Out to the Abyss... Yes, kiddies, the worst is true: The Abyss, an unholy Washington Avenue institution for almost five years, has been up and abandoned. A haven for Houston's death-metal minions since its days as the Vatican, and one of the few clubs that gladly catered to an all-ages crowd, the beat-up shell of a venue with the sauna-like climate was officially retired August 31.
"It wasn't making that much money," says part-owner Rex Shalchi, who also owns a computer store and other small businesses around the city. "All the kids have been calling saying that if it was financial, then maybe we can have a benefit or something. But it's not that easy, really."
True to its underground image, the Abyss's closure came about w ith so little warning that scenesters and other club owners around town were taken aback. Apparently, at least one touring band was also thrown by the news: Rumor has it, England's Subhumans were scheduled to perform at the Abyss September 1, the day after it closed. When they arrived to find the doors locked, they headed over to Fitzgerald's, where they saw a construction worker doing renovations. He gave them the bad news about the Abyss.
"It wasn't any easy decision," says Shalchi, who adds that the Subhumans' booking agent was informed in advance of the closure. "I hated to close it down, but we just had to."
Through most of its existence, just keeping the Abyss up and operating was a struggle. The building itself was a maintenance nightmare, the structural equivalent of a corpse in the late stages of decomposition.
"It has a bunch of holes in it. There was the occupancy problem [capacity is only 290], there was the heat, the landlord wouldn't do anything for us [to make improvements]," Shalchi says. "We didn't have any parking. That was a real problem when we had big bands."
And the Abyss had a quite a few major acts booked through September, including Insane Clown Posse and Jesus and Mary Chain. In fact, the club was still advertising both shows in last week's Press. To date, neither had been rescheduled at other venues. In addition, the Abyss was receptive to local talent. But now, regulars such as I-45, Given, Lower and Faceplant will have to find somewhere else to entertain their young crowds.
Ownership's final ruling on the Abyss's fate may have come as late as the Friday before it closed. That evening, the Abyss hosted a multiple Houston bill: eight local bands and about 700 fans. Distinguished members of the city's police and fire departments were among the unwelcomed attendees. While Shalchi and his staff were accustomed to frequent visits from HPD (to follow up on noise complaints, for the most part), that particular incident was the clincher. "They gave us a bunch of tickets," Shalchi says. "The fire marshal said we needed to put in an air conditioner. It just got to be too much."
Still, Shalchi would hate people to think that shutting down the Abyss was a flip decision. "I've been depressed for I don't know how many days; it's really horrible," he says. "It was a business that we really started with our own hands. But now it's open for anybody who wants to rent it."
Etc.... It seems a nasty techno-virus is infecting the Richmond Strip ... with the Daiquiri Factory acting as host cell, no less. Billing this surprising Wednesday-night series as "live" electronica verges on the oxymoronic, but let's give the promoters the benefit of the doubt. After all, someone's gotta stand up there behind the rig and look cool. Coming Wednesday: Magic Fire Sheep and Population: O. Go on, become one with technology.
-- Hobart Rowland
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