You probably already know how spectacular—or, honestly, how gloriously overwhelming—the live music scene is in Austin during South By Southwest. And maybe you’ve even been there for the such-muchness of the Austin City Limits Festival, which can go toe-to-toe with any Coachella, Lollapalooza, or Governors Ball weekend.
Here’s what you may not know: The scene in Austin is spectacularly, gloriously overwhelming 365 nights of every year. The city bills itself as the live music capital of the world, and there’s ample evidence to support this: Almost 2,000 bands and performing artists live in and around Austin, which boasts more than 200 venues.
Want the definitive guide to the city and it’s weird history, from its “loose, easy, and cheap” golden age in the Seventies—the heyday of Austin City Limits in its original incarnation as a TV show and of the late, lamented performance space known as the Armadillo World Headquarters—to its more recent emergence as a foodie destination and a tech hub? Read Joe Nick Patoski’s comprehensive Austin To ATX, released earlier this year. We studied up, took some additional tips from Patoski himself, and set out on our own in a Silvercar by Audi (book an Audi via the Silvercar app before the end of the year and enjoy the fruits of their partnership with Austin-based Outdoor Voices in the form of $100 off purchases and some freebees waiting for you in your rental car) to the area's storied—and less-storied—stages. At our disposal was everything from UK drum n’ bass and Dominican bachata to electro R&B, jazz, swing, soul, roots, country, and pretty much any other kind of sound that you can imagine.
The Broken Spoke
With such a wealth of opportunity—and with everyone bringing their own musical interests and obsessions to the table—we don’t generally like to call any venue “mandatory.” We make an exception, though, for the 55-year-old Broken Spoke, one of the last true Texas dancehalls. Have a quick peek at the dusty, ramshackle in-house museum—and then get yourself and your boots to the dancefloor. (Don’t know how to to do the Texas two-step? They offer nightly lessons.)
The Continental Club
After a wild history as everything from a supper club to a burlesque palace, the Continental–arguably the sine qua non of medium-sized Austin music clubs—settled into its legendary existence as the amped-up home of everyone from Social Distortion and the Replacements to local and regional talents ranging from Joe Ely to James McMurtry. Count yourself lucky if alt-country hellion Dale Watson is in residence on the club’s red velvet-curtained stage.
C-Boy’s Heart & Soul
This relatively new club is housed in the former space of Trophy’s bar, and aside from the juke-joint vibe and spacious stage downstairs hosting contemporary, often-raucous soul and R&B acts, it features a stylish and evocative upstairs lounge, the Jade Room, modeled after 1950s-era Japanese GI bars.
Devil’s Backbone Tavern
Had enough of Austin’s cosmic countrypolitan scene? Hop in your car and head 37 miles southwest to this circa 1937 roadhouse owned by singer-songwriter Robyn Ludwick and her musician husband John, aka "Lunch Meat." What you’ll find—aside from a killer jukebox, the oldest shuffleboard in Texas, and plenty of cold beer—is the best old-time honky-tonk in Texas (and thus, by extension, the world). Go any time for the (supposedly haunted) vibes and the epic view of the surrounding Hill Country—or, better yet, time your trip for a concert in the attached restored performance hall, where both imported talent and the local music gentry take the stage regularly.
Originally Appeared on Vogue