Dive Right In: Four Great Things about the Swan Dive Bar.
I'm all about first impressions, and for my first real ATX live music experience, the Swan Dive Bar spread its wings and soared in splendor. From the moment I walked in something caught my eye: a multi-paneled stained glass window immediately to the right of the entrance that made me feel as if I were peeking at the performers on stage, amazed by their craft and welcoming myself into a growing nest for talented musicians.
I have had the pleasure of visiting several dive bars in the United States, from New York to Las Vegas and Los Angeles to Baltimore I enjoy the intimacy of small locales. Swan Dive had not only all the charm of a dive bar but also boasted an aesthetic that you don't always see in these types of places, which brings me to my first point.
1. Aesthetic Appeal
The look from the get-go is eye-catching and true to the bar's name. White painted brick walls, fancy flourishes, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and cozy seating areas that get quite intimate all give this bar a soft feel. The large dance floor and the music blasting from the two QSC PA speakers and beyond show that this place, similar to a swan, is graceful but still bites.
What is a bar without a good assortment of drinks, right? Well, Swan Dive has lots of local and imported beers that are reasonably priced for its Red River location. I got a Convict Hill because I love stouts and my brother just a Miller Lite, but the service was fantastic, friendly and laid back, the way dive bar service should be.
The Swan Dive Bar plays host to dozens of bands during SXSW and is involved in many other events in the city. The majority of their shows are free, and for nearly a decade they have been nurturing the Austin local music scene, giving artists an opportunity to shine under their turquoise lights. I had the pleasure of walking into Much 2 Much's indie-folk set, and I knew I was in for a good night.
From the bands I spoke to, all the way to Ryan the bartender, everyone was friendly, welcoming, and just stoked to be enjoying a rainy Friday night together. I was invited into the green room, enormous by green room standards, and even got to check out Barbarella next door in between sets, and well that is a piece for a later time. Great experience all around.
When an establishment dedicates itself to a cause beyond just the business, it flourishes, and in the case of the Swan Dive, their commitment to Austin's local musicians puts them high above the clouds. If bars like the Swan Dive are what define the Austin local music scene, then I am excited for whatever this weekend will bring.