Austin is home to the University of Texas, the Texas State Capitol, some of the country’s largest live music festivals, and over 1.5 million bats (yes, you read that right). It is a city that prides itself on being weird. In fact, “Keep Austin Weird” t-shirts and souvenirs can be seen all over the city. Sandi and I first experienced Austin’s weirdness a few years ago while attending South by Southwest (SXSW). We were so enamored with Austin’s unique vibe and eclectic music scene that we make it point to return year after year. What can we say? We like weird!
Austin, is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World“; not just because of the numerous festivals held throughout the year (Carnaval Brasileiro, SXSW, 4th of July Fireworks and Symphony, Austin City Limits, Austin Psyche Fest, and Fun Fun Fun), but because live music is everywhere! Even passengers in the airport are entertained by an array of local artists. On our most recent visit, we were greeted by a big band ensemble playing swing music upon our arrival and a bluegrass quartet consisting of a banjo, guitar, fiddle, and upright bass when we departed.
Viewfinder Tip: The world’s largest urban bat colony resides under the Congress Bridge in Austin. Watching the bats take flight at dusk is a spectacular experience!
Located just a few blocks from the Texas State Capitol, Sixth Street is the hub of Austin’s nightlife and live music. On weekend evenings, several blocks are closed off, allowing only pedestrian traffic, giving it a Bourbon Street feel but with a Texas twist. One doesn’t have to spend much time on Sixth Street to realize its enormous contribution to the city’s eclectic reputation.
Live music from just about every genre imaginable spills onto the streets from the bars, clubs, and restaurants. Naturally, the diversity of music draws an eclectic audience, making Sixth Street an ideal place for people watching. With cowboys, cowgirls, punk rockers, bikers, business professionals, college students, and tourists moseying in and out of their favorite establishments, we sometimes wondered if we were in Austin or at central casting for a Hollywood production.
There’s even a certain quirkiness to the names of some of the Sixth Street locales, such as Buffalo Billiards, The Blind Pig, Maggie Mae’s, Peckerheads, The Jackalope, and The Dizzy Rooster. One of our favorites is the Bat Bar, which was undoubtedly named in honor of the famed bats that make their home under Austin’s Congress Bridge from late spring to early fall. Watching the bats emerge from the bridge at dusk is a surreal experience. But then again, walking down (or crawling as we’ve seen some do) Sixth Street can be a bit surreal itself.
If bars and clubs aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy live music on Sixth Street, as there is always some very talented street musicians who have yet to land a gig inside one of the bars. Even the not so talented street performers add to the fun and quirkiness of Austin.
What are your favorite cities for live music?