The history of Austin’s famous indie rock scene dates back to the heyday of psychedelic rock in the 60s and 70s. The original Vulcan gas company, the precursor of the infamous Armadillo World Headquarters, incubated Austin’s indie music scene in which some of the country’s greatest rock figures have emerged. As now legendary bands such as Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators began to appear, they helped bring a DIY rock’n’roll culture into the local scene for which the Austin music community is known today. Upon the closure of Vulcan, the legendary ‘the’ Dillo ‘became Austin’s No. 1 in music for over a decade, presenting a number of different genres to audiences of up to 1,500 customers.
On stage, alternately, rockers such as Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Shiva Headband some evenings, and others, outlaw country musicians like Willie nelson and Waylon Jennings. Eventually, on the tinkered with sewn-in carpet floors in a building that was previously an abandoned gun shop, Austin’s unique sonic identity of “cosmic cowboy” began to form from the infusion of psychedelic country and rock music. Eddie Wilson, the owner of the ‘Dillo, also purchased the historic site Threadgill on New Years Eve in 1981.
Austin’s rock’n’roll years continued from the late 1960s to 1999 with a local landmark Freedom lunch, a place that at one point may have lacked a roof, but which has never lacked the DIY spirit of Austin. Located on what is now the Second street neighborhood, fans of the past decades could see “person” era artists like Dave Matthews Band, Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins for $ 7.
Austin also welcomed alternative genres of music. The famous Rear bedroom, established in 1973 in East Riverside, was a known Mecca for metal music and a wide range of other genres. The next place, the second iteration of Emo’s, now resides in the former Back Room location and continues its legacy by inviting both local talent and high-level touring to perform on its stage.
Another important part of the local indie / rock music legacy is its DIY-minded punk scene, a genre that has become Austin’s favorite medium for youth dissent. Memorably, in September 1978, when Huns singer Phil tolstead started a fight with a policeman who was investigating a noise complaint in a place that became Chicano punk Raul’s club, a small riot ensues and six arrests are made. This incident made national headlines and was covered by Rolling Stone, cementing Austin’s punk rock reputation forever. Additionally, one of the most famous bands in the local Austin punk scene at this time was the Asshole surfers, a group that inspired a long list of others to eventually join the Texas punk revolution.