Live Music Venue Guide for NB Magazine

While it’s true that Austin is known for their live music, New Braunfels is quickly gaining ground as a music hotspot in America. The music scene can be easily traced back to its most famous building, the historic Gruene Hall, located at 1281 Gruene Road. Pronounced “Green,” this legendary dancehall has remained virtually unchanged since it was built in 1878. H.D. Gruene built the hall as a home to all public events in the tiny settlement of Gruene. In the mid-70’s, Gruene had become a virtual ghost town until businessman Pat Molak purchased the hall in 1974. With a lot of hard work and a clear vision for the future, he and his business partner Mary Jane Nalley built the community into the hub of activity it is today. Many rising artists don’t feel as though they’ve “made it” until they play the historic venue. In the summer months, Two Tons of Steel, a popular band from San Antonio, host “Two Ton Tuesday” and local radio station KNBT does remote broadcasts for the Friday Afternoon Club. Such superstars as George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Hal Ketchum, Pat Green and Robert Earl Keen all got their start playing regular gigs here. Take a few minutes to check out the hundreds of signed photos that adorn the walls. It’s a testament of how important Gruene Hall is to the history of Texas music. They feature live music 7 days a week and most shows are free. There’s often a cover charge on weekends and for major touring acts. For more info, visit their website at GrueneHall.com.

Just up the road from Gruene Hall is Tavern in the Gruene. It is an air-conditioned live music venue with a full bar and both indoor and outdoor stages. The historic building dates back to the 1940’s when it was a barn used to store farm equipment and livestock. In 1992, Ed and Billie Miles purchased the property and developed Gruene Homestead Inn, which sits right next door to the Tavern. After a short stint as an upscale restaurant from 1998 to 2001, the building was used as an event center called Hanz Hall. About a year later, in May of 2002, the Tavern in the Gruene opened for business and quickly became one of the area’s most popular night spots. Earlier this year the property was sold to Mark and Brandy Worley. The new owners have made some changes and improvements, but have kept the cool vibe intact. Live music remains a focal point so see the complete schedule at TavernintheGruene.com.

River Road Ice House, located at 1791 Hueco Springs Loop, offers the two things our city is famous for, live music and tubing the rivers. Less than a mile from the Guadalupe River, the Ice House allows fans to enjoy tubing and live music in the same afternoon. Formerly the River Road General Store and Molly’s Oasis, the renamed River Road Ice House regularly books major stars as well as up and coming Texas and Americana musicians. Over the past few years it has undergone renovations and has changed ownership. It has an indoor stage plus a large outdoor amphitheater that can house over 2000 fans. It is open 7 days a week with most of the live music scheduled for the weekends. You can check out their full calendar at Riverroadicehouse.com.

Riley’s Tavern, located on FM 1102, was the first venue to be awarded a beer license in 1933 after prohibition ended. James Riley, at the ripe old age of 17, drove to Austin in a Model “T” Ford. He arrived early and was the first person awarded a beer license in the state of Texas. He ran the tavern for over forty years before illness forced him to retire. Today, owner Joel Hoffman often performs with his band or books popular area musicians to entertain the crowd. It’s the perfect place to relax with friends and enjoy an intimate set by local and regional acts. The complete schedule can be found at RileysTavern.com.

Billy’s Ice, located at 1193 Loop 337, is a popular local venue that was converted from a drive thru convenience store into a unique Texas style open air bar. Local businessman Bob Wilson purchased the venue about a year ago and has kept the live music schedule full. Large sliding doors can be opened or closed depending on weather conditions so patrons can enjoy a full bar and an 800 sq. ft. covered deck. You can access their complete schedule at Billysice.com.

Whitewater Amphitheater, located on FM 306 near Canyon Lake, has quickly become one of the premier outdoor venues in not just Texas but the entire United States. With a capacity of about 5,600, it has featured concerts by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, ZZ Top, John Fogerty, Willie Nelson and Miranda Lambert, just to name a few. It offers a first class concert experience with general admission, reserve seating and VIP skyboxes available. Located on the banks of the beautiful Guadalupe River, fans can go tubing during the day then see a fantastic concert at night. Lodging and tube rentals are located nearby. Anything you need to know about this venue can be found at Whitewaterrocks.com.

For years Freiheit Country Store was considered to be on the outskirts of town. Located at 2157 FM 1101, the original building was built in 1889 as a meeting place for the local community. Once surrounded by open fields it is now in the heart of Creekside and Freiheit Village. The covered open air stage is home to Zack Walther’s Wednesday shows and a wide variety of regional and national touring acts. In addition to featuring live music they also have a full service restaurant that serves all your favorite comfort food. See the music schedule and menu at FreiheitCountryStore.net.

Downtown New Braunfels has undergone a rebirth over the past decade and has spawned several venues that offer a wide choice of live music. Built in 1871, the Phoenix Saloon, located at 193 W. San Antonio Street, was the first bar in Texas to serve women. It had an alligator pit, badger fights and live music on Saturday nights. William Gebhardt invented chili powder in 1894 while running the café in the back room of the saloon. Prohibition forced the saloon to close in 1918. In its later years the building was used as a department store until it was purchased by Ross and Debbie Fortune. After a two year renovation it was reopened on March 5, 2010. It’s large stage has hosted such acts as Alejandro Escovedo, Dale Watson, Hayes Carll, Jesse Dayton, Alex Meixner and the Shinyribs, just to name a few. It features an open mic night, several happy hour shows as well as concerts on the weekends. It’s also rumored to be one of the most haunted buildings in our city. They serve hamburgers, hotdogs and world famous chili in addition to the live music. You can read all about their colorful history at ThePhoenixSaloon.com.

Located nearby at 148 S. Castell Avenue is Krause’s Café which dates back to 1938. Gene Krause opened Gene’s Place on the downtown plaza in 1938 and relocated to the current location in 1948. In 1959 he sold the restaurant to his son Kermit and it was renamed Krause’s Café. It remained Krause’s until 1995 and then changed to Freisenhaus German Restaurant. Local businessman Ron Snider remodeled the building and reopened Krause’s Café in late 2016. Live music was first performed inside the large biergarten but was soon moved outside under the pavilion. The stage has been home to many local benefits as well as an annual Maifest hosted by Alex Meixner. Most Wednesday nights you will find a polka band performing while the weekends feature local and regional acts. Check out the full schedule and menu at KrausesCafe.com.

At the opposite end of San Antonio Street sits the Brauntex Theatre. It started as a movie theatre in 1942, opening just a few weeks after Pearl Harbor was bombed. As World War 2 raged, the theatre was often used to show news reels to keep local citizens informed about the war. As years passed it became a neglected building that housed cheap movies and finally closed its doors in 1998. A group of concerned citizens saved the theatre from the wrecking ball and purchased the building in 1999. They formed a non-profit organization and proceeded to renovate the old building. By 2001 it was ready for its second life as a live concert venue. Today the 600 seat restored theatre hosts concerts by such acts as Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt, Oak Ridge Boys, Rosanne Cash, Bellamy Brothers and Crystal Gayle just to name a few. The Brauntex is also home to many local dance companies and theater groups. Their complete schedule of events can be seen at Brauntex.org.

Just across the railroad tracks from The Brauntex is the Pour Haus located at 343 W. San Antonio Street. This unique venue offers an indoor and outdoor bar along with a covered outdoor stage. It’s the perfect place to mingle with friends, have a cold drink and listen to live music 7 nights a week. The majority of the live music shows are free but occasionally there is a cover charge when a bigger act is performing. Often voted the best bar in town it is a regular meeting place for locals and tourists. Find out more about this unique downtown bar at PourHausNB.com.

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