In part 3 of our downtown Austin music scene series, we focus on outdoor venues and events. Austin is known both for its spectacular weather and its world-famous music festivals. Sometimes, these two Austin draws mix to give spectators an outdoor concert experience that keep them in good spirits for days.
Outdoor Hot Spots
Blessed with a humid subtropical climate, musicians can comfortably perform outdoors almost year-round in Austin. If you love nature and music, soak up both by visiting one of the following outdoor venues the next time someone you want to see is playing.
- Cedar Street Courtyard: Wedged between two cozy bars in Austin’s warehouse district, the Cedar Street Courtyard is one of the city’s premier outdoor venues. Used without pause during South by Southwest, the venue boasts live music seven nights a week all year round. Filled to capacity for 15 years running, this quaint sunken courtyard shows no signs of slowing down.
- Threadgill’s: A staple of Austin’s cultural and culinary scene, Threadgill’s occupies more than an acre of prime downtown-area real estate. Its outdoor seating area has undergone few changes in recent memory, and its reputation as a cheap watering hole has endured for 80 years. Masters of all instruments and voice types have played on the Threadgill’s stage, but none of them have been made quite the way Janis Joplin was. Check out their world famous brunch one morning, or soak up the venue’s history and status as a perennial magnet for musical talent over an affordable beer or two.
Scarcely more than a month goes by without a major music festival taking over the streets, parks, and large-capacity venues of Austin. Still, only a fraction of the musicians who vie for slots at these festivals are awarded the opportunity to perform. Hundreds of well-known musicians have been discovered at Austin’s internationally renowned festivals, which include:
- Austin City Limits Music Festival: Each fall since 2002, Zilker Park has come alive with the smells of tasty food, the aesthetic appeal of art from local vendors, and the sounds of talented up-and-coming and well-established musicians for a festival that is attended by up to 100,000 visitors a day. The festival, named for the PBS concert series filmed at the Moody Theater, is a favorite among locals and wandering music lovers alike.
- South by Southwest (SXSW): By far the largest and most well-known music and film festival in Austin, SXSW started with a modest 700 concerts and film viewings in the year 1987. This number has grown to over 20,000, and now annually features upwards of 2,000 musical artists from all reaches of the globe. They perform in close to 100 venues around the city over a span of ten days. While more than a few major acts appear at this festival each year, there is more of an emphasis on budding musical talent. Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, and The Strokes are three bands that have been discovered here in recent years. The festival is the single largest source of revenue for the City of Austin, but locals who are strapped for cash or do not want to purchase any passes can attend a large number of its affiliated events for free.
- Fun Fun Fun Fest: Passion Pit, MGMT, Spoon, Bad Religion, MIA, Icona Pop, Run DMC and Girl Talk have all participated in this fairly young festival since its debut in 2006. In order to accommodate growing demand, the festival was moved from Waterloo Park to Auditorium Shores in 2011. One distinct feature of Fun Fun Fun is that its musical and stand-up acts are performed on four main stages, each of which focuses on a specific genre: comedy, electronica, indie rock, and punk.
- Chaos in Tejas: Held in early summer, this four-day music festival is a heavy metal heaven. The 2013 lineup featured hardcore musicians from Britain, Scandinavia, East Asia, and south of the border—alongside plenty of local talent
If you didn’t already know, it will probably come as no surprise to you that the City of Austin’s official motto is the “Live Music Capital of the World.” The city may lie in the heart of country music loving America, but its performers and music lovers have an appreciation for and mastery of all genres of music. If you are looking to move to downtown Austin or you already live there but want to move closer to the epicenter of the city’s live music action, check out what’s on offer at AMLI 300, AMLI Downtown, AMLI Eastside and AMLI on 2ND. No matter where you are in Austin, you are never far from great live music!