Chronicle Live Music Venue Guide


Photo of Stubb's.
photograph by John Carrico

Three years ago, at South by Southwest '96, Stubb's was unveiled as Austin's newest restaurant/venue, almost in spite of naysayers who said the live music market was dead and that nobody would voluntarily frequent Red River unless they were looking to score crack. Even the historical value of a building that dates back to the 1850s and the legacy of Lubbock's most famous barbecue export wasn't enough to convince most live music insiders that the Stubb's plan for an eclectically booked indoor/outdoor nightclub could work. In the end, Stubb's won.

Today, lunch and dinner business is booming and Stubb's outdoor stage has already hosted everyone from George Clinton to Sugar Ray -- providing a closer and just as welcoming alternative to the Backyard. Meanwhile, Stubb's intimate indoor stage has become one of Austin's most successful small venues behind a booking policy versatile enough to host punk one night and bluegrass the next. And even when the music bombs, Stubb's has one thing most of its competitors lack: the ability to cover its losses with food sales. Although Stubb's is already an unqualified success, just the fact that they've helped make Red River respectable again puts them ahead of most local live music venues, but with new plans in the works, the club only seems to be getting more ambitious.

By March, Stubb's will have completed an extensive landscaping project designed to level out the amphitheatre's lot and impress booking agents visiting SXSW. Moreover, while co-owner and booking agent Charles Attal isn't ready to confirm it just yet, he's considering building a new 1,400-seat indoor facility with a mezzanine on a piece of newly-acquired Stubb's land. He's considering new decks on the amphitheatre's back lot to increase outdoor capacity.

Not only would these moves help Attal better compete with Direct Events, who own and operate the Backyard, La Zona Rosa, and the Austin Music Hall, but they might also hint at a longstanding rumor that has Stubb's merging with Liberty Lunch; already, Stubb's and the Lunch co-promote shows. Would it be any surprise if the club nobody thought would make it a year only kept getting bigger and bigger? Given what they've accomplished in just three years, probably not. -- Andy Langer