Ghosts of Washington Avenue

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Alumni: Cat Power, Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie, Unicorns, Fiery Furnaces, Melt Banana, Dillinger 4, Hey Mercedes, ? & the Mysterians, Death from Above 1979, The Ex, the Fall, Clinic, Liars, British Sea Power, Feist, Oxes, the Delgados, Crooked Fingers, Les Savy Fav, Pretty Girls Make Graves, the Kills, Lightning Bolt, VHS or Beta, Blood Brothers, Bevis Frond, Xiu Xiu, Acid Mothers Temple, Anal Cunt

Local All-Stars: Rusted Shut, Junior Varsity, Horseshoe, Japanic, Dune TX, Fatal Flying Guilloteens, Tody Castillo, ZZ Top (who once played an invite-only pre-tour warmup there)

Rhythm Room
Address: 1815 Washington
Years Open: 2002-2005
Today: Pandora Lounge

Description: A Mexican dance hall long ago, the Rhythm Room was by all accounts an excellent room to see live music, and for a few years in the early 2000s offered an eclectic alternative to Mary Jane's a few miles up Washington. It also had a foolproof after-hours security system, as some employees reportedly used to sleep on the pool table.

Alumni: Stellastarr, the Killers, Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, Octopus Project, Twilight Singers, Sondre Lerche, Tegan & Sara, Rebirth Brass Band

Local All-Stars: Filthy McNasty, Moses Guest

Address: 3620 Washington
Years Open: 1979-1998
Today: Wedding/party/event space; hosts occasional musical performances

Description: Still referred to as "the granddaddy of Houston nightclubs," Rockefeller's was known for its generous acoustics — thanks to its location inside the Heights Bank building — and dominated Washington Avenue live music throughout its 20-year run (it closed briefly around 1993 or '94 but reopened soon after). It hosted just about everyone who was anyone from the worlds of jazz, blues, country and rock, and is said to be the inspiration for Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble's "The House Is Rockin'." Rockefeller's demise came when many artists began booking one show at larger venues such as the Aerial Theater (now Verizon) rather than multi-night stands.

Alumni: Bonnie Raitt, Joe Ely, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Roy Orbison, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Jane's Addiction, Warren Zevon, Randy Newman, Dwight Yoakam, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Mogwai, Jerry Jeff Walker, Medeski Martin & Wood, Dixie Chicks, Los Lobos, Chick Corea, Leo Kottke, Ottmar Liebert, Graham Nash & David Crosby (Crosby's first performance after being released from prison in 1986), Tom Waits, Buddy Rich, Ella Fitzgerald, Little Feat, John Prine, Roger McGuinn, Three Dog Night, Buck Owens, Jaco Pastorius, Richard Thompson, Kinky Friedman, the Church, Lionel Hampton

Local All-Stars: Bill Hicks, Townes Van Zandt, Chris Whitley, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, King's X

Shimmy Shack
Address: 4216 Washington
Years Open: 1993-1994
Today: Pearl Bar

Description: The short-lived Shimmy Shack bridged the Bon Ton Room and Mary Jane's eras, hosting mostly heavier alternative rock.

Alumni: Flaming Lips, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Jawbreaker, Jawbox, Poster Children, Greg Ginn (ex-Black Flag), Alice Donut

The Vatican
Address: 5213 Washington
Years Open: 1991-1993
Today: Professional offices

Description: Although it was only around a couple of years, the Vatican — fashioned out of an old church and owned by future Butthole Surfers manager Tom Bunch — played host to several artists on their way up who would soon become the '90s' biggest superstars. In 1993, it became the Abyss, which pretty much booked more of the same.

Alumni: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Beastie Boys, Pantera, Smashing Pumpkins, Pixies, Tool, Marilyn Manson, Jesus Lizard, My Bloody Valentine, Butthole Surfers, Mudhoney, Social Distortion, the Cramps, Peter Murphy, Dinosaur Jr., Fear, Neurosis, They Might Be Giants, Dead Milkmen, L7, Cheater Slicks, Pere Ubu, Ride, Lemonheads

Local All-Stars: deadhorse, End Result

Walter's on Washington
Address: 4215 Washington
Years Open: 2000-2009
Today: Still Walter's until November; rumored to be the future site of a Little Woodrow's

Description: The cornerstone of owner Pam Robinson's "Pamland" mini-empire that also included Mary Jane's and the blues bar Silky's (now the Dubliner), Walter's opened as a roots-rock venue in 2000. It inherited Houston's indie mantle when Mary Jane's closed in 2006, and not long after made national news when an HPD officer roughed up a member of Two Gallants and a few onlookers after someone phoned in a noise complaint, an incident that led to interminable hand-wringing and navel-gazing about whether or not Houston was an indie-friendly town. It is, if not quite as much as other places — Walter's impending relocation to a larger venue is proof enough of that.

Alumni: The Hold Steady, Silver Jews, MGMT, Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes, the National, Band of Horses, Be Your Own Pet, Dr. Dog, Devendra Banhart, Blue Cheer, Black Angels, Melt Banana, Los Campesinos!, Two Gallants, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Six Organs of Admittance, Lucero, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Gris Gris, Castanets, Mono, Islands, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, Say Anything, Man Man, Smoking Popes, John Vanderslice, Portastatic, the Warlocks, Nebula, Okkervil River, What Made Milwaukee Famous, Flaco Jimenez, Los Lonely Boys, Tony Joe White, Micky & the Motorcars

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray