Known as the “live music capital of the world,” Austin earns its title every spring during the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. At this year’s event, March 13 to 18 (with interactive and film segments starting on March 9), see a wide variety of performers—from unsigned soul singers to legendary bluegrass bands—play outdoor BBQ joints, small bars, and downtown street corners.
In a town full of music venues, it can be hard to decide where to go first. Will Sheff, lead singer for the Austin indie rock band Okkervil River—whose sixth album, I Am Very Far, comes out in May—shares his top picks for experiencing the live music scene in Austin, Texas.
603 Red River St., (512) 505-8541, emosaustin.com
“Emo’s has a lot of local band nights, and they’ve also had legends, including Johnny Cash, play there. It’s the epitome of Austin—an unpretentious, homey, friendly, punk dive.”
Scottish Rite Community and Children’s Theatre
207 W. 18th St., (512) 472-5436, scottishritechildrenstheatre.org
“What I like about this elegant theater is its air of mystery and romanticism. I’ve seen shows there where the audience was completely rapt.”
1600 W. 5th St., (512) 478-0336, donnar.home.texas.net.
“The owner’s band, Donn and the Station Masters, plays three-hour sets on Tuesdays and Fridays. All kinds of people will be dancing and drinking. It feels like a taste of Austin from the ’60s and ’70s.”
Yard Dog Gallery
1510 S. Congress Ave., (512) 912-1613, yarddog.com.
Browse folk art at Yard Dog gallery. Along with its focus on work from the Deep South, the gallery also exhibits pieces by musicians, such as local singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston. During SXSW, check out performances in the intimate backyard. My Morning Jacket and Neko Case have played there in the past.
Where to Stay: Hotel Saint Cecilia
Book now: From $295 per night, 112 Academy Dr., (512) 852-2400, hotelsaintcecilia.com
Named after the patron saint of music and poetry, the Hotel Saint Cecilia mixes Southern comfort with rock ’n’ roll style. Ringed by old oak trees, the estate includes five suites in the original Victorian-era clapboard house, six poolside bungalows, and three studios. The main building has an extensive vinyl record library, and each room comes equipped with a turntable.
>> Next: The AFAR Guide to Austin, Texas