Postively Not 6th Street -- Extended Article from The Deli's SXSW Print Issue

A Tour of Venues Away from the Crowds and the Vomit

By: Trevor Talley

March 17, 2015

Each and every venue in this list is a true representation of the music culture here in Austin, and most certainly worth the trip over.

If math is a real thing, you’re either on 6th Street in Austin at South By Southwest right now while you’re reading this, or you’re not. That’s just facts, straight to you from your friends at The Deli. We’re glad to be of service to your brain.

If you’re are at South By, and you probably are because we’re handing out 10,000 of these magazines to cool people with haircuts just like you during South By this year, we at The Deli wanted to give you somethin’ useful to use around our fair city through this magazine. Somethin’ that shows you a bit of the town that you might not normally have seen, that gets you wandering the scene and seeing what the whole of our city has to offer. That’s this here article, which is all about venues Not on 6th, because, let’s be honest, those 6th and Red River spots really don’t need much help from anyone to get boots in the door during SXSW.

Austin, though, is a big place these days that stretches far beyond the booze and vomit of 6th Street, and it’s one that’s growing as we speak. Growing, as it were, at the rate of over 100 people every day (an actual fact). Another fact: 100% of the people who move here will not see all of Austin before they leave or, more likely, they die. There’s just too much of it out there for even us locals to see, much less anyone who is only here for a wild week in March.

So to cut down on your researchin’ needs while at SXSW, and to show you a bit about the music scene as it exists in our Hill Country town outside of the primary party areas (which everyone is already pretty damn aware of), here are some excellent venues Not on 6th to give a try. Each and every one is a true representation of the music culture here in Austin, and most certainly worth the trip over. Get to ‘em, and have a great SX y’all.


Trailer Space


1401 RoseWood Ave.

Any location that has blue underwear prominently framed on its wall, good pizza next door and an honest-to-god Area 51 arcade cabinet among its many fine public offerings is a place that automatically makes this list. Trailer Space, though, is more than just a spot with good ass video games and the venerable East Side Pies as a next-door neighbor. Set deep on the north end of the East Side, Trailer Space is a record store and music venue with the spirit of the 90s (in Austin, not that other copycat city) alive. By that I mean that they seriously care about local music and creating an authentic experience, and they also carry VHS tapes. Crossing the threshold of this venue bears immediate gifts: local records, loads more records of all kinds, the aforementioned tapes and DVDs, a bunch of scrawny kids hanging about picking through the crates, and music industry shit all over the walls that lets you know you’re not just dealin’ with a bunch of young hipsters into retro music, you’re in a place run by people who’ve actually been there in Austin’s music scene for a long time, and who’ve brought a bunch of awesome shit back to prove it. The shows here are much the same, curated, played and attended by real-deal Austin music lovers. That there is pizza within 10 feet at all times does not hurt, either.


The Little Longhorn Saloon


5434 Burnet Rd.

You may have heard wrong about somethin’, and The Deli’s gonna set you right: country music is good. At least, real country music is good, real good in fact, and Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon in its tiny, church steeple-having excellence, is all the proof you’ll ever need. This bar on the north side of town is a singular place ; nothing is like it in town, it’s been here forever, and it kinda just keeps on doing its thing no matter what’s happening to the city around it. Ginny’s is an authentic Texas honky-tonk, from the Wurlitzer and mini Christmas tree by the door, to the folks drinking by a rusting 1940s pickup in the back to the giant portrait of Ginny herself next to a sign on which is scrawled: “Ginny Says: No Fussin’, No Cussin’, No Hasslin’, No Wrasslin’. If y’can swing a trip up north to the Burnet area, you really should stop by this spot where old fashioned country music that’s far more Merle Haggard than it is Florida Georgia Line still lives, and if you can make it on a Sunday, you’ll get the chance to play the most Texan game ever invented: Chicken Shit Bingo. That, dear reader, is where live chickens shit on a big board with bingo numbers on it, and you win if the shit lands on just the right set of numbers. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have cheering for a live creature to poop.




617 Red River St

Plush and Vinyl are the closest this article is getting to 6th street, and Plush on Red River is the biggest secret of the most popular bar strip in town. As editor for The Deli Austin, I’ve been working hard since my appointance-ship to the position to spread the news about Austin’s balls-grippingly good hip-hop and electronic beat music scene, and Plush almost is that scene. Plush is the homebase for the ATX beat sound, and musicians that play here are on the next wave with beats, right up there with the most quality artists in the world. The atmosphere and decorations are unpretentious and simple in the front room and killer graffiti in the back, and at any given time, you can probably find a good half dozen or so of Austin’s finest beatmakers just kickin’ it together at this venue. If you want to drink in a place where the musicians that play it actually hang out there even when they don’t have a show, and they’re just coincidentally the best musicians in town, go to Plush.


