Looking for a show to catch or a band to listen to? South Congress is bustling with buskers and bands. East Austin just sent you an invitation to visit its many art galleries and DIY stages. Austin’s famous Red River Cultural District is beckoning your name. Our local music and entertainment culture goes unmatched worldwide as Austin holds the crown of Live Music Capital of the World® with a record of having the most music venues per capita. Whether you’re venue-hopping through Downtown where indie artists shred on the nightly or exploring what makes South Austin weird, our robust live music culture is waiting to be discovered. Here are 30 local musicians and bands that help make up Austin’s Live Music Capital DNA.
Indie & Rock
Austin has a little bit of indie-rock-everything. If you’re seeking some string-bending, crowd-pleasing rock ‘n’ roll, get your tickets to the next Sam Houston & Blk Odyssy show at one of the many rock stages around town. Or, for a little more of a punk rock edge, check out Peelander Z, a Japanese punk-rock band from the world “Peelander Planet,” for an out-of-this-world experience. And, if you’re into the niche genre of feminist experimental art rock, Manifest Destiny’s Child won’t disappoint whether you catch them on stage at the Mohawk or at one of Austin’s famously fun underground music house parties.
Latin & Tejano
For those interested in diving deeper into Austin’s Latin roots, check out the sounds of native Austinite Gina Chavez, influenced by the traditional sounds of Mexican-American culture. Before you head to the show, check out Gina’s Tiny Desk performance! Or, if you’re looking for a sweaty and fun night of dancing, look to Latin funk band Cilantro Boombox or beat-driven Nemegata to get you out of your seat. Austin’s Latin influence brings even more heat than the weather.
Blues & Soul
Austin’s famous legacy of blues & soul music continues with the multi-talented Jackie Venson, a local celebrity in the music community and rising star on a national and global level while Austin’s longstanding favorite Miss Lavelle White has been delivering soulful hits since the 1950s and ‘60s. While you’re here, don’t miss the young and talented Peterson Brothers jamming on stage at legendary venues such as Continental Club or Antone’s (and while you’re there, don’t forget to order one of their famous po’boys!).
Country & Americana
While Austin has more to offer than honky tonks and horses that many visitors may associate it with, it is home to an eclectic pool of country music heavyweights such as female-led country rock band Madam Radar and national Americana heartthrob Shakey Graves. The city is also proudly the home to the king of “swamp funk” known as Shinyribs. See these bands and many others on local stages at the AGBG or Broken Spoke!
Electronic & Dance
Austin’s underground electronic and dance scene is supported in part by local staples such as electronic synth label Holodeck Records. Of the electronic artists who call it home, dark synth musician Rona Rougeheart from SINE has had a longstanding live music career that has resulted in sponsorships from large music companies such as Roland and Gretsch and even made local headlines in 2019 for opening for the renowned “Gothfather” Peter Murphy of gothic rock band Bauhaus in a set where she played alongside Bauhaus bassist David J and fellow local musician Curse Mackey. Popular electronic producer Giraffage who has performed at worldwide venues such as Boiler Room and festivals all over the world and experimental synth band s u r v i v e (whose discography includes the soundtrack and theme song of Netflix’s Stranger Things) also reside in the Live Music Capital.
Whether it’s seeing local folk fixture BettySoo perform at Quack’s Bakery’s South Austin location or listening to the brilliant lyricism of multilingual female folk group Ley Line, there are endless opportunities to see Austin’s diverse folk music community in action. The city is even home to Grammy-nominated band Wood & Wire whose live performance is one you won’t want to miss. Find these bands and many others all over the city at esteemed venues such as Nutty Brown Amphitheater or the Little Longhorn Saloon.
Austin’s jazz scene’s lively community includes everyone from students of jazz from the University of Texas who are cutting their teeth at jazz jams at the Volstead to skilled greats such as Ephraim Owens, Andre Hayward, and Daniel Dufour. Live jazz is also not uncommon at Austin’s many distilleries, cideries, and biergartens as well as Austin’s new jazz club Monks or the infamous local favorite Elephant Room.
Austin is a place for everyone, whether you enjoy the sweet melodies and vocal progressions of indie goddess Vonne or the energetic, electronic pop tunes of bilingual artist SOBBRS. Austin’s growing pop movement invites both young and more experienced musicians to the stage. Not to mention, you don’t want to miss Austin’s resident “Queen of Soul” Tameca Jones who can deliver hit after hit.
Austin’s rap scene is burgeoning with talent in every direction. Magna Carda, a local hip-hop staple, holds a 3-year consecutive record of being voted “Best Hip-Hop Performing Band” at the Austin Chronicle’s Austin Music Awards. Rap artist Mama Duke is the founder of a local hub for hip-hop music called ATX Social Club and watch out--she can spit bars with agility and power. Last but certainly not least, up-and-coming rapper Mike Melinoe can hold his own in a room of heavyweights. If you get a chance, find these artists performing all over the city from the Far Out Lounge in South Austin to venues within the Red River Cultural District.
As a city with a multicultural background, the genre of world music is celebrated through a number of artists such as afro-Colombian cumbia artist Kiko Villamizar. Also check out one of the first West African female djembe musicians Aicha Wambaya who calls Austin her home. Lastly, if you’re looking for a worldly experience, go see local favorites Atash, a band which features an amalgamation of some of Austin’s greatest musical talents.
Contributed by Nathalie Phan.
Nathalie Phan is a local music connoisseur and the founder of On Vinyl Media and SoundSync Music. She is passionate about helping Austin musicians and the local music industry.