310 Willie Nelson Blvd
Austin, TX 78701
Hours: Show Times Vary
Established: New location since 2011
LEEDS Certified Venue
Written by: Dan Murray
Photos by: Jonathan Jackson & Scott Newton
Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater is a jewel, the face of the city’s live music past, present and future. It brings the rich history of the perennial PBS television series—the longest running music series in U.S. television—into a sleek, new, $40 million concert hall that manages to retain the intimacy of the original studio on the University of Texas campus. The sound, visuals and amenities are state-of-the-art, and not one of the 2,700 seats is more than 75 feet from the stage.
The new venue gives an “unparalleled experience for fans and artist alike,” says Sharilyn Mayhugh, director of marketing at ACL Live at The Moody Theater. Keep in mind, there are 18 – 20 PBS tapings annually (the toughest tickets it town to get), and those represent only a quarter of ACL Live’s concerts. Its annual main schedule adds another 90 touring music acts, with a few name comedians sprinkled in.
“ACL was born in the era of the fabled Armadillo World Headquarters, and the early years of the TV series reflected much of the music scene in Austin,” explains Ed Bailey, of VP Brand Development at Austin City Limits. “When ACL debuted on PBS, the media landscape was less complicated, so on average the TV series reached a very wide viewing audience. This began establishing the reputation of Austin as a place of diverse music styles and in many ways put the spotlight on Austin.”
The subsequent creation and successes of SXSW and the ACL Festival further cemented Austin’s reputation as “a serious music destination,” Ed goes on. ACL Live received Pollstar’s Best New Major Concert Venue award, and the venue’s representatives proudly tout its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green-building certification. ACL Live is part of the Block 21 development that includes the W Hotel and Residences, and at 1.1 million square feet it is the world’s largest LEED-certified mixed-use project. That means any kind of smoking is off limits, unless you’re Willie Nelson. Secluded Willie’s Patio is one of the venue’s early touches of character. Surely more will come.
The venue’s interior reflects its robust history and the modern changes to its home city. The mezzanine features a compelling gallery of Scott Newton photographs that he took over the 38-year span of ACL tapings. ACL photos also decorate artists’ dressing rooms. The iconic backdrop montage of Austin featuring the UT Tower and Texas Capitol is new. The original one at the PBS studio was too old and fragile to move, and Austin has grown—the new montage retains the Capitol and Tower, but reflects the rise of a city’s skyline that has seen the effects of its soaring music reputation trickle to all industries.
“We just celebrated our first birthday in February,” Sharilyn states. “We plan to celebrate many more and claim our place as the future of live music history.”