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Doomed or Domed?

Harvey's Club Deluxe has risen from the ashes of its predecessors. Those ashes just may be some prime real estate.

The clubs open, the clubs close... You wouldn't know it from the ads they've been running this past week, but Harvey's Club Deluxe, opening January 21 with the Joint Chiefs CD release party, was doing business not so long ago under the name Catal Huyuk. According to the ads, though, new management is betting that potential patrons will have fonder memories of the building's pre-Catal incarnation, the Axiom. "Formerly the Axiom," reads the tag line. What gives?

"We're trying to put that whole ugly episode behind us," reports investor Richard Lyders, explaining why the club's recent history is being excised from the legend.

Okay. Well and fine. And according to Lyders, changes are being made and planned that should set Harvey's well apart -- for better or worse -- from its immediate predecessor. But the irony is that the new Harvey's, as conceived by the Epstein's management that will be running the new club, may have even less in common with the tenacious underground Axiom than with the run-into-the-ground Catal Huyuk. There's talk of floodlights outside the venue that will "turn night to day" for the safety of a wide range of new patrons. There's talk of repainting the Catal sign to read "Axiom" and hanging it on an inside wall as a Hard Rock-style memento. And one secondhand source has another investor proclaiming, "This is not an angry club anymore."

Which, if you've been watching the landscape, doesn't leave many angry clubs. I don't know about you, but Catal/Axiom, with the shittiest location in the city, relied pretty heavily on that "anger" for my patronage and, I suspect, that of quite a few others who had precious few options for the kind of booking and atmosphere that Catal provided.

But perhaps the image upgrade makes sense after all, because even as the anger becomes a thing of the past, so may the shitty location. You see, if development forces have their way, you could well be seeing a new domed stadium being built in the vicinity of the neighboring George R. Brown Convention Center. It's a thought that puts a grin on the face of Lyders, who holds a ten-year lease on the property. "Yeah, if we can keep it afloat for another five years, we might be in really good shape."

Yes, and if they can keep it afloat for another five years, you just may catch them building a mall around it. I'm offering free promo CDs to the reader who comes closest to guessing the date of Trish and Darin's first Harvey's gig.

Meanwhile, the Abyss (that'd be the former Vatican) seems to be taking on water fast. A recent full-page ad in Public News boasted a two-week lineup of mostly unheralded local high school bands that an interested observer could take two ways: either booker Chris Harkness is scraping the bottom of the pickle barrel (this is the slow season) for acts to fill his schedule, or dozens of new highly talented and huge-drawing bands have sprung up in our midst overnight. No insult is intended toward any of the bands on the schedule, but the Abyss can hold 750 people, and the biggest show on the schedule is Ten Hands, which -- again, no insult to band or venue -- can squeeze its draw into the Pig Live. Harkness admits that he's trying to launch the club at the dumbest possible time, since the touring schedule doesn't really pick up again until March, but he remains confident that the Abyss will reachieve its building's former booking glory when the season turns. "We're gonna book the same sort of acts that we had at the Vatican," Harkness tells me. "It's going to be the same type of venue." While he's trying to get there, though, it might be a good time to take a stroll down to Washington Avenue and check out a whole slew of local bands you didn't even know existed. There just might be a keeper or two in the bunch. And if you don't find one, you're still within walking distance of the Shimmy Shack (that'd be the recent Bon Ton Room)...

Folk popster David Rice may not be keeping a very high profile in his Houston home turf these days, but that don't mean he's not being seen. The folks running Auron: Musical Tomorrows, a San Francisco-based musical magazine that combines a sampler CD and independently written promo-style text, apparently noticed the hell out of him. His "Steep Stairs" (culled from last year's Justice release, Orange Number Eight) is the lead cut of Auron's second issue, wherein Rice shares digital space with the Mekons, Dave Alvin, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and twelve other acts of diverse stripes. The audio magazine describes Rice as a "young uberpoet" who "came out of nowhere, also known in musical circles as Houston, Texas..."

Rice, who's busy polishing off a new recording and putting together a live band, remains nonplused. "Yeah, they called a couple of months ago and asked me some questions. I'd completely forgotten about it until a few weeks ago when they sent out a couple of copies."

You might want to pick up a copy in your local record store and send it to doubting friends in faraway places. For return address, write "nowhere.

 
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