Out of the Past
Only in Houston
Houston fancies itself as forever moving forward, a "city of the future," but in a relatively short time span — the past 40, maybe 50 years — it's managed to rack up an impressive number of live-music stages that have come and gone and left quite a lasting impression. So when Rocks Off's Nathan Smith recently suggested compiling a list of Houston's top bygone music venues, the names just kept coming. And coming. They're still coming.
Soon enough, the standard ten became 20, which easily became 25. And that was before we mentioned this idea on our Rocks Off Facebook page, and our readers kept giving us name after name. So yes, there will be a Part 2.
Home to Houston's underground and indie music scene in the late '80s and early '90s, the Axiom occasionally featured touring acts, the most famous of whom was a very young Nirvana in 1989. The no a/c or heat only added to the sweaty or shivering ambience. JEFF BALKE
Where coke dealers met Rice students who met off-duty strippers. With its gnarled, twisted dead oak tree behind the bar extending to the ceiling and a jukebox that defied categorization, there hasn't been a bar like it before or since. Horseshoe, Sundowners, Southern Backtones and Little Joe Washington used to burn this joint up. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
The Bon Ton Room
What eventually morphed into Mary Jane's and ultimately Walter's was once a damn fine rock club that featured, what seemed like every month, the Arc Angels blowing the doors off the place. JEFF BALKE
Some of the greatest punk and hardcore bands of all time played this bombed-out house on the east side of downtown. It was dirty, dank and filled with kids, exactly as every punk venue should be. JEFF BALKE
There may be no greater example of how Houston kills its live-music venues than the fact that Cardi's, which saw U2, Metallica, Ratt, Bon Jovi and countless other rock bands grace its stage, is now Spotlight Karaoke. A documentary was even made about its '80s heyday. JEFF BALKE
Operated by Ames Productions and possessing no liquor license, South Post Oak club Catacombs was essentially an underage hangout that existed on ticket prices. Jeff Beck Group, Mothers of Invention, Grateful Dead and Jethro Tull played their first Houston gigs there before the venue eventually moved to Rice Village. The ZZ Top guys were regulars, particularly when Lightnin' Hopkins took the stage. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Club Hey Hey
Before Washington Avenue was sold to the douchebags and foodies, it was funky funky funky, and Pete Selin's Club Hey Hey was as jumping a spot as there was until it was razed. Wander into the Hey Hey after a Satellite show across the street, and Joe Ely or Richard Thompson might be sipping a cold one and listening to a local band. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Before its more famous Austin sibling opened, the Houston Emo's became notorious as a dirty, grungy rock dive featuring a noxious pool of black water and outdoor toilets. Besides hosting bands like Poor Dumb Bastards and Humungus among the filth, it was also apparently a primo spot to score drugs, get loaded and possibly even get laid. NATHAN SMITH
The Engine Room
Today the big hall on Pease bears little resemblance to the nicely decorated club with strategically placed beer tubs that hosted a slew of metal, hardcore and sleaze-rock bands in the late '90s and early '00s. Clutch must have played the place at least 30,000 times back in the day. NATHAN SMITH
Fabulous Satellite Lounge
The roots-rockin'-est joint in town for ten years or so. The bar snaked along the wall like a badly broken arm, making it an odd room for acts like Richard Thompson, Storyville and Dick Dale, plus a slew of locals like Jesse Dayton and the Basics. Rudy T was a regular at the Monday bingo sessions. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
This former grocery store on the southwest side was basically an empty concrete husk with a stage inside, which made it an ideal, indestructible venue when metal bands like Tool and Slipknot hit Houston on their way to superstardom. It was a bit of a hellhole, but there was a huge, free parking lot outside. NATHAN SMITH
