Famous Bands that Started in Austin

Austin City is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World” because o of the high number of venues hosting live performances in the city, sometimes reaching over a hundred all in the same night. 

Home to some of the biggest music events and festivals in the world, such as Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL), South by Southwest (SXSW), and The Urban Music Festival Fun Fun Fun Fest the Pachanga Festival, there are almost two thousand bands and performing artists in the city.

The following are some of the most famous bands from Austin, Texas:

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

Formed in 1994, the alternative rock band from Austin …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead is also known as Trail of Dead, or T.o.D., which reads as “death” in German.

The band’s main members are Jason Reece and Conrad Keely; they substitute with drumming, guitars, and lead vocals, both during recordings and live performances. The band known for their wild, energetic concerts released their tenth studio album, X: The Godless Void and Other Stories, on January 17, 2020.

Calliope Musicals

The Calliope Musicals combines folk and dance-pop, radiating positivity et every live show. 

Calliope shows are interactive with lead singer Carrie Fussell’s undeniable magnetism; the audience participates in dancing or singing. Each show is full of pink unicorns, confetti canons, and unlimited energy.

The band won “Best New Band” at the Austin Music Awards, performed at the annual Electric Forest Festival, and played at the inaugural Sound on Sound Festival.

Explosions in the Sky

Explosions In The Sky performing at Central Park Summerstage in New York City

This American post-rock band from Texas originally played using Breaker Morant. In 1999, they changed to the current name. The band has gained popularity beyond the post-rock scene for their elaborately developed guitar work, narratively styled instrumentals or “cathartic mini-symphonies,” mixed with their enthusiastic and emotional live shows. The Explosions in the Sky mainly play with three electric guitars and a drum kit. The band started as a quartet but later added a fifth member to their live performances. 

After releasing albums and earning a local fanbase, the band wrote the soundtrack for the critically acclaimed film Friday Night Lights, about Texas high school football, in 2004.

Magna Carda

Magna Carda is a local livewire hip-hop group from the St. Edwards campus in South Austin. Their leading lady Megz Kelli is a skilled lyricist that combines great confidence and passion to charm her audiences. Though the group was born in the 90s, they combine old-school vibes with youth to create a powerful live performance.  


Spoon performing live in 2017

The Spoon is an indie band that rose to prominence in the early 2000s. Spoon was first formed by lead singer Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno in Austin in 1993. The band released its first major-label album in 1996 but hit it big with 2007’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” The band’s tenth album, Lucifer on the Sofa, was released on February 11, 2022, via Matador.

The Spoon began recording the studio album in late 2018 at drummer Jim Eno’s studio with producers Mark Rankin and Justin Raisen. It was nearly finished as of early 2020 but was put on hold due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic

Sweet Spirit

Sweet Spirit performing at SXSW 2016

Lead vocalist Sabrina Ellis is the queen bee of the Austin rock ‘n roll scene. Entrancing crowds with spontaneous go-go dancing and smoky, soulful vocals, she is a seductress of fun. On stage, Sweet Spirit is a tight, versatile hurricane of pop-perfection that can’t help but suck you into its vortex of enthusiasm. The band’s debut album has begun to attract a national audience, and with a nationwide tour on tap, this nine-piece powerhouse could soon become a household name.

The Black Angels

The Black Angels live performance 2014

Formed in May 2004, The Black Angels are a psychedelic rock band from Austin. They got their name from the Velvet Underground’s “The Black Angel’s Death Song.” The band has released five studio albums and one compilation album.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds

2016 Riverwalk Blues Festival

This American blues rock band was formed in Texas in 1974. After performing in the Austin, Texas, blues scene for several years, the band signed a recording contract with Takoma/Chrysalis Records and later with Epic Records. In 2011, they signed with Severn Records.

With Kim Wilson’s lead vocals and harmonica, Jimmie Vaughan as lead guitarist, and Keith Ferguson on bass guitar, the band released their first two albums in 1979 and 1980,

The Thunderbirds’ blues style mixed Texas blues with the harmonica-laced swamp blues sounds of Slim Harpo and Lazy Lester—both of whom the Thunderbirds covered. The band’s third album, Butt-Rockin’, released in 1981, was an old rhythm and blues and added additional musicians playing piano and brass.

Although the band had become favorites of fellow musicians (opening shows for the likes of the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton) and had been critically well-received, the band’s records did not sell well.

The Octopus Project

Ryan Figg and Josh Lambert exchange guitars during a song in San Francisco, August 2008

The Octopus Project started in 1999; they blend experimental synth rock with a kaleidoscope of visual effects that make their live shows one of the most unique in Austin. Their sonic-induced instrumentals allow listeners to delve into a trance-like state, with enough guitar punch to snap you right out of it. Bandleader and creative wizard Yvonne Lambert’s proficiency on the theremin may be one of the few times you see the instrument used onstage. Combinations of experimental sounds and ambient noises make this live show a must-see.

White Denim

White Denim performing in Chicago, 2019

The White Denim is one of the most famous bands from Austin. They have toured the world, recorded a live album for Jack White at Third Man Studios, and even helped launch the career of soul singer Leon Bridges.

From experimenting with chaotic garage rock in the band’s early years, White Denim’s live show has evolved into a blues powerhouse that stretches into funk, jam, and psychedelia influences. Lead singer James Petralli has irresistible power on stage and is a great leader of one of Austin’s most well-known live bands.