The Perfect All-Weekend Itinerary for Seeing Live Music in Austin
Just like that one friend you had in college, Austin carries many different nicknames — names that range from the formal (the Capital of Texas), to the poetic (City of the Violet Crown), to those tailor-made for tourist t-shirts (Bat City). However, the most famous moniker Austin carries is that of the Live Music Capital of the World® — and, through just one weekend in the city, you can see why that title has stuck. Whether you want to two-step at a honky tonk, groove at a jazz club, or dance the night away to tunes from your favorite DJ, our detailed guide features a way to hit them all in one wild weekend.
Wash away the workweek blues at an Austin institution
6:30 pm at The Continental Club
South Congress Avenue
There’s no better way to start your music journey than at one of the most renowned venues in the entire country. The Continental Club has been bringing the tunes to South Congress since 1955 and has hosted storied names spanning a variety of genres ever since — everyone from blues legends, classic rock heroes, and of course, Austin’s unofficial mayor. While South Congress itself has transitioned from a traditional hangout of hippies and outsiders to a street full of high-end stores, The Continental Club has, fortunately, retained the classic divey spirit that made the city “weird” in the best ways. On Fridays, you can take advantage of the last 30 minutes of their happy hour while catching the weekly show by The Blues Specialists, a band whose track record goes back 28 years. While the members may have changed over nearly three decades, their classic style of Texas blues, mixed with a little jazz, hasn't — you know what they say, if it ain’t broke, don't fix it.
Break out the cowboy boots for a dancehall two-step
7:15 pm at Broken Spoke
South Lamar Boulevard
Speaking of Austin institutions, there’s yet another legendary spot that has called Austin home for more than five decades: Broken Spoke, a traditional Texas dancehall. Almost any country artist you can think of has not only cut their chops at the Spoke, but come back to play its much-loved stage once they hit it big. Today, there’s no better place to dive into the Lone Star State’s two-step tradition than on their dance floor on Friday night. The lineup varies week-by-week, but the regulars dancing the night away in their finest Western gear are consistent. For those who have two left feet, many kind experts will be more than happy to show you how to dance like a true Texan.
Get loose with the rhythm at a renowned jazz club
9 pm at Elephant Room
Although the Austin music scene may traditionally be associated with rock and country, jazz fans congregate at Downtown venue Elephant Room. At this underground jazz club, you can find artists impressively improvising every night of the week. Don’t just take our word for it though — since the Elephant Room opened its doors in 1991, it has been consistently called one of the best places to catch jazz. Everyone from well-known media outlets, to genre experts have sung the praises of this haunt, which is tucked tightly in a 1905 historic building. On Fridays, the headliner is usually one of the rotating quintets that frequent the perfectly-lit basement. While you can’t ever know which direction the players will take a tune in, with the Elephant Room’s array of over twenty beers on tap, you can be sure to have a delicious drink in hand while listening.
Max out your Friday at a late-night dance venue
2 am at The Concourse Project
You won’t hear the sounds of planes taking off at AUS airport-adjacent The Concourse Project — only the beat-heavy blast of stellar house and dance music, courtesy of both local and touring acts. This is where the club kids and ravers come to play ‘til 5AM. Despite only being open for less than a year, The Concourse Project has already drawn big names to its indoor stage with the promise of an impeccable sound system. They also have a smaller outdoor stage, where lesser-known DJs can earn their techno chops by spinning the turntables under the stars. While their official Friday Night After Hours shows start at 2AM, the perpetually exhausted can go early and check out another headliner at 10PM — although there’s usually a great ticket deal for those who can last through both shows.
Regroup with tacos and tunes
2:30 pm at Guero's Taco Bar
South Congress Avenue
It wouldn't be a visit to Austin without some A+ Tex-Mex, and Guero's fits the bill. They've been operating for over 30 years on South Congress, so they're definitely doing something right. Get your bearings after a long night of dancing with some homemade tortillas and their salsa bar, then pivot to margs while bands take the stage in the Oak Garden. Crowds will start to flock in as the day ticks on, so finish out your rounds before the patio gets packed and get ready for another evening of musical exploration.
Catch reggae and Afro-pop with a buffet dinner
7 pm at Sahara Lounge
Located far out in East Austin, Sahara Lounge can be a bit of a trek to get to, depending on where in the city you’re calling “home.” However, there’s nothing more worthy of a rideshare than the venue’s famous Saturday night show, Africa Night. It starts with a buffet dinner, featuring a spicy meatball stew, rice with vegetables, and vegetarian bean stew. You’d better eat up, as you’ll need all the sustenance you can get for the dancing. Their rotating lineup of always-fabulous music will have you grooving out among a diverse crowd of the best folks to be found in the city. In fact, this is one of the only events left that feels like it still captures the true, naturally cool spirit that made Austin a refuge for creatives in the past. From reggae to Afro-pop to the traditional sounds of West Africa, you can find it all at Africa Night — and then leave it all on the dance floor.
