1315 South Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78704
Hours: Mon 6pm-2am, Tue-Fri 4pm-2am, Sat 3pm-2am, Sun 6:30pm-2am
Written by: Monica U. Garcia
Music enthusiasts come alive at the Continental Club, where the music is reputably great, and loud. Weathered like an old biker, the place has a Lynchian retro persona. It is hip, yet unassuming, and the club’s dark setting of dimmed lights, red-velvet-draped stage, vintage wall murals, and rough edges create a complete experience.
The layout includes a main stage and bar, a back game room, and the upstairs Gallery. “The closest thing I can equate the Gallery to is a real house party,” Steve Wertheimer, the club’s owner since 1987, explains. “The feel of the place is just like being in your living room with 50 of your closest friends. It is on the second floor with amazing views of downtown Austin and it really feels like you are partying in someone’s urban loft.”
The Continental Club opened in 1955 as a private supper club whose musical lineups featured the likes of The Mascots & Tommy Dorsey, and The Glenn Miller Orchestra. In the ’60s it was a burlesque dance club, the first in Austin. Then came the era we know best, when historically significant players made their marks at the club—musicians like Roosevelt “Grey Ghost” Williams, the last of the true barrelhouse piano players, Erbie Bowser and TD Bell of the Blues Specialists, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Today, members of touring bands often wind up at the Continental Club after playing a big arena, according to Steve. He attributes much of the club’s legendary music cred to the “consistency of some of the best music in the world, night in and night out.” Touring bands who’ve played the club include: Alabama Shakes, Kris Kristofferson, Shawn Colvin, John Hiatt, Wanda Jackson, Bill Frisell and more. Local bands such as: Black Joe Lewis; Gary Clark Jr.; Barfield, The Tyrant of Texas Funk; and Jimmie Vaughan with Mike Flanigin up in the Continental Club Gallery add to the eclectic mix. Popular residencies include Junior Brown, Toni Price, Alejandro Escovedo and James McMurtry.
In 2000, and again in 2010, Playboy named the Continental Club “One of the Best Bars in America,” and, in point of fact: for many years now during SXSW, a group of Swedes and Norwegians book the entire floor of a nearby hotel, and make the Continental Club their home bar for a week, according to the club’s PR & Media Maven, Dianne Scott.
“This is the playground for the serious live music supporter and many folks who have grown tired of, or do not have the patience for Sixth Street or the warehouse district,” says Steve. “I want them to feel they are part of the show. The club is small and has a super intimate feel. You really get the full in-your-face show experience.”
A faithful re-creation of its predecessor is the Continental Club in Houston, which welcomed a packed house for its opening at 3700 Main St. in July of 2000.