What do you get when you combine an amphitheater with a state-of-the-art PA, flowing water, big oaks, and legendary barbecue, all in the heart of a downtown Austin?
Over its 15 years in the business, Stubb's Waller Creek outdoor Amphitheater has hosted performances by the talents of Bob Dylan, James Brown, Willie Nelson, and more.The answer is Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater. “There’s no venue like Stubb’s,” said Ryan Garrett, general manager, Stubb’s Bar-B-Q. “We bring in talent who could sell three to four times the number of tickets in a larger venue, but there’s an intangible here. It’s a culmination of our historic building, Texas barbecue, and the environment near the creek. There’s a unique vibe that makes artists want to play our venue; it’s a mindset that elevates the performances because of the intimacy and authenticity.”
The outdoor venue can host 2,100 SRO patrons, with another 150 in an additional VIP space. Music is essentially all over the board from indie rock, country and hip-hop. “We have it all,” explained John Mickan, Stubb’s production manager.
“We’ve upgraded the system from an old Adamson stacked rig and are now making most folks very happy,” he added. “Since we’re right downtown, we had complaints from neighbors with the old rig.”
The new system features a DigiDesign Venue SC48 console, with arrays with eight d&b J8’s, six d7b B2 subs speakers, and a rack of d&b D12’s. Fill speakers include d&b Q’s with a D12 amp. The monitor system includes another DigiDesign SC48 digital Desk with 10 Adamson 12MXi monitor speaker wedges and Crown macro amps. Adamson side fills are available if requested.
“Now we can maintain a higher level of clarity at maximum volume,” Mickan explained. “We can keep the bass in the yard, since it’s flown, and we can aim it into the crowd with no spillover.”
No doubt Christopher B. Stubblefield, “Stubb” would have been thrilled with the amphitheater. An Army cook during the Korean War, Stubb had a passion for both barbecue and music, and founded the Stubb’s dynasty, so to speak.
“He and Joe Ely were tight,” Garrett said, “and Joe played at the One Knight, a honky tonk in what is now the barbecue restaurant. The building itself is historical and has remained intact since the 1880s.”
The adjoining amphitheater came in 1997 when one of the owners, a talent buyer, helped the venue realize the vision of large-scale shows.
“In my fifteen years here, the most important shows featured performers who started a movement: Dylan, James Brown, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Jurassic 5, Iggy Pop, REM, Metallica, and Sonic Youth, among them. They are influential and created something new and fresh, so not only did we get founders of genres, but we brought in a lot of monumental artists to carry the torch.”
A lot of bands come through Austin, and there are lots of venues in this market but they stop to play at Stubb’s, Mickan concluded. “We all love this place and look forward to working a show. Everyone’s excited and with the new rig, and all the engineers appreciate it.”
Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado.