The vast majority of true rock and roll and blues artists have grown up and lived on the poor side of town. Today, the same rings true, as many of Austin’s local musicians can be found just east of IH-35, where the streets are a little tougher and the rent a little easier to pay. It makes sense that several live music venues are found on Red River Street, where downtown Austin and East Austin converge, just one block west of the interstate.
Though live music clubs can be found sprinkled around town, Red River hosts eight of them within a few block stretch. The music genres vary slightly on Red River with Rock, and its offshoots, as the primary focus. As opposed to the dueling piano players or slew of cover bands normally found on 6th street, the bands playing on Red River are playing all original music, and hoping to find enough fans to build up a following and gain some recognition, since the money they will take home is usually based on the number of people coming through the door.
Clubs such as Headhunters and Room 710 draw a hard rock audience that can be filled with tough punks and fans from the local roller derby teams. Club Deville and Mohawk both have fantastic outside stages with limestone cliffs jutting out from behind the stage, and dark as pitch seating areas inside for relaxing between sets.
Randall and Donya Stockton opened their Red River club Beerland after their old club, Bates Motel, burned down on 6th Street. The Stocktons offer opportunities to up-and-coming bands looking to play their first show, as they have live music six nights a week, with several live acts a night. Gearing more towards a garage rock crowd, Beerland books national and touring acts, as well as local favorites, with a cover charge rarely exceeding five dollars.
Emo’s is probably the most well known and longest lasting club, situated on the corner of Red River and 6th Street. When the club opened in the early 90s, there was no cover for those 21 and up, and a one dollar cover for minors. Today, they still offer admission to all ages, and have grown larger, now with an indoor stage for smaller shows, and a larger outdoor stage for better known acts. Most recently, they have opened the Emo’s Lounge, and can have three live shows playing simultaneously. During the South By Southwest Music Festival of 1994, Emo’s had a surprise guest appearance by Johnny Cash, which is still one of the most talked about club performances in town.
Recently Austin-based independent concert promotion company C3 Presents took over national booking duties for Emo’s, already doing so for Stubbs BBQ, the club located north on Red River. C3, best known for booking the largely popular Austin City Limits Festival in September, vows to not raise prices at the door, though the days of a two dollar cover are long gone. However, as a treat to Austin’s music loving public, Emo’s still offers “Free Week” the first week of every new year, and keeps Red River’s music community going strong.