Austin bars and clubs take advantage of the city’s reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World. Perhaps the city would have an argument from New Orleans or Nashville, but it remains true that there is a long and rich tradition of music here. There is also a thriving gay community that is well integrated into all parts of this tolerant city, and numerous gay bars in Austin attract both locals and visitors.
It is undoubtedly the numerous clubs and bars on 6th Street in Austin Texas that are the most well known. This is a compact seven block area near the famous Bat Bridge, and the heart of the city’s history. Here are numerous buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s, including the historic old Driskill Hotel, one of the finest luxury hotels in the city dating to 1861 and exuding a bygone elegance. This is the district where the concerts of the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival occur in March, and just about all the Austin bars along Sixth Street and its side streets get into the act with special guest performers. The anything goes annual Mardi Gras and Halloween Night events also occur here, often spilling out into the streets New Orleans style. This district is known for its restaurants and cafés offering regional barbecue specialties.
In addition to the Sixth Street Entertainment District, there are other popular entertainment pockets in the city where you can find great Austin blues bars as well as folk music, jazz, country, and just about every other genre. Just to the north, and overlapping the Sixth Street District is the Red River District, with an emerging music scene in what was an area full of crack houses and run down homeless shelters not long ago. This is where you would go to hear the best of the local newcomer bands—bands that may well be discovered and become nationally known at any time.
Just to the west and along the Lake Austin shoreline is the Warehouse District, a bit more upscale than laid back Sixth Street. There is excellent shopping here in a number of galleries, antique stores, and chic boutiques in addition to popular Austin bars offering pricey designer cocktails, gourmet dining, and good music. Some of the best and most famous Austin blues bars are found in this district.
Wherever you find large universities, you are bound to find good bars with cutting edge music traditions, and one of the best Austin blues bars is located on the University of Texas campus just north of the State Capitol. It was at the legendary Cactus Café that music greats like Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, and Shawn Colvin got their starts. As with most university venues around the country, the music is eclectic, ranging from jazz and blues to folk and rock. It is operated by the university itself, which offers music classes here. Recently, the university made a decision to close it as a way to save money, but music legends from around the country rallied to keep it open. Should budget concerns again threaten it, there are plans to relocate it.
You will find the most predominantly gay bars in Austin concentrated in the Warehouse and Sixth Street Districts. This is not because these are primarily gay areas, but only because these are nightlife and entertainment centers. Though some of these gay bars in Austin cater only to the gay and lesbian communities, those communities are so well integrated into the city as whole that most of the best bars and clubs are popular with people from all walks of life.