FT5: Best Austin Music Venues

0814top5coverWe spent a lot of time this week debating our favorite venue.  What constitutes the perfect place to catch a show?  Is it sound alone, or beer prices?  Maybe it’s both.  We decided that we wanted to narrow it down to the best five places in town where you’ll most likely see one of us, or one of our favorite bands playing.  We even developed a rating system for them.  We’ll be using our typical 5 Star system (1 being the lowest, 5 the highest) to rate the following areas: Sound Quality, Band Quality, Beer Prices, Atmosphere, and Mobility during packed shows. Follow the jump for full article.

Emos is no longer the club of yesterday; you know, the one in the At The Drive-In video where everyone is going crazy.  Sure, they have cheap beer, but if you want it outside, you have to pay cash; who carries cash nowadays?  Not to mention, as previously mentioned, the sound quality has diminished greatly throughout the years as the venue has failed to bring in the big name acts that once wouldn’t stray outside the venue. On top of that, you have the horrendous crowds during sold out shows with the place milling with people, the majority of whom talk through the entirety of the show, as they could really care less, they just want to live that Austin music experience.  The big kicker? Their staff is notoriously rude/indifferent towards customers; it’s as if being a dick makes the atmosphere.  It wouldn’t hurt to smile when you handed me my Lone Star.

Sound Quality: ✭✭

Band Quality: ✭✭✭

Beer Prices: ✭✭✭

Atmosphere: ✭✭

Mobility: ✭✭

holeinthewall4. Hole in the Wall

Hole in the Wall is dirt cheap.  You can find all sorts of alcoholic beverages for way cheap, which is why the place is always full of people, regardless of who is taking the stage.  It’s been an institution for a long time, and while it doesn’t boast great sound, nor grab the large name acts, it does do its part to support all the local musicians by willingly putting them on stage throughout the year.  It keeps the local scene alive and fresh, as it has been doing since its hey-day, so we hold it in the highest respect for that.

Sound Quality: ✭

Band Quality: ✭✭

Beer Prices: ✭✭✭✭✭

Atmosphere: ✭✭✭

Mobility: ✭✭✭✭

stubbslogo3. Stubb’s Outside

Stubbs, you’re a great outdoor venue.  You bring in lots of really big acts that are too big for Mohawk, and too small for the Erwin Center, yet sometimes you do seem to go a little bit wrong.  I understand that you have investors in the business, and you need to turn a profit, but really, you want $4 for a Lone Star?  On top of that, Stubbs also plays host to the unfortunate home of many a jam band, and while I understand the need to turn a good profit, I would prefer that the catering to the pachouli class be toned back, if only so as to be able to breathe when walking by on one of those nights where everyone is jammed towards the stage.  As with most outdoor venues, the sound has a tendency to be drowned out by its ability to travel, but we’ve shared many a good time, Stubbs and I, and for that, I’m quite grateful.

Sound Quality: ✭✭✭

Band Quality: ✭✭✭

Beer Prices: ✭

Atmosphere: ✭✭✭

Mobility: ✭✭✭✭

theparish2. The Parish

You have to give it up to the Parish.  Not only do they have one of the most unique venues in town, they happen to have the best sound quality around.  Despite being boring, Grizzly Bear sounded phenomenal on that stage, and no one can argue there.  And along those lines, the sold out GB show, didn’t seem quite too sold out.  I didn’t have another man’s hands rubbing against me the entire night, and in fact, was quite comfortable in my own little personal space.  I do chide you, however, Parish, for your tendency to be on the higher end of the beer pricing market.  And, you don’t always bring great acts, instead playing host to various DJ groups from about town, but I bet even they sound incredible.

Sound Quality: ✭✭✭✭✭

Band Quality: ✭✭✭✭

Beer Prices: ✭✭

Atmosphere: ✭✭✭

Mobility: ✭✭✭✭

mohawklounge1. Mohawk Outside

You know you’ve been here. If you’re new in town, people told you to come see a show here.  Sure, the inside is sweltering, and not enjoyable, but the outside stage with the rooftop patio is nothing more than the best place in town to catch a show.  What once sounded somewhat shoddy has recently blossomed into an above average sound-system. Not to mention the fact that every great band that’s been around this year has died to play here, begging for the built in audience of people willing to just catch a great show in a great surrounding. Throw that in with some cheap beer prices ($1 Pabst last time I was there) and you’re guaranteed a solid night on the town. Now, if only we could convince you not to let in 10 million people during SXSW parties, and we’d be best friends. We’ll see how that turns out next year.

Sound Quality: ✭✭✭

Band Quality: ✭✭✭✭✭

Beer Prices: ✭✭✭✭

Atmosphere: ✭✭✭✭

Mobility: ✭✭

What’s your favorite Austin music experience and where did it take place?  Did we leave off somewhere you think deserves some credit? Do tell.


  • Hmmm… Why would you include Emo’s in the top 5 list when it actually kinda sucks? What about Continental Club?

    All in all a good list. Mohawk and Parish easily take the top in my book. Parish just needs to step up their game a bit with the quality of acts.

  • Great list.

    And for the record, any of these five venues would be the “best music venue” in 99% of places coast to coast. Any one of them. Truly an embarrassment of riches.

    Most places aren’t opening new venues and expanding “the scene,” but actually closing down once venerable music clubs (Trees, Gypsy Tearoom RIP…)

    and the best venue in Austin is only, what, three years old?


  • i’d be interested to see this list next year. i bet it’ll be totally different.

  • @ B Starr. That’s why it’s at #5. We couldn’t think of a place better. Plus I just would feel guilty dropping them lower than that. I spent many a night there in college.

    @brett. We are truly spoiled in this town. Most cities can’t even make a top 2 list.

    @davatron. I’d say 3-5 years. Emo’s was the place to be about 5 years ago

  • Yeah, there’s nothing close to Mohawk or The Parish.

    The first show i went to when I moved to Austin two years ago was at Emo’s outside. At the time I thought it was the coolest venue I ever been too. Now being a veteran, it only ranks at the far end. Just to prove the point that even austin’s lack luster venues are still pretty decent.

  • Mohawk books way better and way more bands, but there is just something about the Parish, twill always be me favorite
    Anyone know WTF is up w/ the Parish booking lately, very sparce

  • Emo’s also loses much needed points for those ridiculous stamps. I’m tired of waking up with purple on my sheets and face.

  • Nathan

    you should try showering

  • Saxon Pub is a pretty cool and unique spot too. I know that most of these venues fall under the new, trendy, rock/alternative/indie scene, which is what I mostly listen to anyway, but this is another awesome venue in town that has a great built in crowd, a great staff, and pretty decent sound.

  • I wish Momo’s would have more indie rock shows and fewer folk/americana shows. It would be the best venue in town if it did.

  • The comment about Stubb’s beer prices is probably relatively accurate, i.e. $4 for a lonestar, but here in Houston at the House of Blues the charge $7 ****ing buck for a 12 ou. lonestar in a can! Not even in a bottle! In a can! and $12 for a tall boy of Bud Light!

  • For anyone reading this, Dave was right, this list would be a lot different now.

    #5. Emo’s = closed.
    #4. HiTW = barely booking shows anymore
    #3. Stubbs = beer prices are way worse now and show talkers are awful there.
    #2. Parish – Rare they book anyone worthy of seeing here.
    #1. Mohawk = major overhaul from 2009 to now. Not a fan of the layered railing system and mobility is horrendous now. Also, prices have gone way up.

    I’d see Red 7 getting a spot. Probably the ND too.

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