Editor’s note: The following music and videos contains explicit content.
On August 29, 1991, Austin City Council members passed the resolution that named Austin the Live Music Capital of the World. Now, 20 years later, the music scene here is still booming, and arguably better than ever. To help celebrate the anniversary, here’s a list of the top 20 Austin musicians, including native musicians and non-native, notable artists who have help contribute to the burgeoning scene:
Erring on the side of weird, ArcAttack started using Tesla coils to literally make electric music in 2008 and hasn’t stopped producing nerdy, viral hits.
Formed in 2005, Balmorhea weaves dynamic post-rock melodies that pull you in and leave you feeling serene. The band plans to kick off their Midwest tour this month.
Although he was originally born in San Francisco, the folk singer-songwriter still happily makes music out of his home in Austin near Zilker Park.
The Black Angels
If you think Austin psych rock ended with The 13th Floor Elevators, think again with this Austin band that hit the scene back in 2004 and have gone on to play everything from the Austin Psych Fest to Lollapalooza.
Yeah, we knew them before they got big. Originally from Houston, Blue October banded together in 1995 and then brought their rock to Austin in 2001. The band still frequently performs around Austin, including ACL Live this past April.
Despite touring nationally, Americana folk rocker Schneider has stuck to the small stages and is a regular at the Saxon Pub down on South Lamar Boulevard. According to his MySpace, he says he still has about 600-700 unwritten songs ready to be recorded.
Going back to the late ’70s, Johnston has been an all-around Austin renaissance man from his music to his iconic Jeremiah the Innocent art that greets everyone with a simple, “Hi, How Are You?”
Explosions in the Sky
The term “post-rock” can’t capture the dramatic, self-described “cathartic mini-symphonies” of Explosions — a band that got its start over a couple of slices of pizza 12 years ago, according to their MySpace.
This contemporary Austin-based music duo, formed in 2004, brings the funk with a hip, contemporary electro twist. Ghostland Observatory continues to play music and has performed on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and at Coachella.
The epitome of homey, Austin dive bars, singer-songwriter Forsyth oozes that bluesy rock sound that’s come to help shape Texas music. Additionally, he’s played Austin City Limits Music Festival twice and opened for the likes of B.B. King and Ray Charles.
Before becoming the rockstar she’s still known as today, the Texan profiled her back in 1962. “She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levi’s to class because they’re more comfortable and carries her Autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin.”
The Octopus Project
Described as a hybrid ‘indietronica’ band, Octopus Project has been entertaining the capitol of Texas since 1999 with everything from Theremins to electric plug masks. The band has even perked the attention of ’80s cult band Devo, performing with them at last year’s Moogfest.
It’s been 12 years since indie rock band Okkervil River took the stage at Steamboat in Austin and have since gone on to release six studio albums and perform with other indie sensations, including The Decemberists and The New Pornographers.
Robert Earl Keen
Born in Houston and graduated from A&M, country musician Keen springboarded his career in Austin back in ’84, then moved back in ’86 because he was inspired by the Texas landscapes and residents, according to CMT.
An indie-rock perennial favorite, this band played the Austin scene for roughly seven years before they gained widespread acclaim for their album, Girls Can Tell.
Stevie Ray Vaughn
The late, great electric blues guitarist Vaughn, an Austin music epitome, honed his skills here in the ’70s and was one of the first musicians to help put Austin on the map. His statue still overlooks Lady Bird Lake.
Since 2003, The Sword has rocked Austin, the Lone Star state and the world with their doom metal ballads. Often compared to Black Sabbath, the band recently wrapped up their North American tour.
Townes Van Zandt
Singer-songwriter Zandt is another Austin country folk favorite. Although he was already famous by the time he moved to Austin in the ’80s, he continued to build his notoriety as he battled depression, drug abuse and alcoholism in between writing songs.
Indie pop-rock band Voxtrot may have disbanded last year in June but not before garnering the praises of SPIN and Pitchfork over their seven-year career.
Acclaimed Texas singer, songwriter never hesitates to stop by Austin or be stopped for possession while on the road. Last year, Second Street was renamed “Willie Nelson Boulevard” and a life-size statue of him to be placed in front of the new ACL studios is in the works.