Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World—and proud of it. Whether dancer or musician, everyone has their favorite places to connect to the local music scene. Ashlyn McPhillips of Austin Dance Academy and Jake Farr of Farr Guitar Studio – both highly rated pros on Thumbtack – share the inside scoop on the best live music venues in town.
Real quick, what’s your connection to the Austin music and arts scene?
At Austin Dance Academy we teach all forms of dance, but we specialize in ballet, modern, jazz, and hip hop, says Ashlyn. As far as my dancing, my personal favorites are ballet and hip hop.
Typically, I teach folk, blues, rock, pop, and classical guitar; however, I ultimately let my students decide what genre they want to focus on, says Jake. I am personally passionate about the creative art of songwriting and composing, he explains, so many of my students are also composers and singer/songwriters.
Where do you perform locally?
We do free dance performances at The Grove at Southpark Meadows, shares Ashlyn. It’s a beautiful, family-friendly outdoor venue in South Austin.
Locally, I perform at Opa!, Cherrywood Coffeehouse, Speakeasy, NeWorlDeli, Twisted X Brewery, and Strange Land Brewery, says Jake.
Where do you go for a night of intimate music?
For beats and a cool setting, follow Ashlyn’s lead:
I like Vulcan Gas Company, says Ashlyn. It’s great for DJ sets and there’s plenty of room to dance, or you can just chill on the balcony overlooking the dance floor. The Empire Control Room is fun, they have a nice patio to hang out on between sets. And Hotel Vegas on E. 6th is a great, chill spot, she says. The decor is funky and they have a patio with plenty of seating.
For the singer-songwriter scene, you can’t go wrong with Jake’s picks:
Strange Brew Lounge Side is an amazing listening room, he says, with a welcoming atmosphere and great talent. The Cactus Cafe is another sweet spot to hear music, he shares. It’s hidden away on the UT campus and has a warm, intimate setting. Cherrywood Coffeehouse is another favorite. Their outdoor stage is great during summer, he says. They have atmospheric twinkle lights and great food and drinks.
Where are your fave spots to see big-name acts?
Jake and Ashlyn agree both Moody Theater and the Austin360 Amphitheater are amazing. Moody Theater doesn’t have a bad seat in the house, shares Ashlyn. Jake recommends arriving as early as possible to stand at the front of the stage. Ashlyn likes Austin360 Amphitheater (out at Circuit of the Americas) because you can choose seats or chill on the lawn, and Jake cites that the great venue also has delicious food trucks.
What’s your favorite music festival?
Both major music festival camps are represented! I like SXSW (South by Southwest), says Ashlyn, because it’s at the beginning of spring and the weather is typically amazing. I enjoy ACL (Austin City Limits) because I get to listen to a ton of new and old artists all in one place, shares Jake. It’s a must to experience both festivals at least once in your life!
What’s your favorite aspect of live music in Austin?
The Austin music scene is like a box of chocolates, says Ashlyn, you never know what you’re gonna get.
Like anything in Austin, my favorite part about the music scene is the emphasis on locally grown music, says Jake. People are excited to listen and become a part of the community. If you are a musician and have an entrepreneurial spirit, there is a place for you here!
Ready to join the scene in Austin? See local music lessons.
[Top photo: ACL]