Springsteen played this short-lived Chenevert venue on his first Texas tour, Billy Gibbons was a regular in his lime-green skintight polyester pants, Jimmy Reed was broadcast live from the stage and Lightnin' Hopkins practically owned the joint. In the mid-'70s, it was The Place to Be. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Rory Miggins's little Telephone Road joint was a beautiful place where the hipsters met the bluesers who met the hillbillies. Miggins always had a spot for Texas Johnny Brown, but he also made room for all sorts of up-and-comer alt-locals. About as old-school hippie as you could get. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Love Street Light Circus Feel Good Machine
The epicenter of Houston's psychedelic-music explosion. David Adickes's pulsing light shows enhanced the music of bands like 13th Floor Elevators, Moving Sidewalks and Johnny Winter. On July 4, 1969, ZZ Top played their first gig ever at Love Street. The "Zonk Room" featured headrests and couch cushions on the floor. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Mary Jane's/Fat Cat's
This small dive on Washington was once one of the top places in town to catch punk, alternative and hardcore acts. Why did it have two names? I'm not sure there was ever a good explanation for that, and not knowing was part of the place's strange appeal. NATHAN SMITH
This art-deco venue, the Sam Houston Coliseum's baby brother, was on the same Bagby property as the bigger hall, and watching a show here felt like sitting in the high-school auditorium for the class talent show. My personal favorite nights there were Joe Jackson bitching at the hall's security team for making a fan stop dancing and sitting about ten rows away from Cyndi Lauper on her "True Colors" tour. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
This downtown joint, where Townes Van Zandt held court and frequently did damage to himself and others, deserves a monument. Owners Rex Bell and Dale Soffar opened their stage to folkies and bluesmen who made the Houston scene one of the mid-'70s' most legit. Here Townes recorded Live at the Old Quarter, which many consider one of the top singer-songwriter recordings of all time. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Pik N Pak
Pik N Pak was a Montrose icehouse across the street from Rudyard's that played host to grizzled regulars by day and put on wild punk and alternative-rock freakouts at night. Local legends like deadhorse, the Mike Gunn and Sprawl played some of their first (and best) shows at the rickety old joint. NATHAN SMITH
Buzzworthy indie-rock, hip-hop and electronica acts pack Houston venues every week these days, but this lower Richmond room that closed in early 2008 saw local hipster-music fans through some pretty lean times. CHRIS GRAY
The Rhythm Room
This underrated hallway of a music venue on Washington Avenue had one of the best sound systems in town and was the perfect size for local bands and regional touring acts. JEFF BALKE
I'll never forget sitting rapt in my wooden chair at a too-small Rockefeller's table, fewer than 20 feet away from Ray Freaking Charles. Or the time only a dozen people braved a stormy Friday night starring the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The band's trumpet player looked down at us from the stage and said, "Where the fuck is everyone at?! Doesn't Houston like to party on Friday night?!" We just shrugged our shoulders. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Sam Houston Coliseum
Built in 1937, the Sam Houston Coliseum became the city's all-purpose arena and eventually the go-to arena for touring rock bands for decades. The stage was graced by legends including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and even Billy Gibbons's Moving Sidewalks. NATHAN SMITH
Now El Real, this was once one of the coolest live-music venues in town. I went to see McAuley-Schenker Group there (don't ask), and I got the treat of seeing this unknown opener called The Black Crowes. Needless to say, there wasn't much point in staying after the opening set. JEFF BALKE
Appropriately named given its former incarnation as a fairly sizable church, this performance venue on the west end of Washington Avenue hosted Pearl Jam at the outset of their career and Nine Inch Nails, both as headliner and opener for Peter Murphy. JEFF BALKE
Walter's on Washington
Walter's became the last bastion of rock and roll on Washington Avenue, a grimy dive standing in stark contrast to its neighbors once Washington became the epicenter of douche-bro nightclubs, pumping out mean hardcore and death-metal amid blocks and blocks of thumping dance-pop. NATHAN SMITH
Only in Houston
An audience with Ozzy himself before Black Sabbath's big reunion tour.
It's pretty much a given at this point that Ozzy Osbourne is going to die onstage. Nothing short of the Grim Reaper himself can keep the man away from that spotlight.
