Free concert series heats up downtown Austin venues this summer

Free concert series heats up downtown Austin venues this summer

Stubb's venue Austin
Stubb's is among the returning venues hosting Hot Summer Nights performances. Stubb's/Facebook

Downtown Austin is sure to be a scorcher this summer, thanks to the revival of one of the hottest annual music festivals.

Hot Summer Nights — the free yearly multi-genre, multi-venue music festival founded in 2017 as the nonprofit Red River Cultural District’s first event to span the downtown entertainment area — is bringing live music back with its return August 26-29.

The fest, which was nixed in 2020 because of the pandemic, is staging its comeback with scores of admission-free, in-person concerts and performances, all taking place at more than a dozen live-music venues in Austin’s treasured entertainment district.

While previous Hot Summer Nights venues Stubb’s, the Mohawk, Cheer Up Charlie’s, and Empire are all slated to return as event hosts, the festival is bringing on some new venues this year.

The current venue lineup includes:

  • Stubb’s
  • The Mohawk
  • Cheer Up Charlie’s
  • Empire Control Room & Garage
  • The Green Jay
  • The Venue ATX
  • The Creek & The Cave
  • Valhalla
  • Elysium
  • Mala Vida
  • The Swan Dive
  • Flamingo Cantina
  • Waterloo Park

Hot Summer Nights, which draws tens of thousands of music lovers each year, will feature dozens of free performances from local and regional artists, both established and up-and-coming acts. This year’s lineup of musical performances and experiential offerings will be released in the coming weeks.

And in a move that champions Austin’s claim as the Live Music Capital of the World, the festival is putting its money where its music is: Though each show is free to attendees, all festival performances are paid opportunities for artists curated in cooperation with each venue.

“Our Red River community finally has the opportunity to come together to make rad stuff happen,” says Cody Cowan, RRCD’s executive director. “After over a year, I’m excited to explore every amazing space, hug old friends, and watch closely as some of Austin’s best local musicians bring us back together.”

Hot Summer Nights began as an effort to increase revenue for members of the cultural district during traditionally slower summer months but has risen to revered status and (along with the RRCD’s other annual festival, Free Week) has become a much-anticipated event each year as Austin music lovers seek their live-music fix.

Proceeds raised during the festival will support the district’s emergency relief fund, Banding Together ATX, which aids the live-music community, including workers in the creative, service, hospitality, and production sectors. Since its inception in March 2020, Banding Together ATX has awarded $225,000 through more than 3,000 individual grants.