Whip In


1950 South IH35

For a while there, it seemed like every time you’d step foot in Austin’s best beer store/beer bar/brewery/music venue/Indian restaurant combo, the whole thing would be arranged entirely differently. Whatever layout this spot decides on each month, however, it’s remained the premier beer bar and venue in the south part of Austin for locals since the late 80s. This is the ideal “holing up” spot, dark and cozy with well over 70 beers on tap and hundreds more in bottles and an ever rotating cast of musicians from just about every genre taking the stage. The food, recipes cooked up by owners Amrit and Chandan Topiwala, is in the Gujarati style of Indian food and is excellent, especially on the items that throw out the rule book and get Austin weird like the chutney slathered Whip-Indianized Nachos and Panaanis (think panini + naan). The pub has also started sellin’ their own beer concoctions in recent years, which stand out from the already excellent and varied selection by going for strange and unique ingredients, like the award-winning Earl Grey tea based Bitterama ESB. Whip In is where to go when you want to keep seein’ music, but you’re ready to actually sit down and relax for a while, and being right off I-35, it’s not very hard to find either.



There’s a secret bar in town called Vinyl, and we have to be a little careful here, because the good folks that run this place don’t want it turning into a not-so-secret. That’s cool with us, because part of the appeal of Vinyl is in the finding of it, which requires pushing through what looks like a wall (but is actually a false door) in an unassuming pub just off the 6th Street area (you’ll have to find out which bar on your own). Step through that door, and you’ll find yourself walking down a black hallway covered in graffiti stencils (get a close-up glimpse of local cat Jason Eatherly’s ubiquitous “queen in gas mask” design), beyond which you’ll shove a heavy curtain aside and step into a small room with a bar, a couple tables and one wall packed floor to ceiling with records. Vinyl is Austin’s best and least known place to see the most skilled and knowledgeable DJs, in a town full of such people, doing their best work while you sip down craft brews and chill in a graffiti-covered chair in dim red light. Last time I was there, the only other four people were all DJs, and they were swapping out laptops and tag-teaming the decks to play each other tracks while they watched Akira on a sheet duct taped to the wall. I used to cover the live electronic and hip-hop beat here in Austin, so I feel confident when I say that it was the best DJ sets in the best venue that I’ve seen in years. Find this bar, if you can.


Longhorn Caverns


Marble Falls, TX

Sadly for y’all out-of-towners, it doesn’t look like the Longhorn Caverns will be opening its doors during SXSW, but that’s probably the right choice, to be honest. Plastic pint cups and a raucous festival attitude just wouldn’t fit at what is undeniably both the Austin area’s most gorgeous and most unique venue. If you couldn’t guess from the name, Longhorn Caverns is a damn cave, and though they don’t hold shows too often, when they do, there’s nothing else like it. Not just in Austin, but pretty much anywhere. This isn’t just a shallow hole in the side of a hill with a stage and the name “cave” slapped on it, this is a legit, underground, crystals and stalactites and weird rock formations in the shape of a dog (they call it the Queen’s Watchdog) motherfuckin’ cave. In a hall chosen for its excellent acoustics, the good folks runnin’ this here cave put out chairs and wire up the space for concerts on special occasions that, by all accounts, are nigh unmissable. Bonnie Prince Billy played here not too far back, and they once somehow got a grand piano down in this spot for a jazz concert, which is a pretty incredible feat. It seems like the only reason there aren’t more shows here is because they simply haven’t been booked, so you bands out there reading this: get it done. We want more cave shows.




The Museum of Human Achievement might be the best venue in Austin. Yep, sayin’ it. Last time I was in there, the incredible Exploded Drawing electronic music collective was throwing a party that included a guy playing music that controlled bizarre visuals on a busted old tube tv, beats by some of the wildest and weirdest emerging acts in the whole state, booze mixed with local hibiscus soda that was free with admission and an insane projection system that lazer-mapped images onto 3D objects that were scattered around the performance area. This space is where, in my opinion, the most consistently quality line-ups happen in town, but there’s a bit of a hitch: it’s a semi-secret venue. In fact, I might get in trouble for even mentioning it here. The idea is that nobody ever posts where the MoHA is, so those that want to go to it really have to want to do so. It keeps those just looking for a spot to get drunk out and brings in folks looking for a real artistic community, and the results are a truly special place. Because of that, we’re not going to tell you how to get to MoHA, but I will say that if you ask around, you should be able to find someone who knows the way, and you should probably hang out with that person during SXSW, because they know their shit. (PS, we hope you guys at MoHA can forgive this breach in etiquette for even mentioning you. We love your venue, and a list of the best spots in Austin just was not complete without you.)


