Austin has a new addition to the downtown music scene: The Belmont. The former restaurant is now a fully functional live music venue that offers a new take on presenting concerts. Photography by Roger Ho.
There are plenty of naysayers out there who argue that the Austin music scene just ain’t what it used to be, and that good music venues are becoming more scarce as the city sells its soul and its land to ravenous condo developers.
It is sad to see legendary venues bite the dust, but let’s be honest, for a city the size of Austin we aren’t exactly starving for music venues. I try to look at it from a glass half full perspective in the sense that, for every venue that gets shut down or moves out of downtown (Emo's and Beauty Bar), a new venue pops up somewhere else. That new venue is The Belmont.
Formerly a restaurant that happened to have live music, The Belmont is now a fully functional live music venue that happens to have food. According to general manager Raul Garcia, the venue is a multi-faceted space that revolves around music, art, and food.
Music comes first, and Raul was quick to point out that the club spent the majority of their renovation budget on installing state of the art sound and lighting. It was definitely noticeable during the recent Salt-n-Pepa show (See our review and photo gallery). Catching live music at The Belmont really does feel like a concert experience now. I can vividly recall seeing Li’l Cap’n Travis at the old Belmont and watching a rather large man eat an even larger plate of food with his back to the stage. Not only was he blocking our view of the stage, but he clearly had no interest in seeing the band. Yet, the club still manages to hold on to that swanky Rat Pack feel that made the old Belmont so unique, and the black, white, and yellow décor is minimal with a touch of class.
Art is a big part of The Belmont, and this is obvious from the moment you walk through the door. The walls are adorned with black and white photos of well-known performers, many of which were taken at The Belmont. Where else can you find Kanye West staring you down as you climb the stairs?
On our visit, the staff continually stressed the mission of the club to function as an open canvas for artists to display their work. The plan is to rotate artwork fairly often, keeping the look of the club fresh and displaying new talent in a setting other than an art gallery.
It would be a shame to see the venue waste the kitchen space they have, and there is no intention of doing that. There are plans to start serving food like a normal restaurant, but in the mean time the club is collaborating with local food trucks to come out, utilize their space, and serve their own menus during shows and happy hours, making the setup similar to a pop-up restaurant where chefs rent out a kitchen space to serve their own menus. The rotating food truck residencies should make for an Austintacious dining experience to compliment the drinks and live music.
Some of Austin’s legendary venues may be closing down (Austin Music Hall, La Zona Rosa) or moving out of downtown (Emo’s, Beauty Bar), but by no means is the live music scene dying. Maybe what’s lacking is an alternative take on how to present music downtown, as opposed to the standard stage and bar setup. With an emphasis on art, food, and music, not to mention a stellar rooftop patio, The Belmont offers a refreshingly dynamic take on being a music venue in Austin.
Check out their upcoming concert schedule HERE.