A universe of bands circulate through the over 250 live music venues in Austin, fortifying our title as the ‘Live Music Capital of the World.’ Narrowing this wealth of talent down into a short list of must-see acts is a daunting task, but it’s a good problem to have..
Here’s ten local bands with phenomenal live shows you need to see.
One of the more recognizable names in the Austin music scene, White Denim has toured the world,recorded a live album for Jack White at Third Man Studios, and even helped launch the career of soul singer Leon Bridges. Dabbling in frenetic garage rock in their early years, White Denim’s live show has evolved into a blues powerhouse that stretches into funk, jam, and psychedelia influences. Lead singer James Petralli projects infectious energy on stage, and is deft in his leadership of one of Austin’s most well known live bands.
“Live, they may make your knees shake like Robert Plant.”
WATCH: White Denim perform “Anvil Everything” – Live in the Do512 Lounge
To see their upcoming shows in Austin, follow White Denim on Do512
Combining the familial warmth of folk with the elation of dance pop, Calliope Musicals exudes unadulterated positivity at each of their live shows. Pink unicorns, confetti canons, and limitless energy are staples at each of their shows, and lead singer Carrie Fussell has a magnetism that is undeniable. Calliope shows become interactive rather quickly, so participation via dancing or singing is almost inevitable. They recently won “Best New Band” at the Austin Music Awards, performed at the annual Electric Forest Festival, and were announced to play the inaugural Sound on Sound Festival.
A full-blown psychedelic pop carnival.”
WATCH: Calliope Musicals Live Experience Album Trailer
To see their upcoming shows in Austin, follow Calliope Musicals on Do512
Rising from the St. Edwards campus in South Austin, this local livewire hip-hop group fills a much needed void for a music genre that doesn’t receive nearly enough love in Central Texas. Magna Carda‘s leading lady Megz Kelli is a skilled lyricist that combines enough confidence and conviction to entrance her audiences. Though the group was born in the 90’s, they combine old school vibes with unabashed youth to create a powerful live performance.
“Austin’s answer to The Roots.”
WATCH: Magna Carda – “Inviting You” Official Music Video
To see their upcoming shows in Austin, follow Magna Carda on Do512
Watching Roger Sellers tinker with his keyboards, mixers, and looping pedals is analogous to watching a medieval alchemist mixing his potions and elixirs. Performing now under the name Bayonne, Sellers has impressed national audiences with his electro-wizardry and complex compositions that tap into ethereal soundscapes. His live shows are a transcendental experience that perfectly match his unique compositions. Bayonne is booked to perform at the Austin City Limits Festival this year, so he’s primed to make his mark on the local music scene.
“Roger Sellers turns his live looping tracks into performance art.”
WATCH: Bayonne performs “Omar” – Live in the Do512 Lounge
To see his upcoming shows in Austin, follow Bayonne on Do512
GARY CLARK JR.:
While Gary Clark Jr. was once a staple of the Austin nightlife, in recent years these performances have become less frequent as he’s earned an international audience that has him on tour more often than not. His guitar licks have earned comparisons to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, an invitation from Eric Clapton to perform at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, and a Grammy win in 2014. Along with bandmates Johnny Bradley (bass), Eric “King” Zapata (rhythm guitar), and Johnny Radelat (drums), Clark’s live performances consistently deliver those improvised, ephemeral moments that feel like a special treat just for you.
“He made Eric Clapton want to play again,
and Buddy Guy thinks he might save the blues.”
WATCH: Gary Clark Jr. performs “Bright Lights” – Live at Crossroads Guitar Festival
To see his upcoming shows in Austin, follow Gary Clark Jr. on Do512
THE OCTOPUS PROJECT:
An Austin staple since 1999, The Octopus Project blends experimental synth-rock with a kaleidoscope of visual effects that make their live shows one of the most unique in Austin. Their sonic-induced instrumentals allow listeners to delve into a trance-like state, with enough guitar punch to snap you right out of it. Band leader and creative wizard Yvonne Lambert’s proficiency on the theremin may be one of the few times you see the instrument used onstage. Combinations of experimental sounds and ambient noises make this live show a must-see.
“One of the best live bands I’ve ever seen.”
– Bob Boilen of NPR
WATCH: The Octopus Project – “Sharpteeth” Official Music Video
To see their upcoming shows in Austin, follow The Octopus Project on Do512
Lead vocalist Sabrina Ellis is the queen bee of the Austin rock ‘n roll scene. Entrancing crowds with uninhibited go-go dancing and smoky, soulful vocals, she is a seductress of fun. On stage, Sweet Spirit is a tight, versatile hurricane of pop-perfection that can’t help but suck you into their vortex of enthusiasm. The band’s debut album has begun to attract a national audience, and with a nation-wide tour on tap this nine-piece powerhouse could soon become a household name.
“The musical embodiment of a pep rally.”
WATCH: Sweet Spirit – “Baby When I Close My Eyes” – Live in KUTX Studio 1A
To see their upcoming shows in Austin, follow Sweet Spirit on Do512
Crafting a curious blend of profound lyrics, R&B, and indie electronica, Anthony Watkins takes an untethered approach to his music as Mobley. Incorporating intricate visuals and a torrent of crowd interaction, Watkins jumps around from guitar to keyboards to drum machine during his exhilarating sets. His new record has also been strongly received, with the single “Swoon” gaining over 650k plays on Spotify. He may be undiscovered now, but this time next year we expect Mobley to be on the big stage at Blues on the Green, ACL Fest, et al.
“The Texas-based singer, songwriter and producer goes from nondescript nobody to superstar.”
To see his upcoming shows, follow Mobley on Do512
GOLDEN DAWN ARKESTRA:
A dynamic explosion of artistry that stimulates all of the senses, the Golden Dawn Arkesta is a 13-piece band that provides an otherworldly experience during their live shows. Replete with eye-catching dancers, horns, percussion, and colorful attire, the band’s music utilizes a plethora of instruments to charm listeners into their world of futuristic funk. Proud disciples of Sun Ra, an unassuming audience member who stumbles upon this collective can soon find themselves chanting along as the newest member of their cosmic cult.
“Destined to become one of the underground favorites of 2016.”
WATCH: The Golden Dawn Arkestra perform “Masakele Hasana” – Live at Antone’s
To see their upcoming shows, follow Golden Dawn Arkestra on Do512
Hard Proof shows can be overwhelming, with ten members that can sometimes have difficulty fitting on the same stage, but their sound is as eclectic as it is intoxicating. African rhythms coalesce with funk and jazz influences to create an enticing live experience that begs you to dance. In a town known for garage rock and folk music, Hard Proof is a welcoming outlier that provides a worldly escape. The band just released a new album produced with Jim Eno of Spoon, and will play the inaugural Sound on Sound Festival this November.
“This local ensemble always puts on an electrifying live show.”
WATCH: Hard Proof Afrobeat performs “Dragon” – Live in the Do512 Lounge
To see their upcoming shows, follow Hard Proof on Do512