Contributed by John Morthland
Enduring venues such as the Continental Club, Broken Spoke, Antone's and Cactus Club will always be the cornerstone of Austin's live music scene. But for visitors looking to discover some of the hottest spots in town, take the cluster of clubs that's recently formed around 6th Street east of I-35.
They're completely independent of the seven-block stretch of clubs on 6th just west of I-35 that since the mid-‘70s has been known as "Sixth Street," the focal point for live music. These emerging rooms, which share the district with several new restaurants, occasionally book touring bands, but rely mainly on local acts, and so far draw most of their crowds from the surrounding neighborhood. The White Horse, the most popular, presents a string of weekly "house bands" with a rootsy Austin vibe. The Dalles rock Monday nights, Mrs. Glass plays blues on Tuesdays, Them Duquaines provide beer-joint country on Wednesdays, Mike and the Moonpies offer outlaw country on Thursdays, and a group led by pedal steel guitarist Bob Hoffnar riffs jazz and western swing on Sundays. Weekends see a procession of other blues, bluegrass, country and jazz groups. The Sahara Lounge primarily mixes blues in with West African, Brazilian and reggae music. Eclectic rooms like the ND at 501 Studios, Sahara Lounge, Cheer Up Charlie's, Frontier and sister bars Hotel Vegas and the Volstead Lounge also play host to a wide variety of up and coming homegrown talent.
Yet another new entertainment district seems likely to evolve on East Riverside Drive around the fashionable Beauty Ballroom, which presents some of the best hip-hop in town, and the loud, fast and hard Emo's East, the newest incarnation of Austin's longtime home for punk and metal. Both clubs are reinventions of venues that recently vacated their Sixth Street locations - and locals can't seem to get enough of them.
But not everything new is happening east of the interstate. Asleep at the Wheel leader Ray Benson's Rattle Inn opened right downtown. Though he promises different genres of music, you can bet that country and Texas singer-songwriters will dominate the two stages, with George Devore hosting Sunday night jams. Meanwhile, the 29th Street Ballroom at Spider House, up near the University of Texas campus, has become perhaps the most happening rock venue in town. The venerable coffeehouse Spider House added the spacious Ballroom to its complex (seven stages in all) barely a year ago. They hire young local bands almost exclusively, charge little enough to be affordable for even the most dedicated slacker or cash-strapped student, and pack the place out frequently. If you want to hear the next Austin bands likely to make a national splash, chances are best you'll find them here.
For more info. on Austin's music scene, visit http://www.austinchronicle.com/music/ and http://www.austin360.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/music/index.html.