Emo's, Austin

Venue review for Night Magazine - July 2004

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Still hugging the corner of the increasingly commercial string of shot bars on 6th Street, Emo’s remains the premier independent music venue in the Texas capital.

With uppity Austin seeing live venues, clubs, and bars changing ownership more frequently than the University of Texas welcomes new freshmen, it seems nothing short of a miracle that Emo’s has not only managed to hold its territory on coveted 6th Street, but to expand as greatly as it has in the past four years.

Perhaps proprietor Frank Thompson was lucky all the other independent music venues went under as city politicians forced out the Electric Lounge and Liberty Lunch to clear land along Town Lake for the Intel buildings now sitting empty after the dot com bust. Shortly thereafter the Blue Flamingo and Bate’s Motel bid bon voyage as rent downtown rose again and of course the Black Cat mysteriously burned to the ground.

Being the only independent venue for touring bands in Austin was undoubtedly beneficial, but Graham Williams assuming the helm of booking at about the same time was certainly a good move for Thompson’s business as well.

Emo’s has expanded since those days to still operate its inside stage, expand the capacity on the outside stage by 400 and extend the beer garden into the lot next door allowing twice as many to crane their necks to watch both stages at once. The official fire marshal capacity stands at 1,100 but Williams will concur that a large number of those people need to be in the beer garden and not watching the bands to be at capacity.

On any given night, Emo’s hosts national, international and the best local independent performers from, coincidentally named, emocore bands to the astoundingly bad comedy of Neil Hamburger. However, Williams’ touch was to use the venue to its full capacity. On only the slowest of weekends, is someone not able to see a touring New York hard core band like Skeleton Key outside and run to the inside stage to catch the whiney stylings of I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness.

While Austinites can be quite snobby, living in the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World”, it is true that Emo’s calendar seems to be the litmus test as to who is cool at the moment in the indy scene. Emo’s is an anchor though for the emerging indy venues along the adjacent Red River and seems to be staying put.