Take in the lights on a neon-laced dance floor
Till 2 am at various locations
Red River Street
Red River's distinct cultural status makes it a holdout against the rapidly changing landscape of the rest of Austin. Notoriously nightclub heavy, the area will be buzzing until late into the night, so join the revelers, walk around, and explore your favorites. Our rec is Cheer Up Charlie’s, known as one of the best LGBTQIA+ hangouts in the city, featuring a giant pink parachute that hovers over their outdoor dance floor. Even the drinks here are inclusive — their vegan bar is famous for their on-tap hard kombuchas. Other must-sees are Barbarella, which hosts New Noise on Saturday nights, and Stubb’s, which combines legendary music acts with equally renowned barbecue.
Get your energy up (and stomach filled) at a live music brunch
12 pm at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden
After shutting it down on the dance floor until the early morning hours, you’re probably going to need a hearty, food-filled start to your Sunday. That’s where Rainey Street mainstay, Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden, comes in. Their brunch offers up baskets of biscuits, a sampler featuring four selections of their rotating flavors of housemade sausage, and fried pieces of heaven in the form of bacon beignets. However, your belly won’t be the only thing satisfied at the end of your time at Banger’s — the daily live shows on their outdoor stage will also be literal music to your ears. While, again, their weekend schedule rotates through a variety of acts, they’re mostly known for bringing in big brass bands that play in the New Orleans style. Be sure not to miss any morning that features the local, nine-piece powerhouse Urban Achievers Brass Band, who mix the traditional sound of The Big Easy with a Texas twang.
Have a Sunday Funday at a favorite local hang
2 pm at The Far Out Lounge & Stage
South Congress Avenue
Located in Far South Austin, The Far Out has become the standard neighborhood hang for both residents of the area, as well as locals from other parts of the city. This may be partly due to their popular Sunday daytime shows, which range from heady jams by cover bands, to funk and soul artists, to benefits for nonprofit foundations that, without fail, always feature a killer line-ups of local bands. The outdoor, family- and dog-friendly setting often features a weekend market of local vendors serving up unique tchotchkes and curated vintage pieces, too — so you can put your credit card to work between sets. Add in dining options from four food trucks, including from-scratch plant-powered grub from The Forking Vegan and some of the best seafood in the city at Huckleberry, and you have a perfect Sunday afternoon, Austin-style.
Feel the soul at an East Austin Sunday tradition
8 pm at the Skylark Lounge
Few musicians are so beloved by such a variety of people as Soul Man Sam. Fall in love yourself with the music of the band leader, vocalist, and Memphis native as he plays alongside his equally brilliant group, the S.M.S band, at his weekly residency at Skylark Lounge — a true experience, known to all Austin music fanatics as Soul Sunday. Be prepared for epic covers of classic soul tracks as well as quintessential blues tunes. The Soul Man’s raw emotion, paired with the moody vibe of the Lounge, make for an event that is certain to delight anyone with ears. Plus, there’s the fact that he is an exceptional dresser — to witness the brightly colored outfits, often topped with a fedora, in action is worth the price of admission alone. And, due to Soul Man Sam and his band’s renowned reputation, the other various local and touring acts that make up the rest of the Soul Sunday bill are also dependably great.
End your weekend with a final set (and tater tots)
10:30 pm at Hotel Vegas
East Sixth Street
Find your new favorite band, the kind you’ll make all your friends begrudgingly listen to on repeat when you’re in charge of the playlist, by heading to a show at Hotel Vegas. Located on the dive-heavy strip that is East Sixth Street, Vegas is popping almost every night with some local or nationally touring band that could be the next big thing. Hotel Vegas leans to all types of bands, with a focus on the indie scene — on any given night, you could wander into any type of show from folk to punk to experimental, or, more often, one that sits beyond the normal description of genres on one of their two stages. The venue’s sister spot, The Volstead Lounge (which is located so close next door, you might go there first by accident), also hosts events almost every night — not to mention employs bartenders who can make a serious cocktail. The venue's concession stand features a menu of burgers, burritos, and the perfect snack known as Sriracha ranch tots, fully satisfying any cravings for a late night meal.