There are usually about 60 official venues used by the conference, then another 30 or so more used by day parties and other events not run by the conference. Not only do they change which clubs and restaurants they use as venues each year, but names of clubs on Sixth Street seem to change every couple of years.
Click on the name of a club to go to map of downtown Austin and locate club. Website, pictures from the venues and other info at the bottom of each entry where available.
Sixth Street: Runs parallel to the river (Town Lake) and is bisected by Congress, one of the main north-south streets downtown. If a club is listed as East Sixth, it's east of Congress, West Sixth ... you get the picture. East Sixth is the more concentrated club zone, with probably 30-40 clubs in the stretch between Congress and I-35, where the downtown area ends. West Sixth has about 15 clubs, but they're stretched out over a wider area, out to the western hub of Opal Divine's, Momo's and Mother Egan's. Even a bit farther west is Waterloo Records and Whole Foods.
Red River: This area consists of about 10 more clubs stretching north from Sixth Street on Red River. The three or four clubs under the Emo's name are right at Red River and Sixth. As you head north, you pass places like Beerland, Stubb's, Club de Ville and others. Stubb's is the biggest venue used downtown, It's a big outdoor yard behind the BBQ place and probably can hold 1,500 people.
South Congress: On the other side of the river is a very funky neighborhood of restaurants, clubs and antique stores, funk junk shops and the like. The famous Continental Club, one of Austin's signature clubs, is there, along with the Yard Dog, site of many of the label day parties. This is also where the very popular Guero's, Magnolia Cafe and El Sol y La Luna restaurants are.
South Lamar: Another main north-south drag, the clubs down here aren't always used by the conference, but they're classic Austin places and will have music going every night. Places like the Broken Spoke and Horseshoe Lounge are there, as is Maria's TacoXpress, a great place for breakfast tacos and site of some day parties.
The Warehouse District: This is in the southwest corner of downtown, west of Congress, but clustered along Third and Fourth streets instead of Sixth. There are some nice small places like the Gingerman (great beer selection) and bigger places like La Zona Rosa and the Austin Music Hall (which was closed for renovation in 2007).
The UT area: The campus of the University of Texas is north of downtown, most easily accessible along Guadalupe. Although they haven't used them the last couple of years, there are two great venues on campus: the Cactus Cafe and the Texas Union Theater. Also on that stretch of Guadalupe are several record stores that do in-store shows during SXSW.
WEST SIXTH STREET:
>> MOTHER EGAN'S (across from #43 on map) Not an official SXSW venue this year, but site of the Guitartown party and others. Nice Irish pub that uses its outdoor patio, covered by a tent, for the venue. Usually good sound.
>> MOMO'S (#42 on map) Small but very nice venue on the second floor of a commercial building. Has a large outdoor patio from which you can see and hear perfectly. Good place to have a beer in the sun. 618 W. Sixth.
>> OPAL DIVINE'S (#43 on map) A nice bar and restaurant that puts up a tent on its parking lot behind the Sixth Street storefront. Smaller acts sometimes play in the restaurant itself or on the front patio. For the last few years, this has been home to lots of international bands. 700 W. Sixth St.
>> MOLOTOV LOUNGE (#41 on map) 719 W. 6th.
>> WHISKY BAR (W. 5th): Not a venue in 2008.
>> KARMA LOUNGE (#34 on map) Up a couple of blocks on West 8th. 119 W. 8th.
EAST SIXTH STREET:
>> THE PARISH (#44 on map) One of the main clubs in Austin year-round, it's the site for two venues during SXSW. It used be called Mercury @ Jazz. Jazz is the cajun restaurant downstairs and the now re-named Parish is on the second floor. The venue SXSW calls Parish 2 is actually a stage set up in the Jazz restaurant downstairs. The main Parish upstairs is a great club, big dance floor, bench along one wall. Low ceiling, good sound. 214 E. 6th, between Brazos and San Jacinto
>> BUFFALO BILLIARDS (#9 on map) This is -- surprise -- actually a billiards parlor, that takes all its tables out upstairs and sets up a temporary stage in what becomes one of the biggest venues in this part of 6th St. Unfortunately, the huge oval bar that is perfectly placed for a billiards floor, is right smack in the middle of the floor when it's set up for music. Sound has been pretty inconsistent over the years. MMJ sounded great there in 2001, Bobby Bare Jr. was a mess a year or two later. 201 E. 6th, between Brazos and San Jacinto.
>> MAGGIE MAE'S (#39 on map) 323 E. 6th, between San Jacinto and Trinity.
>> BLENDER BAR AT THE RITZ (#7 on map) An old hollowed-out movie theater, this is now home to two venues. The main room indoors is spacious, very high ceiling with a dance floor, then tables on terraced levels. They changed the way things were arranged last year, and it was much better than it had been. Upstairs is the teensy Blender Balcony at the Ritz. 320 E. 6th, between San Jacinto and Trinity.
>> HABANA CALLE 6 (#29 on map) This is a Cuban restaurant about as far as you can go east on 6th (right at the foot of the Hilton Garden Inn), that has two venues within. The one just called Habana Calle 6 is a very small room at the back of the restaurant. Room for only about 75 people comfortable and a very small stage. Nice full bar for such a small room. The venue called Habana Calle 6 Patio is the nice little back patio, and it holds about 125 people and is quite a nice setting. As a bonus, the building across the street, that was the Fader party house for a few years, is now known as Habana Calle 6 Annex. The stage there is set up at the back of a large backyard. At least 200 people could fit back here. Usually a pretty big PA and good sound. 709 E. 6th, between Red River and I-35.
