Austin has long since been known as a famous music town, but there are some factors that have limited big acts from playing regular shows in ATX for some time. Until recently, the largest theaters and venues could only hold a couple thousand people, and the location (deep in the heart of Texas) is out of the way for a lot of bands. Sure, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin create a nice run once you make it all the way to Texas, but the next city to the east is New Orleans, and to the west is Albuquerque. With the huge geographic barriers and size of venues, Austin didn’t catch huge acts until the 360 Amphitheatre was built. Below are a list of venues where you might catch the biggest names in the industry.
Circuit of the Americas 360 Amphitheater
Built as a race track, the Circuit de Americas has a huge amphitheater that can hold about 20 thousand people. About half of the venue has permanent seating covered by an overhanging ceiling, while the remainder of the theater (the back) is a grassy field. Bring blankets, sunglasses and sunscreen for summer shows. Like all venues, beer and food is expensive but the biggest names in the business perform at the 360 Amphitheater.
A long time name stay in Austin, Stubbs BBQ is far more than the name suggests. Sure, the BBQ is great and Sunday Gospel Brunch is a favorite of mine, but the Stubbs Back Yard takes the cake. Holding about 2,000 people, the yard is big enough for mid-sized acts that tour the country. Due to noise ordinances (check out my ramblings on Austin’s noise ordinances here) the outdoor venue closes around 11pm. Don’t worry, your ticket gets you into Stubbs Indoors for the after party. The restaurant converts into a venue after hours and the shows go as late as 2pm.
The long-time famous Austin City Limits Live edition has played from the Moody Theater in downtown Austin for decades. Large names and great acts perform in this intimate theater often for live recordings. Tickets are higher priced, but sound quality is incredible and musicians always perform at their best.
UPDATE: The Beauty Ballroom is now permanent closed. Tucked away on Riverside Rd south of downtown, The Beauty Ballroom is an unassuming warehouse surrounded by shopping centers. Inside, you’ll find a space that holds about 600 people and a schedule that boasts touring acts from all over the country. Owned by the same folks that purchased Antone’s, The Beauty Ballroom keeps the rock, blues, soul funk spirit alive.
One of Austin’s most famous blues bars has re-opened on 5th street in downtown Austin. Known for incubating greats such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr., the legendary Antones is a favorite for incendiary live music. This small space has a loyal customer base, selling out mid-week shows as large acts pass through and weekend gigs alike.