Opened in 1979, the Cactus Cafe & Bar in Austin is located on the University of Texas campus inside the Texas Union building at the corner of 24th and Guadalupe streets. Since the beginning this live music venue has welcomed acoustic music acts and musicians from the local, national, and international performance circuit. Hosting such popular acts as Alison Krauss, the Dixie Chicks, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Suzanne Vega, Nanci Griffith, Shawn Colvin, Townes Van Zandt, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Loudon Wainwright III, Guy Clark, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, and others, the Cactus Cafe features an intimate atmosphere for acoustic performances in its small, casual bar.
The Cactus Cafe has been widely recognized as a unique and influential venue. In addition to winning the Austin Chronicle’s award for Best Acoustic Venue from 2001 through 2011, Billboard magazine called the Cactus Cafe an important establishment “from which careers can be cut, that work with proven names and new faces.”
In May 2010, after the University of Texas announced that it might have to close the Cactus Cafe due to budgetary concerns, the venue entered into a partnership with local radio station KUT to increase its publicity and attendance. The cafe added a new sound and lighting system as well as a new menu. In 2011 the Cactus began an artist-in-residence program to enable emerging local artists to have a month-long residency. The venue also partnered with the Austin Classical Guitar Society to establish the Classical Cactus Series every last Thursday of the month. The Cactus Cafe hosts KUT’s Views and Brews—a community discussion program that invites shared conversation on a variety of music, news, and popular culture topics. As of 2015 the Cactus Cafe remained an essential part of the eclectic live music scene in Austin and was a popular meeting place for singers, songwriters, and music fans of all ages.