The Doctors Office: One More Live-Music Remedy In Emerging Warehouse District
Photos by Alyssa Dupree
Walters and House of Creeps have relocated there. It's home to venues, businesses and homes. And now, the northeastern edge of Downtown near Nance Street -- an area coming to be known as the "Warehouse District" -- is home to the Doctor's Office, Houston's newest DIY house venue.
Named for its former use as a dentist's office, The Doctor's Office provides cheap thrills to anyone seeking out Houston's underground. That is, when it's not acting as home to four people in their early twenties.
"We want to provide a space for the community," says Matt, who relocated from Denton to Houston last May.
The former receptionist's area at The Doctor's Office is now a bar.
Matt, who asked we only use his first name for this article, helps run The Doctor's Office alongside his roommates Matt Willhelm, Michelle Sanchez and Lubi (another first-namer).
It might seem that way, but the venue is anything but scrappy. Upon arrival, a small admission fee (usually around $5) gains you entrance and covers drinking fees. Inside, welcoming you is the former waiting room, lit dimly by a singular orange light bulb and the light coming from the old receptionist's office -- which is now where drinks are served.
A hallway to the right leads to the main room, where bands play amid PAs and a modest light show. From there, the only other options are to head out on the front stoop, or to a sprawling back patio, lit up by floodlights and festively decorated with multiple paintings."
"The whole point of us doing this was to create a more local scene to Houston, so that bands and people have a place to go that isn't a bar," says Matt. "We don't want to be a venue where you have to pay a lot of money for beer and see a band in a closed off environment."
Luckily, The Doctor's Office is anything but. It feels like a smaller version of Mango's in its former glory days, just without the congestion.
"When we got the space, there were ideas going around for what we could do with it," said Matt Willhelm, who helps with production and sound. "A venue was one of them, but that got pushed to the front because of Creeper Fest. A venue just seemed to be already in the cards."
Houston's Caddywhompus squeezed into The Doctor's Office to play a show last month.
After co-hosting its first event at last November's Creeperfest, The Doctor's Office hosted its first show in February with a bill that featured two Canadian bands and one from Maine.
"Right off the bat we were an international venue," says Matt. "And Butcher Boy, who are from Maine, went home and raved about us. Right after that, Colby Nathan, also from Maine, contacted us on his way back from Los Angeles and played here."
That word of mouth has kept things busy over at The Doctor's Office. The venue has seen its capacity swell up to 300 people, while companies like Lone Star Beer and Adelbert's Brewery in Austin have sponsored The Doctor's Office.
"We've been more successful than we thought we would be," explains Matt Willhelm, who helps with sound and production.
And really, the proof is in the outcome. Their most recent show, on April 29, had the house packed with nearly 100 people and a lineup that featured Saya, Mannequin Mishap, Moths, and New Orleans-based duo, Caddywhompus.
But for all its structured chaos, The Doctor's Office presents something vital to any thriving music scene - the ability to be spontaneous.
"It's a good, welcoming, local environment," says Arcangel Enriquez, who was taking in his first experience at The Doctor's Office after being invited by friends.
The truth is, few venues left in town are as easily accessible as The Doctor's Office.
Robert Stockton II, who was also in attendence, agrees.
"It's just an open door for outside musicians," Stockton says. "They're providing opportunity in a good area to promote for solo acts or bands."
Perhaps that's why it was so easy for Johnny Arco, a violinist traveling across the country, to hop in and sit in with Caddywhompus for their set.
"It's really awesome when everyone who wants to get involved, can," says Matt. "I felt like there was a lack of that in Houston, so I wanted to bring more of that. Where else is there a single block where you can do all of this?"
On nights when not hosting live music, The Doctor's Office enjoys featuring plays or movie nights. The venue also offers up its walls up to artists, and work is permanently featured indoors by resident Michelle Sanchez, Angie Musculo and Jajah Grey. Outside, Sanchez, Grey, Willhelm, Merritt Mecom and James O'Connor have covered the fence in work.
"It's a sort of social experiment," Willhelm says. "We want to work with everyone on this block to do as much as we can for the community. Every touring band that comes through here leaves raving about how awesome Houston is, [and that's what we want]."
For now, The Doctor's Office is temporarily closed while the collective plans their Summer Fest afterparties, which they hope will feature bands like Featherface, Days N Daze and The Trimms. A fundraiser show for the venue itself, set to double as Willhelm's birthday celebration, will follow shortly after.
"We didn't start this venue to make money, at all," says Matt. "All the money we make primarily goes towards bands and promoters. We cover our costs and that's it. We don't want to make money, we just want to make a better music scene."
Sometimes, that's all it takes to make an impact in a city this large.