Austin is frequently called “the live music capital of the world,” which means we’re at no shortage of good local music venues. From Townes Van Zandt to Waylon Jennings, many musical legends have blown through our town and shaken the walls of our local venues. Today, we’re going to talk about The Cactus Café and Bar, a music venue in Austin that’s enriching our community with a positive atmosphere to enjoy some good jams.
The Cactus Café and Bar is conveniently located on Guadalupe Street on the University of Texas campus, right across from the University Co-Op. That way you can go buy some vegetables after stopping by for an afternoon coffee. I will admit that this venue is hard to find. It’s nestled in the Student Union. Don’t let its location fool you, though. This venue isn’t a college destination. It’s open to the general public, and the audience tends to be a more mature crowd. Not that college kids aren’t mature!
There are a few things that make the Cactus Café stand out in my mind above all the other venues. For one, I like that the Cactus Café has an eclectic group of performers that grace their stage. They host singer-songwriters, three-piece bands, jazz groups, classical guitarists, and of course, beloved Country Western sounds. They bring in legendary artists that are eager to put on a classy show.
This venue has made an impact on our community since 1979, and it still conjures a similar soulful muse that existed there when Townes Van Zandt played there. The Cactus Café goes beyond your typical party scene music venue.
It’s all about honoring the artist, so you get the greatest possible listening experience. In the listening room, they expect you to be silent during the performances, except for applause. It makes the show feel reverent and personal. This way, you can nurse a good drink, and let the full music experience wash over you.
Get there early enough to get your drink of choice before the show. Once the music starts up, you’re expected to stay somewhat seated. However, I do suggest getting a drink, because they’re tasty and reasonably priced.
While the atmosphere is intimate, it’s still a good size and doesn’t feel over crowded. The acoustics of the venue are raw and clean at the same time. The seating tends to be in communal tables or seminar hall style rows. This is the kind of venue that makes it conducive for the artist to captivate and mesmerize the audience.
The Cactus Café is a blueprint for other intimate venues in Austin. Because it’s an intimate venue, this means ticket are usually limited at the door. So, you’ll want to head over to their website for artist and ticket information before the show.
Let me tell you another story about the Cactus Café. In 2009, the University of Texas announced that the venue would be closing. A community non-profit “Friends of the Cactus Café” banded together to save the venue.
Fortunately, they succeeded with the help and management of the University of Texas radio station KUT. With that being said, I’d like to invite you to continue to support the Cactus Café by going out and catching one of their shows. You can also show your support by stopping by on an off day to enjoy libations or a cup of coffee.