60 years of honkytonk and open mic nights have created robust community here.
Billing itself as “The Biggest Little Stage in South Austin,” Giddy Ups is the live music hub of what was once the very fringes of the city but is today slowly seeing the creep of development toward its location. The Austin dive bar was opened in the 1960s and is today owned by Nancy Morgan, each night filled with some kind of live entertainment atop the small stage just inside the Giddy Ups front door.
Giddy Ups provides an experience that may be on the endangered list in a city that has seen explosive growth like Austin has over the past few decades. Giddy Ups refers to itself as one of the last honky tonks left in South Austin, a difficult charge to dispute as subdivisions and condos have stretched to parts of the city previously unthinkable as ripe for upscale housing. When opened, Giddy Ups existed on the Austin fringes and thanks to its remote location drew in a steady stream of unique music acts driving an equally steady stream of visitors south of the city.
Today, each night is filled in some way with musical entertainment, bands squeezing onto the tiny stage most nights in addition to a weekly karaoke night on Sundays and open mic on Thursdays. The building’s exterior lives up to Giddy Ups honky tonk reputation, the silhouette one of a classic Old West saloon, the structures red paint topped with depictions of cowboys and cacti. String lights hang above the Giddy Ups porch below a corrugated metal roof.
Inside, the stage is certainly the center of attention but the floorplan is backed with short tables and chairs that make it clear that this is a sit-down-and-listen-to-music Austin dive bar rather than an invitation to mill around a cavernous space. A small dance floor has been carved out, of course, next to a fireplace and a disembodied pair of mannequin legs that serve as foundation for the band’s tip jar for the evening. The stage itself is slightly elevated and borders a wall signed by musicians of years and perhaps decades past, each commemorating their set.
The Giddy Ups walls are covered in further references to the bar’s live music heritage in the form of concert posters that almost completely engulf the Austin dive bar’s wall space. The occasional surprise like a drinking ledge here or a vintage, padded chair there add a little variety to the atmosphere. The bar is a small L-shaped structure in the corner opposite the stage, a modest selection of liquor bottles housed on floating, live edge-style shelves.
A long back patio area extends off of the Giddy Ups space, again living up to the Austin dive bar’s honky tonk roots thanks to corrugated metal shelter running over dirt floors dotted with tables, chairs and drinking ledges. The land afforded to Giddy Ups thanks to its once-remote location is used well here, the festivities spilling out into a long backyard when weather permits.
Honky tonk, live music institutions may seem inherent to life in Austin, but dive bars like Giddy Ups are an endangered species thanks to the city’s ongoing and relentless population explosion. Giddy Ups carries that flag well, the high bar set by the live music heard on the bar’s small stage lived up to by the Old West exterior, its communal vibe and its on-the-fringes-for-now South Austin location.