Gruene Hall


1281 Gruene Rd

Technically, this ain’t in Austin, but it is one of the best venues in the Austin-area music scene, and the hill country is kinda one big family. While Austin is certainly “in” Texas, it’s also definitely a city, and definitely its own weird little island in the big sea of Texas. If you wanna get an eyeful of what the rest of our state is like while listenin’ to world-class music, you should get headin’ an hour south on I-35 and spend a day in idyllic Gruene Texas. Gruene’s downtown sits picturesquely right smack on the banks of the lazy Guadalupe River (which we Austinites use for drunk tubing purposes), and the jewel of this oldworld Texan town is the Gruene Hall. This is the classic dance hall in Texas, a term that basically means it’s a big-ass (6000 square feet) wooden-floored room with a stage at one end and a bar. It’s been a place to boot scoot and get boozed since 1878 (also a place for badger fights, at one weird point in the past), and since those old days it’s been a spot for the very best and brightest country musicians to play, including legendary names like Lyle Lovett and the Hill Country’s native son Willie Nelson, as well as talented emerging acts like Hayes Carll and Hurray for the Riff Raff. Whether you’re an out-of-towner or a local Austinite, if you wanna get a better idea of what this area is all about, what its musical roots look like, get yourself on a day trip to Gruene.


The Vortex and Butterfly Bar


2307 Manor Rd.

It’s a classy wood-floored bar with a grand piano, it’s an outdoor venue with a giant lawn and patio, it’s a theater that puts on locally-written plays: it’s The Vortex and Butterfly Bar, and it’s actually a lot less complex than describing it makes it sound. In fact, this hybrid venue is one of the most straightforwardly enjoyable spots in the town, and it also happens to throw together one of the better SXSW line-ups of emerging bands you’ll see all week. This is the kinda spot where locals hang out that want to tie one on at a place that’s mature, yet still completely hip, and it’s local in-the-know types that run everything at this place, including the booking. The patio and giant lawn are a little haven of relaxation in the middle of the city, where you might find yourself playing a bit of high-quality bar trivia, and they’re almost always projecting some classic movie or other on the wall by the wooden bar indoors. They take their drink makin’ seriously here as well, and if you come through on a warm day, I can’t suggest enough that you see if drink magician Lindsey Rock has her killer michelada mix goin’. It’s pretty much summer in Austin in the form of booze.



1203 Chicon

When y’walk up to the door at Badlands, take a sec and step into the street and look down it going north (yes, we’re advocating standing in the street, but just for a moment). If you do that, you’ll see yourself a real, authentic Austin sight: a moontower, which you can actually see the whole of from a distance, in a rare twist for this hilly city. Now get your ass out of Chicon, and step into a venue that’s just as authentic Austin as that moontower. Badlands is pretty new on the bar scene, as are many in its 12th and Chicon area, but the people running this hot doggery/bar are (mostly) old school Austinites, and their venue has that OG Austin spirit running through it. The performances here are exceptionally genre inclusive, a concept Austin has always proudly embraced, with everything from folk to comedy to punk and metal, and it’s known for being quite queer friendly as well. The hotdogs too, oh the hotdogs. Any place where you can get baked beans, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and a fried egg on a weiner and also listen to local music and get drunk is a place of unabashed quality, in our book.


Sahara Lounge


1413 Webberville Rd

Some places, you walk in the door and you immediately get the feeling that it’s been there for a seriously long time, and a lot of weird shit has gone down there. Sahara Lounge feels like it’s seen a lot of weird shit; you can tell that from the bizarre altar/collection of weird crap just to the right of the front door alone, or from the many multi-colored and mismatched lights haphazardly covering the stage. It’s a bar and venue that feels like it hasn’t changed in decades, except to collect more weird ephemera for its walls and more weird memories for the people who have wandered through it, but it’s actually only been the Sahara Lounge since 2011. Before that, it was a nightclub under varying names all the way back to 1962, and it wouldn’t surprise me to know that most of the building is original wood. It’s got that unmistakable feel of a real place, something it gets from all of its parts together, like its killer patio, one of the nicest staffs in town and a remote deep, deep east side location that’s a nice respite from the typical bar strips we spend so much of our time at in Austin. The vibe, as they say, is “Texas juke joint with an African twist,” and that’s a pretty good description of the kind of music that comes through here as well. As a spot to drink and get some “Austin weird” in ya, you can’t do better than Sahara.