Austin’s reputation as the “live music capital of the world” was cemented with festivals like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits, but it all grew out of one neighborhood’s love affair with beer gardens in the 1800s. And from there, the celebration spilled into today’s downtown streets.
In the 19th century, the downtown neighborhood had a distinctly German taste and a passion for open-air Biergartens. Restaurants determined to one-up each other opened their patios to social clubs for friendly singa-longs and get-togethers. Seeing that live acts proved to be a bigger draw, bars like The Scholz Garden got in on the action; some would say this was the garden that out-performed them all.
The true community spirit of downtown Austin was born when every beer garden in town banded together to host Saengerfest: three days of concerts starring bands from across the country, performing for crowds of many, including hundreds of University of Texas students from right up the road. Thousands of people, multiple stages and plenty of locally made beer — it sounds a lot like SXSW or Austin City Limits, which echo those good times on today’s lively street-stages.
With the demand for live music amplified, musicians armed with instruments flooded in from all over looking for stages of their own under this wide-open Texas sky. To support the surge, many beer gardens and locals, such as dressmaker Marguerite Skillings, opened boarding homes to welcome the wave of ambitious young singers and performers, while mending a stitch or two on their best outfits.
Today, her building stands as a monument to that music, where Austin’s next generation of musicians plays on through the night. And these gardens of music live on forever rooted in these streets as the locals celebrate the sounds that have only been turned up with time.
Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown – University pays homage to the music and boardinghouses of years past, from hosting singer-songwriters in its Red River room to incorporating stitch work into its textiles. And the area’s “violet crown” colors the décor as well, paying homage to the unique indigo glow of the Austin sunsets that lit up beer gardens night after night.