With SXSW on the horizon, we thought we’d give you the low down on where to be when it comes to east side venues.
Words by Sam Lauron & Mary Bryce
One of the most unique clubs in Austin— Sahara Lounge never disappoints with a huge variety of bands that play every night of the week. From underground indie rock bands to Zamountchi, Sahara’s house band that brings the dance party every Saturday night, you can always count on Sahara Lounge for a good time. If you’re still confused about the “vibe,” think “Texas juke joint with an African twist.” From the kind bartenders to the groovy music, Sahara is absolutely unmissable. Additionally, on weekends the lounge offers a free buffet that has all-you- can-eat chips and delicious beans and rice. saharalounge.com
Stepping into the White Horse is like taking a step into a modern day saloon. The dive bar is a western, soulful fusion with its saloon-like décor and a combination of 60s soul, blues, and country music filling the room. Attend one of their many free shows, and you’ll experience a variety of genres, from rockabilly and country, to blues and jazz. If you feel like doing more than watching and listening to music, you can partake in their weekly free dance lessons in styles ranging from two-step to Cajun. thewhitehorseaustin.com
With a recent remodel bringing in more space and modern upgrades, the Historic Scoot Inn remains one of Austin’s oldest and most popular dive bars. Having been around for the past 145 years, it’s safe to say that the Scoot Inn knows how to entertain. The newly renovated ‘Ivy’s Room’ is perfect for an intimate night of drinking while listening to the soothing tunes of the baby grand piano, while the outdoor patio has a backyard party vibe with live music ranging from rock to Americana. When it comes to SXSW, Scoot Inn is an official SX venue with “lots of energy” around the bar according to Doug Guller, Founder & CEO of ATX Brands. scootinnaustin.com
You might not find slot machines or Elvis impersonators here, but Hotel Vegas will not disappoint if you’re looking for entertainment during SXSW. The East 6th Street bar is one of the highest volume venues in town and one of the few that features four stages, according to co-owner and co-founder, Charles Ferraro. “The atmosphere is pretty crazy,” says Ferraro, “big crowds, music fans from around the world, tons of bands, and a lot of energy.” The 11 days of fun kick off with a six-year anniversary party on March 9. texashotelvegas.com
Native Knowledge: The Huge Patio out back is a plus, and the food truck is a great addition to the reasonably priced drinks.
Best known for being a member of the Chitlin’ Circuit circa 1945 and hosting acts like B.B. King, Etta James, and Billie Holiday (to name a few), Victory Grill still holds strong as an authentic music venue to this day. The historical significance alone makes the visit to this East 11th Street establishment worth it, but while you’re there you can also grab a bite to eat, listen to blues and jazz music and maybe even catch an art presentation. The venue has also been known to host events during SXSW, like their ‘Ultimate Louisiana Party’ for last year’s festivities. atxhistoricvictorygrill.org
Did you Know? Victory over Japan Day was the opening day for Victory Grill, bar and restaurant, celebrating black soldiers returning from the war in 1945.
Skylark Lounge is one of Austin’s hidden gems. Unassuming when seen from the road, inside Skylark is a relaxed, classic dive bar that features some of Austin’s finest blues and soul musicians. From the inexpensive drinks to the delicious house-made pizzas, Skylark is all about the details. Besides some of the friendliest staff around, it’s also the loyal community of regulars who make Skylark so special. Don’t miss some of Austin’s legendary performers such as Miss Lavelle White, Miss Margaret Wright’s Happy Hour on Fridays and Soul Man Sam’s Sunday show that will make you want to dance. skylarkaustin.com
Native Knowledge: Margaret Wright performs Happy Hour Live most Fridays at Skylark from 6-8pm. This is a must try for anyone who loves the blues!
Many locals visit Shangri-La throughout the year for their daily happy hour specials and the relaxed garden patio, but the bar sees a change of pace during SXSW. Throughout the duration of the festival, “Shangri-La is a bustling hub of locals, visitors, and official event participants,” says manager, Jordan Dewing. Once music week starts, the Midwest Music Foundation, a non-profit music organization out of Kansas City, sets up shop on the patio for “Midcoast Takeover,” a four-day, two-stage event of free showcases. shangrilaaustin.com
Dollar Trivia Anyone? Join Shangri-La for trivia every Monday from 7-9pm. It’s free to play! More than $150 in prizes are given away each week including Shangri-La gift certificates, Apple TVs, and other fun goodies.
The North Door
As the largest independently owned live music venue in east Austin, The North Door knows no bounds when it comes to shows and performances. The venue hosts live music from all genres, as well as other types of art performances and events, and soon will be the host of Peligrosa House during SXSW. From March 15-18, the Peligrosa House will take over the venue for a free, unofficial SX event. The force behind the event is local music group, Peligrosa, who hosts Latin dance parties year-round. “The atmosphere is generally festive and familial, much like our monthly parties,” says Peligrosa founder, Orion Garcia. ndvenue.com
Something for Everyone: ND hosts “Move It Monday!” Get fit while shakin’ your groove thing! Each month ND presents “Nerd Night” where intellectual obsessives lead the audience through topics pulled from ivory tower academia to the basements of geekdom.
ND offers speed-dating, friend-matching & a curated pop-up library.