The Armadillo World Headquarters Is Being Reborn — on Austin FC’s New Kit

Music

Eddie Wilson could tell stories about the Armadillo World Headquarters, the storied Austin music venue he founded in 1970, for hours. He’ll tell you about how “nowhere else in the world” had ever treated Charlie Daniels so good, or the “phonebook thick” contract ZZ Top made him sign, or maybe the times that names like Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, and Stevie Ray Vaughan performed there in the Seventies. 

“We got one wonderful picture of Frank Zappa bending over a table with a razor blade,” Wilson recounts in his Texas twang. “‘He must’ve been doing coke.’ And I say, ‘No, look at the rest of the picture there.’ And sure enough, he got the razor blade because he’s cutting the sleeves off a T-shirt we’d just given him!”

The Armadillo was a place of convergence for the city in those days. And though it closed down in 1981, its mark on the Texas city is part of why Austin calls itself the “live music capital of the world.”

“It was a smoky little joint that had discovered what hippie music could do for beer sales,” read a Rolling Stone piece about the venue from 1971. “Hippies and rednecks were forced into the same bar: the hippies because the music was there, and the rednecks because the beer was there.”

Half a century later, a different entertainment form is celebrating the venue’s legacy: Austin FC, the city’s soccer club. On Thursday, the MLS team unveils the ‘Dillo Kit, a beige jersey with the team’s signature verde on its sleeve to honor the “creative and vibrant spirit” Armadillo World HQ left in the city. 

“As a beneficiary of what was built at the Armadillo, it’s an honor to show our respect for the venue, the people who built it, and the musicians who played there,” Austin FC President Andy Loughnane tells Rolling Stone. “The spirit of camaraderie and community that came to life at Armadillo World Headquarters is very much on display today in Austin and you see it come to life at Q2 Stadium on an Austin FC matchday.”

In many ways, Austin FC is carrying on the legacy Wilson’s venue built of bringing people from all walks of life together under one roof. One particular fan by the name of Matthew McConaughey calls it the “Come as you are” rule. McConaughey wasn’t around to see the city in the ‘Dillo days but says his older brother Pat would always tell him stories about the Austin he loves.

Austin FC midfielder Daniel Pereira #6 celebrates with Matthew McConaughey after the match against DC United at Q2 Stadium in Austin in 2023.

Jacob Gonzalez/Austin FC

“You walk into a bar and there’s a hippie to your left, a sheriff to your right, a Native American on the other side of the hippie, and a guy with blue hair on the other side of the sheriff,” McConaughey, one of Austin FC’s investors, tells Rolling Stone. “Everyone’s having a drink together. And that is really the DNA of Austin: Come as you are. And that’s what happened with Armadillo World HQ.”

“AC/DC played their first American show there. Did you know that?” he adds, referring to the band’s first performance in the States, opening for Moxy in 1977. “To be laying down some elbow grease with Angus Young and the boys. At the Armadillo? That would have been an absolute neckbanger.”

Mix McConaughey’s love for the soccer team (he’s often spotted in the stands banging a massive drum) and his affinity for music (he starred in a Zach Bryan music video earlier this month), and he’s all in.

He tells the story of how he discovered one of his favorite artists in Austin. He was walking down Sixth Street with a friend during the Pecan Street Festival, live music vibrating from every corner. “Through all the muffled sounds, there was one bit of music that was cutting through all that,” McConaughey remembers. “I go up a block, I take a right, I take a left down a gravel alley past three Dumpsters, and then behind this brick wall and there was a guy on this little stage with about 32 people in front of it. James McMurtry. This guy’s a wordsmith. I grabbed his album, paid my five bucks for it, and have bought all his albums since.”

Jacob Gonzalez/Austin FC

“What you can do in Austin is follow your ears,” he adds. “Follow your ears, and you’re usually going to like what you see.”

Nearly 50 years later, Austin FC — with its drumbeat-shaken stands and soccer stars like Argentine Sebastián Driussi and Finnish player Alexander Ring on the pitch — now takes on the role of converger in the city, thanks to both the growing excitement of the sport nationally ahead of the 2026 World Cup, and Austin’s position as the fastest-growing metro area in Texas, featuring a drastically different demographic than the ‘Dillo in its years. Latinos made up only 14 percent of the city then. Now, 40 percent of ATX is Latino.

Jimmie Vaughan poses in the 2024 Secondary Kit at Photogroup Studios in Austin.

Jacob Gonzalez/Austin FC

“Austin has become a place where many people from all over the world live. And what’s the international game? Football,” McConaughey says. “If you take a snapshot of the south end of our stadium on any given night, the light and smoke, banging the drums, there’s a community where everyone is welcome. That’s a mirror image in a lot of what Armadillo was in the Seventies.”

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Wilson is also expected to attend. He’ll be there with his gray bushy goatee, smiling, surrounded by some of the venue’s original posters and some of the people he employed there. The armadillo-emblazoned kit is a full-circle moment for him. Ask how he feels about the recognition and his answer is simple. “Well,” he says with a smoky chuckle, “I’m glad somebody, by God, noticed.”

To celebrate the ‘Dillo kit launch, Austin FC is hosting a party Thursday at a venue recreating what the ‘Dillo looked like in its heyday, featuring food and specialty drinks common at the venue. There’s a slated performance from the last act to ever play there: Ray Benson and his Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel. They also decorated the walls with photographs of Austinite musicians Jimmie Vaughan (Stevie Ray’s brother) and Latine, queer singer Gina Chavez in the new kit.

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