Walk downtown on a Saturday night in Austin, and you’ll find yourself in a mixtape. Songs and tunes of every genre swirl together to create a kaleidoscope of sound. As the entertainment lifeblood of our fair city, live music holds a special place in our hearts. During SXSW, the vibe is amplified by a factor of 10.
But what about the venues that house this wonderful music? While each official SXSW venue has its own charm and style, here are six I make a point of visiting every year, regardless of who’s playing.
1/ The Parish
From the layout to the sound to the location, The Parish always manages to impress, especially during SX. At its busiest, there’s ample room to navigate, grab a drink at the bar, and check out some live music. And while its location smack dab in the middle of Sixth Street may be a turn-off for some, it’s super convenient for SXSW attendees looking to stay close to a number of other venues.
214 E. 6th St. – Website
My favorite Red River club never disappoints. With a unique multi-tiered amphitheater outside and a more intimate stage inside, Mohawk is great for multiple band showcases. It also has solid cocktails and great craft beer, a rarity in many rock clubs.
The recent Black Fret season kick-off party was an excellent example of how to use these dueling stages. This feature can really maximize your SXSW schedule. More bands in a shorter window equals time well spent.
912 Red River St. – Website
3/ Swan Dive
While there may be venues with better sound, better lighting, and more space, I’ve had exceptional luck discovering great bands at Swan Dive. With ornate chandeliers, curtain-lined stage, and plush booths wrapped in baby blue, the venue has a divey yet elegant feel. And then there’s the surprisingly spacious backyard area, complete with second stage. A great place to discover something new.
615 Red River St. – Website
4/ Empire Control Room & Garage
Another multi-stage venue, Empire Control Room & Garage’s sweet location and exceptional selection of artists make it a fine place to visit for the evening, and get barraged by awesome music. This is where I was first introduced to Quiet Company and CAPYAC, among others, so it holds a special place in my heart. Even the relatively tiny Control Room puts on great shows with high-quality sound. Highly recommended.
606 E. 7th St. – Website
5/ Continental Club
Using the word “legendary” doesn’t seem big enough for this South Congress staple. First opened in 1957 as a supper club, greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Ely, and Robert Plant have all stepped on its stage. Walking in today feels like a blast to the past, when amazing music seeped from every corner of our fine city. Pray this classic never gets gobbled up in the ever-expanding South Congress scene.
1315 S Congress Ave. – Website
6/ Moody Theater
No venue list is complete without mentioning the crown jewel of the Austin music scene. With dazzling lighting, extraordinary sound, and great sight lines regardless of where you’re sitting, the Moody never disappoints. It may not be like the intimate clubs of yesteryear, but the amenities make up for lack of intimacy. An arena-style experience in a small-scale theater.
310 W. Willie Nelson Blvd. – Website
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
What is your favorite SXSW venue?
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