500 Comal St
Austin, Texas 78702
Hours: Daily 2pm-2am
Written by: Tara Smith
Where can you find free, live music any night of the week? Where can you see boys wearing girl’s pants, who are two-stepping beside 70 year-old cowboys? Where the whiskey flows freely, the beer is always cheap and cold, and where everyone is welcomed with a smile and a handshake: The White Horse. This hodge-podge of old-meets-new is without fail, a traditional honky tonk and a hip place for Austin’s ‘weird.’ “There isn’t anyone I don’t welcome here…we are just kind of a good time place,” co-owner Denis O’Donnell says.
The building The White Horse occupies has come full-circle; it originated in the ’60s as a honky tonk destination, and then catered to the Latin culture, when the neighborhood transitioned, as Club La Trampa. Now it is reconnecting with its roots, through guides: Denis, Marshall and Nate, a dynamic trio who is bringing collective experience from microbreweries and distribution, and operating restaurants and bars.
The ‘beauty’ of this venue is the no-frills atmosphere. One long bar aligns the western wall, and tables, chairs and intimate booths skirt the dance floor. Pool tables and a jukebox are also handy. The White Horse gets rowdy—in good fun and cheer. “Every night’s got its quality…it doesn’t have to be a busy show night, or crowded…” states Denis. “I want [the experience] to grab them; raise hairs on them…separate the good times from the GREAT times…and, also, I want them to have a romantic dance experience.”
The venue’s name has an interesting, esoteric connotation to the tarot deck. “Constance of balance in the creative forward of the universe,” states Denis. Whatever that means, this newly opened down-home place is creating a bit of magic—patrons have only praise for the club. It is the musicians that are the most fortunate however; Denis and co-owners are providing a place for up-and-coming local acts to get the same spotlight that legendary musicians easily get in well-established venues around town, sans the intimidation. This kind of integral nurturing is liable to launch careers from this humble stage.
Bands that have made an impression at The White Horse are: Mike and the Moon Pies, East Cameron Folkcore, and Wayne “The Train” Hancock. Expect a full SXSW schedule, it is an official venue for the festival. The entire stage and sound system is being repackaged to better accommodate this blazing venue. The future also holds a green room, private parking, and improved load-in options.
Why live music is important, “Because it makes me feel good!” —
Denis O’Donnell, Co-owner