memorable shows I have ever seen have happened at the Mohawk. It's hard to believe it's only been around since 2006, because it feels like a staple in the music scene now. Whether you want to see local bands or international indie headliners, the Mohawk provides some of the best live music experiences.
CHEER UP CHARLIES
Right next door to the Mohawk, you'll find Cheer Up Charlies, home of the best mixed drinks and Arlos. Cheer Ups has a reputation as a safe space for women and the LGBTQ community. They booked all female (and many all local) lineups very often for low cover prices. The combination of inclusive artists bookings and the best (and cheapest during happy hour) drinks certify Cheer Ups as one of my top picks for live music around the city. I would show up to this venue any night of the week and know that I would see some amazing art be made.
3TEN ACL LIVE
Connected to the historic Moody Theatre is 3Ten, a baby venue that holds just 350 concert goers. I love 3Ten because it gives both local artists the opportunity to play to new, "upper-scale" audiences and huge touring bands like Panic! at the Disco to play intimate shows all under one roof—with the same spectacular sound and lighting that you find at the Moody Theater.
Booked by C3 Concerts, Stubbs manages to book both the biggest buzz bands and iconic artists alike. As a photographer, I love C3 venues because there is always a photo pit and professional lighting—but I've noticed the fans like them as well because there tends to be a more laid back atmosphere. Often there's a pretty even mix of diehard fans and folks just out to be "seen."
Quite the opposite of Stubbs, Barracuda offers a space for passionate concert goers to let lose and share their love with other fans. Much like the Mohawk, I've witnessed some crazy shows at Barracuda. (And maybe even crowd surfed at a few.) Barracuda shows are typically booked by Margin Walker—infamous for Sound On Sound Festival—and remains committed to bringing down alternative artists who are up-and-coming.
THE SCOOT INN
In East Austin, the Scoot Inn has recently become one of my favorite venues in Austin. It was already a strong contender with it's dreamy strung lights and rustic bar, but when C3 started booking the venue's shows it also became super organized. Now it's laid out in a similar way as Stubbs—with a photo pit!—but has kept it's charming aesthetic.
There have been a few Antone's around town since I moved to Austin, but the newest one feels like an institution in the industry already. Owned by local music legend, Gary Clark Jr., the venue books large touring acts and stays true to its roots with blues bands on the regular. With a record store on one side and the Russian bar on the other boasting $2 beer, it's in a prime location. Plus, you never know when Gary is going to make a surprise visit.