This week Rocks Off is counting down the top stories in the Houston music scene this year. The slow, sad demise of Meridian, which may have reached its end Tuesday, is No. 4.
It hit the Houston music scene like a bomb on July 27, when we got the news that Free Press Houston editor/publisher Omar Afra and Pegstar.net owner Jagi Katial, announced that they were taking over the lease and day-to-day operations of historic Heights nightclub Fitzgerald's.
Immediately the bands who had been calling the historic venue home the past few dreary years went into panic mode, wondering where they would play, with the new regime in charge, one that was decidedly less down with pay-to-play "battle of the bands" showcases and suburban alt-rock bands.
They wound up being scattered to other venues around town, like Warehouse Live, Numbers and Scout Bar. Everyone lived, too.
Fitzgerald's was shuttered for a few weeks, getting a whole paint job, a good cleaning and a new attitude, before reopening in late September with a bevy of free shows and becoming the nerve center for all things Houston indie. Robert Ellis' weekly Whiskey Wednesday slot came along too, taking residence in the downstairs area without skipping a beat from their Mango's stand.
"I want this place to be the nexus of local music. It's going to be the anti-Mangos," Omar Afra told Rocks Off as he pointed out the changes made to the second floor of Fitzgerald's on that first Thursday night of the grand re-opening festivities.
"I remember coming here in seventh and eighth grade, with cigarettes, and asking the bartender if it was cool to smoke," Afra reminisced. "He said, "What the hell do you think? It's a nightclub."
We were sitting under the main stage area's new chandelier. It was one of the first things we noticed, and gives the upstairs room a ballroom vibe.
For Afra, the Pegstar team and most of the older folks (read: over 25) milling around that night catching up with friends, Fitzgerald's was our first introduction to punk and indie culture. It now rests in more than capable hands that understand the venue's sentimental and regional value.