Whether you’re looking for the best live music bars in Austin or just the best music venues in Austin, we’ve got it all!

If you’re attracted to experiencing world-famous bands as loud as you can and making memories with a massive crowd, or you prefer the feeling of discovering a gem of a local band while sipping a custom cocktail at a dive bar, Austin has it and is still the Live Music Capital of the World for a reason.

For massive concerts, the three places you’ll likely end up at are the Moody Center (part of the University of Texas campus, near downtown), the Circuit of The Americas (also an F1 track!), or the HEB Center in Cedar Park.

But the best live music bars in Austin come in a few varieties, ranging from hole in the wall bar (Hole in the Wall), tiny honky tonks with dance floors (Little Longhorn Saloon), bbq joints with an outdoor stage (Stubb’s), big music venues (Mohawk in the Red River District), to the occasional circus themed hotspots (Carousel Lounge).

There are literally hundreds of options, but the following are just our top 8 music venues in Austin that we’ve enjoyed personally:

1. Moody Theater

You’ve heard of Austin City Limits (ACL), whether you know it from the multi-weekend music festival or the nearly 5 year old show on PBS, but did you know that you can go to shows and tapings at the Moody Theater?

Back in the day, you’d line up on taping day and they never told you who was playing, so you could be surprised with Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews Band, or Foo Fighters, you just never knew.

Now, you buy tickets just like any live music venue, and the bonus is that you might be part of a filmed studio audience. Fun!

2. Broken Spoke

This 60 year old family-owned music hall is world famous for two-steppin’ and even if you’re not into commercial country music, it’s addictively fun to go take a fun dancing lesson which they offer at 8PM Wednesday through Saturday.

You don’t need food trucks when you can eat a head-sized chicken fried steak and gravy at the Broken Spoke to fuel you up for some two stepping. Plus, this Austin music venue has been featured on Queer Eye!

But more importantly is the music – this is one of the last of two remaining two-stepping dance halls in Austin, as the country culture has widely left this part of the state. It does attract a lot of tourists, but that evens out well with the welcoming regulars.

crowd watching live music at the Historic Scoot Inn in Austin, Texas
image courtesy of austin.eater.com

3. Historic Scoot Inn

This place ain’t called “historic” for nothin’ – in the late 1800s, the railway was built in Austin, and a grocery store opened up right next to the tracks, and it was operated as a local grocer until 1955. That was the year that Aubrey Ivy (whose nickname is “Scott”) purchased the store to open Scoot Inn, a saloon and live music venue.

Ivy’s Room is their separate indoor bar where piano performances attract a diverse crowd. All of their venues are known to have fabulous happy hour specials, and it isn’t uncommon to just pop in without planning, knowing you’ll catch a good live music show.

This venue is the epitome of classic East Austin – an older building that has been renovated for modern use, filled with locals and folks from around the world, coming together to enjoy cold drinks and a hell of a show.

crowd watching live music at the Continental Club in Austin, TX
image courtesy of hawaiitribune-herald.com

4. Continental Club

The Continental Club doesn’t look like much during the day, but at night when the lights come on and the intimate room fills up with people in front of a small stage, anyone can feel immediately connected to their favorite musicians. It’s a really powerful experience.

Don’t let the size trick you into thinking this is just small local up-and-comers on stage, they’ve hosted some of the biggest names in music over the years.

This iconic venue will soon turn 70 years old and is one of the last original venues on South Congress which is now a more commercialized area, with an eclectic mix of local shops and endless restaurants. It first opened as a supper club but became a music venue in the 60s.

If you love finding new songwriters on acoustic guitars, they have a tiny venue upstairs, the Continental Gallery, which they’ve dubbed a “speakeasy,” and even many locals don’t know about it, giving it a more mysterious and exclusive feel.

a large crowd watching a band play live at Hotel Vegas in Austin, Texas
image courtesy of timeout.com

5. Hotel Vegas

Austin was once well known for underground music and a stronghold for punk rock, but most of those that were part of the movement have closed or evolved into other styles. But Hotel Vegas is where we go to soak up that sound and feel along with other incredible styles of music, and the vibe is so very Austin dive bar.

The music lineup is always unexpected, diverse, and surprising – we can promise you’ll never be bored. You might not love the janky bathrooms, but you’re there to listen to music, so go poo on your own time (is what we would expect them to say if you complained).

Like we said, this place is classic Austin.

small crowd sitting down watching a live band perform at the Elephant Room in Austin, TX
image courtesy of venuereport.com

6. Elephant Room

If you’re not in the mood for punk, country, rock, or rap, Elephant Room might be more of your flavor. For over 30 years, they’ve offered jazz music underground. Literally.

This music venue is in a small basement bar on South Congress, and their cocktails are incredible. They keep it simple with jazz and drinks, and we love it!

large crowd watching a live band perform at Cheer Up Charlie's in downtown Austin, Texas
image courtesy of austinchronicle.com

7. Cheer Up Charlie’s

Have you ever wanted to drink fresh kombucha and listen to kind of weird spoken word poetry indoors while you wait for your favorite local act to perform in front of the massive natural limestone cliff? Or maybe you’ve wanted to enjoy a vegan snack at a queer venue while soaking up a high quality dance-filled drag show? Perhaps you just want a cocktail at a high energy outdoor space where everyone just seems genuinely happy to enjoy music?

Then Cheer Up Charlie’s is your place. It’s one of the most enjoyable Austin experiences, even if you’re extra straight, they’re so welcoming. Go for the local music, end up at a dance party, go home sweaty, that’s the drill.

large crowd at the Empire Control Room & Garage in Austin, TX
image courtesy of app.discotech.me

8. Empire Control Room & Garage

We wouldn’t consider ourselves audiophiles, but we do enjoy a good high-quality music experience, and that’s what Empire offers. It’s this massive venue with two outdoor stages, and an indoor stage that’s a converted garage.

They offer music every Thursday through Saturday, and if you go to SXSW music events, at least 25% of them will probably be hosted here.

We love the creativity at Empire – music ranges from wild light shows, dance parties on the patio, lesser-known and mainstream bands, all with an excellent sound experience.

No matter what type of music you enjoy, or what vibe you’re into, Austin’s got it.

While our city is famous for attracting the highest caliber musical talent from around the globe, even though we host two of the largest music festivals anywhere (SXSW and ACL), Austin isn’t famous for supporting musicians. Organizations like HAAM offer affordable healthcare to this population (please donate), but as a whole, our city has a lot of work to do to support the talent that attracts so many to our town.

So we’re proud of you for frequently doing your part and supporting these local music venues and musical acts!