501 N. I-35
Austin, Texas 78753
Hours: Tue-Sun 9pm-2am
Written by: Noah Davis
Ask any of the staff what “ND” means, and they’ll likely respond with a well-practiced comeback: “What does it mean to you?” That free-form, open-for-interpretation spirit best defines one of the most interesting live venues in all of Austin. Originally named The Independent, ND at 501 Studios plays host to an eclectic mix of live music, performance art, film screenings, variety shows, stand-up comics, burlesque, dance parties and just about any other form of expressive entertainment one can imagine. As general Manager Krissi Reeves notes: “It’s always gonna be different, and that’s the only thing you can count on.”
The unique space at ND is the key to its versatility. Housed within one of Austin’s premiere post-production film facilities, ND was originally a sound stage. For decades, the complex served as a production block for countless independent filmmakers and other creative industries. It was the first building on Austin’s east side to have an Internet connection. Today, the massive 30’ x 20’ cyc wall is still there, now used for film screenings, multi-media performances, and music video shoots. There’s also a full-size stage and balcony seating.
ND’s impressive array of live music acts is a perfect pairing for this extraordinary space and stage. In the short three years since performances commenced, ND has played host to a diverse mix of nationally and locally recognized bands including Spoon, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, DJ Spooky, The Gourds, Das Racist and countless others acts pulled freely from the rock, rap, and dance genres. As far as the owners are concerned, any kind of live music can be magical. “We’re indiscriminate about genre, we just want quality.”
ND is located on the leading edge of Austin’s resurgent East Side. Just east of I-35 and Austin’s well-known 6th Street district, ND is surrounded by a host of interesting bars, diverse shops and hip restaurants, but you don’t need to leave the space to find good food and drink. If you’re hungry, Tamale Molly creates handcrafted tamales and other fare on site. Plus, you can sneak away from the adventures of the ND stage into the attached espionage-themed bar called The North Door, where you’ll find an impressive cocktail menu, spy-themed bric-a-brac and signage, and a cozy place to whisper secrets.
Future plans for ND at 501 studios include exploring further interpretations of the name (Naked Dancing, No Duh, and Nice Diphthong are among the favorites), an outdoor space and beer garden, and “the realization of a long search for a bar goat named Fernando.”