The people in the cars crawling up and down Manchaca Road at just past 6 p.m. on a recent Tuesday had no idea that just 30 yards away, Old Austin was jamming with New Austin inside a packed music venue. To evening commuters, Crockett Center is just a dingy row of storefronts between Ben White Boulevard and Stassney Lane that means they’re one eyesore closer to home. But to an Austin music scene that sometimes gets bored with itself, the strip mall’s 24-hour coffee shop is a much-needed jolt.
Strange Brew, with its 150-capacity Lounge Side, a separate room with pristine acoustics, is fast becoming Austin’s clubhouse for singer-songwriters of all styles, from folk to rock. There’s a whole underground scene going on, feeding the live music desires of older fans who live in the neighborhood or just don’t want to deal with the hassles of downtown.
Exile From Sixth Street
Sahara Lounge. 1413 Webberville Road, 512-927-0700. There was a big outcry in July 2011 when vintage juke joint TC’s Lounge was replaced by this more upscale lounge, but Sahara quickly established itself with exceptional live music in a variety of styles, from Latin jazz, funk and African bands to Wednesday night’s country music lineups. Co-owners Ibrahim Aminou and Eileen Bristol play in Zoumountchi, which is also one of Robert Plant’s favorite Austin bands.
One2One. 1509 S. Lamar Blvd. Suite 600. 512 473-0121. The original location opened downtown at Fifth and Brazos streets in 2004, but this rock and soul club relocated to a strip mall in the former site of Slick Willie’s pool hall in October 2012. High-energy shows by Mingo Fishtrap and DaHeBeGeeBees established the storefront between Darque Tan and Domino’s as a rock/funk powerhouse, but acoustic shows by Charlie and Will Sexton and others also work well in the black box setting.
Moontower Saloon. 10212 Manchaca Road. 512-712-5661. Party at the Moontower, a 700-capacity venue that opened south of Slaughter Lane in November. Owners Josh Bumb and Richard Veregge spent two years converting an old house into the main bar, but the music happens outdoors, Thursday through Sunday til 9 p.m. and weekends til 11 p.m.
Skylark Lounge. 2039 Airport Blvd. 512-730-0759. From the outside, this venue within a complex of auto body repair shops looks like they have a junkyard dog for security. But inside is a basement jazz club vibe. Parisian Haily Tuck is a fitting highlight of this tucked-away venue.
— Michael Corcoran