Austin, Texas, USA. In the “Live Music Capital” city, with more than 200 live houses, amazed at the atmosphere of the music house and the high quality of music.
When picking up the places where music houses are gathered in the United States, thinking of big cities like “Los Angeles”, “San Francisco”, “Chicago”, and “New York City”, as well as “Austin”, “Nashville”, and “New Orleans”.
Among them, “Austin” in Texas is said to be a “sacred place for live music” and is a rare place where there is a live house where listening to various kinds of music such as blues, rock, jazz, swing and pop.
There are many music houses in Austin, over 200 in total. There are some rock clubs. It was my first visit of Austin and therefore I have joined the local tour. The tour is called “Austin, Live Music Crawl”, visiting three music houses of different genres at night.
When I joined, I visited the following three music houses. In conclusion, I was surprised. All three music houses, as venue, have the atmosphere, the level of the band playing is high, and the visitors are also listening to the music. By the way, I visited on Thursday. The tour runs from 19:00 to 22:00. Time schedule is like staying for one hour at one place, including transportation.
Elephant Room : Jazz
It is the first basement floor of a building in the center of the city. When entering the store, finding a bar counter on the left and tables on the right. The stage is the farthest back from the main entrance. Jazz band with three veteran members was playing.
The audiences occupied 60-70% of the table. The inside of the hall was spacious and I could listen to the performance calmly. It is a place where listening to Jazz casually, the inside of the store had a luxurious space of about 30 meters from the entrance to the back. The tables were lined up with plenty of space, and no jumble.
To say Jazz clubs, I remember Jazz clubs in New York City, and I have an impression that it has a place with tables and chairs packed tightly, however this place was different. It was surprising for me, to be able to listen to high-level jazz music at this location without Cover charge.
When entered the venue, I was a little confused by the atmosphere I have never seen before. There is a bar counter on the left. Stage at far end from the entrance is 1-meter height and 10-meters wide. The dance floor is in front of the stage, and the tables are lined up with the right hand and the back side of dance floor.
Tables facing to the building wall is box seats. The performing music was Swing. When the performance begins, the men and women at the counter and at the table gather on the dance floor and began dancing.
It is a scene that embodies “the good old days” of the United States, with step dancing by a couple. Age of the audience mainly in their 50s and 60s, I could see a man who seems to be over 80 years-old dancing with a young woman on the dance floor. Only a few people appeared to be in their 20s and 30s.
In terms of atmosphere, it was astonishing that such a place exists, as if watching a movie scene. When I asked the guide about the type of music, he said, they are playing a mix of band original and famous songs.
I have never seen a Swing band before, so it was very fresh, and the illusion of being in the “Amazing Space”, combined with the scenes of people dancing on the floor.
The Skylark Lounge : Blues
At first glance, the venue looked like a dugout hut, however inside the venue had a good local atmosphere. After entering, there is a small counter bar on the left side, the stage behind the left hand-side. The tables are arranged in a narrow space.
The tables and furniture were moderately old and looked like an old music house. The audience may be from the late 20s to the 40s, and there are also PAs in the venue. When the song is over, engineer on PA came to the stage and gave advice to the band for sound adjustment.
Venue capacity must be 30 people. There was a separate room beside the entrance, with a pool table. The band were playing true Blues music. The tone of the guitar was comfortable, and I wanted to keep up with the end while drinking alcohol. As the venue name suggests, it is the place as a music “Lounge” rather than music house. It was a valuable place for me, thinking, “There is still a great music house in the world”.
6th Street and others
When it comes to music in Austin, 6th Street is famous, but none of the three places mentioned above were 6th Street. Also, the Elephant Room was located in the center of downtown, but the other two were located a little further away from downtown.
6th Street, which I had visited the night before, was less like a live music venue and more like, ”While I was drinking at the bar, there was live music playing in the space to the side”. Personally, I did not feel comfortable with it.
This most famous venue did not seem like a place I would come to just listen to music, so I was prepared for the live houses I visited on the tour to be a little off, however the three venues I visited were great atmosphere, and I was able to feel Austin’s potential.
By the way, the guide explained that most of the people playing here earn less than $ 10,000 a year. None of the three bands I visited in the tour had a cover charge this time. I feel that this environment is an important factor for people to drop in music venue comfortably.
Texas, including Austin, I understands that prices are rising (the hotel was very expensive), and when it comes to cover charges, visitors stop coming and the live music industry declines. I feel like it will be in a vicious circle. On the other hand, it is a very annoying problem, as it is true that prices will rise rather than attracting tourists like me. I hope that the current environment will continue.
I hope I can find an opportunity and come back again, to visit Rock Club.
Visited in 2019.
■ Name / Address / Homepage
◆ Elephant Room :
Swift Building, 315 Congress Ave, Austin, TX USA
1120 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX USA
◆ The Skylark Lounge :
2039 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX
(described on Mar 29 2021)