>> B.D. RILEY'S (#4 on map) A nice little Irish bar where I've seen everything from solo Celtic singers to the Sadies blowing the roof off. Comfortable booths, but people stand anywhere they can and can block you. Stage in the window, and room for about 100 people. 204 E. 6th, between Brazos and San Jacinto.
>> EXODUS A really poorly designed club where about 50 percent of the crowd can't see.
>> HILTON GARDEN INN (#18 on map) Almost all the way down Sixth Street to I-35, it's home to two venues. There's the "18th Floor at the Hilton" room, and a room they call "Creekside EMC at the Hilton" down on the ground floor. Both usually solo-type acts. Like small hotel banquet rooms. Comfy chairs. Sometimes a bar, sometimes not.
>> CENTRAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH - E. 8th (#x on map) Small church across from the Omni Hotel. Where Jandek played last year and where he's playing again in 2008.
>> CLUB DE VILLE (#13 on map) Famed as longtime home to the New West party, the stage is set up in the patio area and covered with a tent. Sound can be OK, but it's right next door to the outdoor stage of Mohawk and there can be sonic collisions. A couple years ago, Kris Kristofferson, playing acoustic at de Ville, offered money for someone who'd go shut up the band playing the Mohawk outdoor stage (turned out it was Wolfmother on their first tour through). Place has a great vibe. 900 Red River, at the corner of 9th Street. 512-457-0900
>> MOHAWK (#40 on map) This place, last known as Caucus, is two venues in one. There's a small music room inside (nice sound but pretty cramped) and an outdoor stage (room for about 125 to stand). Come to be a favorite place for day parties with the two stages going full-bore. Good bar too. 912 Red River, between 9th and 10th.
>> BEERLAND (#6 on map) Grubby and beat down, terrible sound system, but you can't help but love this little club. Maybe because it's like a private Postcard party every Tuesday of SXSW week, featuring Grand Champeen, Two Cow Garage and Richmond Fontaine, among others. Has been an offical SXSW venue recently too. 711 Red River, between 7th and 8th.
>> ELYSIUM (#21 on map) Add your review here. 705 Red River, between 7th and 8th.
>> STUBB'S (#52 on map) One of the main venues for bigger acts (in past years: Son Volt, Iggy and the Stooges). There is a small indoor music room, but the main venue is the big back yard of the restaurant. It's a sloping dirt and grass field that holds about 1,500 people. It can get kind of crushy right down in front, but just a bit back it's nice viewing. Way up the hill you feel like you're in the next county from the music. Also home to some of the big day parties. 801 Red River, almost the whole block between 8th and 9th.
>> RED EYED FLY (#46 on map) Small bar with a great outdoor stage in the back. Sloped concrete floor in front of the stage gives good views to all. Room also on the hill on the side of the floor for more. Usually nice sound. Home to many Centro-matic day parties. 715 Red River, between 7th and 8th.
>> ROOM 710 (#49 on map) Small dance floor in front of a small stage on one side of the bar in this place. Also a small balcony where sightlines and sound are good. Holds maybe 100 people comfortably on the floor in front, but you can also see somewhat and hear from the opposite side of the bar. 710 Red River, between 7th and 8th.
>> SPIRO'S (#51 on map) Two venues. 615 Red River, between 6th and 7th.
>> EMO'S (#22 on map) One of Austin's main venues contains three music rooms and the whole complex is usually stinking crowded all week long. The main room is outdoors, covered by a permanent roof. Room for about 300 and it can be tough to move. Inside is Emo's Jr., a smaller room with the stage packed into a corner, holds about 125. Also, Emo's III. 603 Red River, at the corner of Sixth Street.
>> EMO'S ANNEX (#23 on map) Temporary venue set up on corner lot. Big tent covers pretty sizable space, maybe room for 300. Sound sometimes dicey. 600 Red River, at corner of Sixth Street.
Continental Club: Just over the bridge on South Congress, it's been open since 1957 and gets some good names every year at SXSW. Open dance floor in front of the stage, but chairs and bar tables on the floor in the back.
Yard Dog: Not a home to official SXSW shows, but site of day parties all week. It's been the regular home for parties by Bloodshot, YepRoc and others for many years. It's a cool folk art gallery in the front and shows are held in the back yard. Almost always free beer back in the alley. Great shops all around it, and Magnolia Cafe just down the street.
>> ANTONE'S (#2 on map) One of Austin's most legendary venues, home of many great blues shows over the years. While security can be a bit assholish, it's generally a good place for shows. It's a big shoebox, with the stage on one long side and the bar directly opposite it, so there's not much room for people going from the front of the club to the back (restrooms) to squeeze through. I found myself constantly bothered by roamers, except when I'm right up front. So get right up front. 213 W. 5th, at the corner of Lavaca. Antone's website
Cedar St. Courtyard: xxxx
La Zona Rosa: xxx
>> JOVITA'S RESTAURANT: a bit away from the SXSW core, on South 1st. Home of the Twangfest parties. Indoor and outdoor stages. Plenty of cold beer and decent food. Do not go there just for the food. 1619 S. 1st.
The Hideout: Very cool little place in the back of a coffeehouse. About 75 seats in a theater-type set-up and a stage that might hold two people comfortably.