- October 3, 2017

7 Awesome Austin Bars That Just Might Host An ACL Surprise Show


Austin City Limits Music Festival is a time to let loose, have tons of fun, and not take ourselves too seriously. The 11 year old festival seems to outdo itself every year, with big name artists fighting to be part of the special festival. Powerhouses such as Jay-Z, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Chance the Rapper headline this year’s event. One thing about ACL that makes it so special is that every year the artists try unique ways to get your attention, such as bringing on a surprise performer or introducing a new song. But what about after the show?

We all have that friend who always seems to stumble their way into a bar where some big artist plays an Unofficial After Party Show. Sure you could get tickets to the Official After Party shows, but you can’t beat being able to tell your friends that you were there when they unexpectedly showed up and absolutely rocked the house. We put together a list of places to linger and enjoy a drink or two that give you the best chance to witness one of those shows that people will be talking about for years to come.

Here’s how we determined the chance of a venue having an after party:

  •  The Setup: Does the bar have the right space for a potential after party?
  • The Afterparty History: Has the bar hosted musical guests or performances before?
  • Local Insider Tips: Are there local rumblings of a possible after party?

NativX connects you to the best rooftop bars, happy hours, and local events with help from expert locals. Download the app to get updates on what’s hot during ACL.


Now on to our picks for potential after party spots:

1. The White Horse

500 Comal St Austin, Texas 78702
Specials: Monday – Friday Happy Hour 3-8 p.m.
Genre: Country, Alternative Rock, Folk

The White Horse is an Austin bar that has honky tonk written all over it. Check it out for the huge selection of beer, for the diverse crowds, and the great live music! The dance floor is where you need to be, bumping elbows with strangers makes for a great experience. They have whiskey on tap which is a reason in its own to make your way over to this east Austin spot.

Austin’s own Spoon lists this as one of their favorite places to grab a drink. Hmmm…Interesting. 



NativX Surprise Meter

2. The Mohawk

912 Red River St
Specials: Happy Hour everyday 5-8 p.m.
Genre: Anything Goes

If you are an Austin local, there is a good chance you’ve seen a show at Mohawk. Right off the bat, Mohawk presents you with a giant stuffed grizzly bear to set the tone for the rest of the night. Mohawk has a little history of some surprise shows during big events. During this year’s SXSW, At The Drive In decided to drop in with a free set for the lucky ones that happened to be there. They have an official after party on Saturday, Oct 7th, but that doesn’t mean other bands don’t want to be a piece of Mohawk history.

The xx played their first show in Austin at Mohawk back in 2009. Maybe if we all tweet them a reminder of that, it might give them some idea.

RBSS: Classic + Tennyson + Capyac, photos by @crc.images

A post shared by Mohawk (@mohawkaustin) on

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3. Container Bar

90 Rainey St
Specials: Try the “Red Headed Stranger” – Hendrick’s Gin, Strawberry Syrup, Serrano Bitters & Lemonade
Genre: Rock, Hip Hop, EDM

Made from repurposed and stacked shipping containers, Container Bar is as weird — and cool — as it gets. The open air layout makes for an awesome night out. Their drinks are top notch and surprisingly affordable. They don’t serve food, but if you find yourself wanting a bite to eat, there are plenty of solid food truck options nearby. We recommend trying the Container Bar’s Food Truck, Tapas Bravas, and Bacon.

Why would this be the perfect candidate? Just look at that setup! It has multiple levels you can watch the performance from and plenty of open space to rock out. They constantly host live music and have been known to throw some epic parties around SXSW.

Today's headliner @booseeka

A post shared by Container Bar (@containerbar_atx) on


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4. Broken Spoke

3201 S Lamar Blvd
Specials: 6-8 p.m. dinner and a show in the restaurant – no cover
Genre: Country

If you really want to get the Texas country experience, this is the place to be. You can learn how to two-step while getting rowdy on the dance floor. This venue has seen legends such as Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and George Strait bless the stage, so it’s an experienced venue.

It’s off the beaten path, away from the ACL madness, which would be a perfect place for bands to play a surprise show without getting swamped by the crowds. Broken Spoke is very familiar with surprise shows; Garth Brooks made a surprise appearance just months ago during SXSW. One of the Austin locals told us that “if there was a place to have a surprise show, Broken Spoke would be it.” Are they trying to hint at something? You will have to check it out to see.

Their schedule is wide open on Friday and Saturday of ACL Weekend One so we are feeling good about this one.


NativX Surprise Meter

5. Beerland

711 Red River St
Specials: Cheap beer, cheap beer, and more cheap beer … enough said.
Genre: Punk, Rock, Hip Hop, Underground

Beerland is the perfect place to catch a live show if you are trying to resurrect your inner ’90s punk. They have affordable drinks and graffiti in the bathroom that compliments your defiant side. They are notorious for wild unofficial after parties at SXSW so why wouldn’t they throw some surprise shows during ACL?

This is another one of those venues that Austin band, Spoon, claimed as one of their favorite spots. What better way to give back to the city they love, than with a surprise show at one of their favorite places?!? That would be pretty awesome, right Spoon? Hanson recently played a secret show, so let’s keep that trend going.

Beerland doesn’t have anything scheduled for Saturday, Oct 7, so that could be a great night to head there.

TONIGHT! White Ghost Shivers, Brick Top Blues Band. Doors at 8PM. http://ow.ly/cMQ030d0scj

A post shared by Beerland (@beerlandtexas) on


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6. Bangers Sausage House

79 & 81 Rainey St.
Specials: Big Band Brunch Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (live music noon – 3 p.m.)
Genre: Country, Alternative

Another Rainey Street bar on the list, could this be a coincidence? With 103 varieties of beer on tap and another 50 in cans there’s no excuse to leave thirsty. Of course, it’s their wide variety of interesting and delicious sausages that really get people walking through their doors.

They also have an awesome live music venue in the back that is the perfect setup for a surprise show. The venue is located outside of the restaurant, which gives ample opportunity for an artist to sneak in for an unofficial afterparty performance. Locals tell us Rainey Street is a great contender because it is still walking distance from downtown, but somewhat away from the out of towner crowds hanging around festival. They primarily focus on country, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to think Brothers Osborne, Asleep At The Wheel, or Devin Dawson might be eying this location.

They just so happen to have their Oct 6 and 7 nights open for, I don’t know, maybe a surprise show?


NativX Surprise Meter

7. Handlebar

121 E 5th St
Specials: Doc Holliday – Ransom Old Tom Gin, Carpano Antica, Campari and a touch of Fee Bros. Orange bitters
Genre: Stache Friendly

Confession time, HandleBar made the list strictly because we would love to see a show here and there are a few candidates with killer staches that fit the look perfectly. Even if they don’t make the cut, a night at Handlebar is always a guaranteed good time.

Couldn't understand a word this lad was singing. Decent band all the same though.

A post shared by John Butler (@johnnypez) on



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Just remember, if you get tired of waiting, or any of these turn out to be a bust, the NativX app can quickly give you plenty of options for fun things to do in this amazing city of ours!

Featured photo by Steve Hopson  from Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons licensed.