Through 45 years of professional triumphs, personal trauma and drug-induced mania, the original heavy-metal wailer has effortlessly cultivated a deep love affair with his audience that keeps him returning to the stage for more and more and more. It's been the most successful addiction by far in a career chock-full of 'em.
Two years after the singer last crept through Toyota Center with his solo band, Osbourne's unkickable habit returns him to town this week with the star-crossed crew that started it all: the mighty Black Sabbath. The reunited troupe is celebrating the release of 13, its first studio album with Ozzy since 1978's rather perfunctory Never Say Die!
It's no accident that the new batch of tunes sounds and feels like a band coming full circle. After the band tried and failed to deliver a new Sabbath album in 2002, producer Rick Rubin signed on this time, pushing Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler to recapture the loose, bluesy spirit of their earliest collaborations.
"I suppose on the first album, we hadn't written that many songs and it was just like a jam on a song or two, blues on a song or two," recounts Osbourne. "He didn't want a structured album in the sense of a verse, a riff, verse, riff, middle and solo. He wanted that freedom that we had on the first album.
"I specifically kept my vocal line in a comfort zone," Osbourne adds. "I considerately chose a range that was comfortable to sing onstage as well as on the record, because a part I've got up in the stratosphere through trickery in the studio, I knew I could never pull it off onstage. My voice used to go out all the time when I used to smoke, so I quit, and I haven't smoked a cigarette or dope in a long, long time."
Ozzy's voice should sound especially fresh at The Woodlands — it's the first night of the tour. After waiting 35 years to hear new music from Iommi, Butler and Osbourne, fans are snapping up tickets just as quickly as they did copies of the new album, Sabbath's first U.S. No. 1, incredibly.
"It's kind of a hard thing to swallow," the Ozzman admits. "Why now, you know? We've been around a long time in one way or another. I don't know and I don't want to know. It never ceases to amaze me and surprise me. It's just great!"
Black Sabbath and special guest Andrew WK perform Thursday, July 25, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands, woodlandscenter.org. Gates open at 6:30 p.m.
Ask Willie D
Spare the Rod?
A reader wants to spank her boyfriend's eight-year-old.
Dear Willie D:
My boyfriend has an eight-year-old daughter from a previous relationship he lets get away with everything. She has absolutely no respect for her elders or authority. Three weeks ago, she slapped me as I was watching television. Instead of her dad doing something about it to discipline her, he started laughing. His response caused her grin to morph into all-out laughter. When I tried to spank her, he stopped me and said she was just playing and that I was overreacting.
The problem with his statement is, he never spanks her, which in my opinion is what she needs sometimes because she is out of control. He says his parents didn't spank him and he turned out okay. But I believe in the concept of "spare the rod and spoil the child." Is it ever okay to spank a child? If so, when?
Slapped by an Eight-Year-Old:
"Spare the rod, spoil the child" is a biblical phrase that I feel is often misinterpreted. Most people think it means you should whip your child; I view the rod as a metaphor for discipline. When it comes to disciplining children, parents and guardians should use whatever method is most effective. But I can tell you right now, if spanking is your primary tool of discipline, you will fail big-time. Corporal punishment should be used rarely, if at all.
Growing up, I didn't get spanked; I got beaten. But beatings didn't work for me because I received so many that I became immune to them. That made me coldhearted and bitter. If you live by the spare-the rod, spoil-the child philosophy because it's in the Bible, you'll love this: The international version of Colossians 3:21 states, "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged."
The reason why collectively kids today are out of control is not because they don't get spankings. It's because they aren't being disciplined, period. What good is it if a kid is grounded but punishment is not enforced?
Your boyfriend's daughter slapped you because her ignorant, goofball daddy taught her that there are no consequences for her actions. Removing things that kids like, compassion and good communication seem to be the most effective forms of discipline I've experienced. They worked with me, and they work with my kids.
My kids don't get whippings, but in the case of any child of mine slapping me — be he biological, adoptive, step, foster or other — the ass-whipping the child would receive hasn't even been invented yet.
Ask Willie D appears Thursday mornings on Rocks Off.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.