Are you interested in exploring the depths of the music scene here in Austin? You don’t have to be a classically trained musician to appreciate amazing blues and jazz. In fact, all you need is an open mind and–optionally–a pair of dancing shoes.
Austin is home to some of the greatest venues and artists around. Grab a friend and head to one of these cherished institutions.
The Skylark Lounge (Blues, Jazz, Soul)
The Skylark Lounge is billed as a blues bar, but it’s much more than that. For many musicians, it’s home. When he first had the idea nearly 34 years ago, co-0wner Johnny LaTouf’s primary goal was to create a culturally-significant atmosphere. He wanted to preserve the history of East Austin while running a dive bar brimming with diversity and unbelievable talent.
Before you reach the intimate stage, you might notice a pool table, popcorn maker and the smell of fresh handmade pizza made in ovens from New York City. The staff is like family, figuratively and literally, staying until the last person leaves the bar.
They’ve got music almost every night of the week, but be sure to check out the legendary Margaret Wright during happy hour from 6-8 p.m. every Thursday and Friday.
2039 Airport Blvd. – Website
Elephant Room (Jazz)
More than likely, when you ask an Austin local where to go for jazz, they’ll point you to Elephant Room. The glowing sign near the ground hint that you should take the stairs down as you enter through the door.
With each step, various senses kick in as your eyes adjust to the dimly lit room. Almost every seat is filled with fans of jazz, people on romantic dates and really anyone who just wants to get lost in the energetic riffing of drummers, upright bassists, pianists and brass instrument players. It makes for a perfect musical night cap in downtown Austin, any day of the week.
315 Congress Ave. – Website
The Continental Club Gallery (Blues, Jazz, Soul)
In the heart of South Austin resides the rightfully famous music venue, The Continental Club. Outside the building, there’s a door leading to its smaller, more intimate sister venue, known as The Continental Club Gallery or simply The Gallery.
On any given night, there are two different shows to check out, starting at 8:30 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. This is another great venue where local musicians hang out and mingle with listeners. Imagine a large living room with artwork, a bartender and a stellar band not even 15 feet from you. There are a ton of “regulars” who play here, such as Elias Haslanger, James McMurtry, Sarah Sharp and the incredibly soulful Dave Biller Trio with Mac McIntosh.
1313 S. Congress Ave. – Website
Clifford Antone was said to be the mentor of Jimmie Vaughn, Gary Clark Jr. and Stevie Ray Vaughn. This downtown blues haven’s history is long and legendary with past performance posters lining the walls. People have traveled from all over the world to check out a show here. Luckily, there are two opportunities to hear the music per night, one show at 6:30 p.m. and another at 10 p.m. Happy hour is daily from 5-7 p.m.
305 E. 5th St. – Website
C-Boy’s Heart & Soul (Blues, Soul)
In the same family as The Continental Club, C-Boy’s was built in honor of Louis Charles Parks (past owner of Rome Inn Club) and remains a beloved neighborhood venue in South Austin.
The first thing you might notice is the glowing red heart behind the bar. Depending on the time of night, the disco ball above could be showering the floor with a mesmerizing flow of lights. And make sure you check out the interior of the “Jade Room” upstairs, decorated by a set designer who works with director Robert Rodriguez.
When a local band isn’t playing, C-Boy’s has one of their many vinyl records spinning. All of this makes for a fun, magical evening. Did I mention there’s a spacious patio and a wonderful creole food truck called Gris Gris in the back?
2008 S. Congress Ave. – Website
There are plenty of other venues in Austin that house fantastic blues and jazz bands.
- Friends Bar on 6th Street hosts a blues jam every Sunday.
- Stay Gold, located on East Cesar Chavez, offers a variety of tunes and food truck munchies.
- Dive Bar & Lounge at 1703 Guadalupe St. can also be a great place to discover new bands.
One thing is crystal clear: there is no shortage of soul in this city.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite spot in Austin for blues and jazz music?
We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter two times/month. It’s where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!