Entertainment in Austin starts and ends with live music. You might get your first taste of it before you even pick up your bags at the airport, where eleven concerts serenade travelers each week. The scene is wonderfully fluid, mixing styles and genres. Musicians as different as Willie Nelson and Janis Joplin got their start in Austin, and today thousands of diverse bands and performers call the city home—though many are struggling to pay the rent.
Entertainment in Austin may start with live music, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all of after-dark activities in town. For information about what’s happening in the other performing arts, check out Now Playing in Austin, a joint project of the Austin Creative Alliance and the city. Its comprehensive, well-organized calendar of events includes not only the symphony and theater, but also museum shows, poetry readings, film screenings, and more. It links to the sites themselves, so you can buy tickets directly from the venues.
In the midst of all the music and indie madness, you might forget that you’re in Texas, where sports are taken very, very seriously. Information about where and when to root for the home team (that would be the UT Longhorns) is detailed here too.
The Limitless Austin City Limits
PBS’s longest-running television program (it first aired in 1975), Austin City Limits has showcased such major talent as Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, the Dixie Chicks, and Phish. Originally pure country, it has evolved to embrace blues, zydeco, Cajun, Tejano—you name it. The show is taped live from August through December, and sometimes through February, at the state-of-the-art Moody Theater, 310 Willie Nelson Blvd./Second St. (512/225-7999). Getting free tickets for the tapings is hit-and-miss. About a week before the show, KLRU producers set up an online form. Capacity is tight; passes are space-available only and don’t guarantee admission. Log on to www.acltv.com for details on how to get tickets and for a more in-depth look at how the tapings work.
The Moody Theater is also a live music venue with a 2750-seat capacity; it showcases some 100 touring acts a year. Tickets for performances and for tours of the facility (tours run Mon–Fri 11am–noon) can be purchased in person at the ACL Live Box Office (877/435-9849) or at the Austin Visitor Center (602 E. Fourth St.). To see what’s playing when you’re in town, click on www.acl-live.com. Note: You can’t miss the theater. It’s fronted by a life-size bronze statue of Willie Nelson sitting contempletively, smiling gently, guitar resting on his leg.
The Austin City Limits Music Festival is an annual outdoor celebration held on consecutive 3-day weekends in early October, with multiple stages and many, many performers representing a mix of established artists and up-and-coming talent; check the website for details. This live music extravaganza debuted in September 2002 and its popularity keeps ballooning. Now, approximately 450,000 people attend the festival each year, with acts arriving early to make surprise appearances in clubs around town. In addition to music, there are seemingly countless food and drink vendors, a kids’ area for families, large-scale art installations, and much more.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.