After spending a jam-packed work week in the colorful, fun city of New Orleans, I flew to Austin, Texas for the first time (but definitely not the last, y'all).
As the host of the super hip (I’m pretty sure writing “super hip” makes me the opposite of that but whatever) South by Southwest (SXSW) conference, Austin is known for being a hipster Texan city with great food, quirky things to do (insert Keep Austin Weird) and incredible live music.
Before arriving in Austin, I knew there were a few things I had to accomplish:
- Hunt down some regular and breakfast tacos (check and check)
- Eat some good ole Texas barbecue (check check), and
- Listen to live music (check check check).
The last part I did through a live music crawl with Austin Detours, a local tour company in which many of the tour guides are also performers and artists.
I could have gone to just check out live music without a tour, but I knew next to nothing about where to go in Austin (there are more than 250 live music venues in the city, so you try sorting through that) and, quite frankly, I didn’t have the energy to research places after my nonstop work trip in New Orleans. So, I left my Austin live music adventures in the hands of Steven, my tour guide slash award-winning comedian slash author and screenwriter (talented guy).
Steven shared some great background on how Austin became known as a music city and a place where many artists came to write music. In his words: “If you’re putting your music out there, you’re considered a success.”
Our first stop was the Elephant Room, an underground jazz bar that’s been around for many years and has had some of the most gifted musicians play there. When I visited, a jazz band named Tres Musicos was performing with a few guest stars. It was still a bit on the early side, so the bar wasn’t too crowded yet but those who were there were enjoying the smooth music coming from the band. Generally speaking, I like jazz though I don’t listen to it very often, but I found this band to be a nice start to the evening.
The White Horse
Next on our crawl, Steven took us to a classic honky tonk The White Horse, which I found fascinating. This was both my first time in Texas and my first time at a true honky tonk, and the whole experience felt a bit like I was watching a movie scene. It was a verrry different atmosphere for this longtime New York City dweller. We were there during the Hot Luck Festival, and when we arrived, a few couples were dancing, and one couple in particular clearly had their country dancing moves down pat. They were owning the dance floor as they twirled and dipped around the room in their cowboy boots and hats. I loved it. It made me want to go buy some cowboy boots and find someone to two-step with.
The Skylark Lounge
Last but most certainly not least, we went to an extremely nondescript place that was outside of the downtown Austin area called The Skylark Lounge. I never would have found this place on my own, and that was part of the beauty of this live music crawl – discovering new places that I likely wouldn’t have found on my own. I LOVED The Skylark Lounge, mostly because the music was so, so good. This dive bar hosts many R&B and blues artists and had a much more intimate feel than the other two venues, which I also really liked. We were supposed to see some performer who was a contestant on The Voice, but he had to cancel so we ended up seeing a band called D Soul Davis & The Art of Soul, and they were GREAT. I could have listened to them all night. Our tour group pretty much all agreed that Steven had saved the best for last (great job, Steven!). Here's one of my favorite clips that I took while at The Skylark Lounge:
Overall, I’m glad I did the live music crawl. Not only did I hear some really good and very varied music, but I also learned some interesting facts about Austin’s music scene. I definitely look forward to returning to Austin one day for more tacos, more barbecue and, of course, more live music.