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[Jeff] Excellent blog on Washington Ave

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by Batman Jones, Aug 27, 2009.

  1. Batman Jones

    Batman Jones Contributing Member

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    The bbs's own Jeff Balke has written an excellent blog on the doucheification of Washington Ave. I lament the loss of all the great live music venues too, but I'm also saddened by what's happened to The Pearl Bar since it opened. When Brad Moore was still running it, it was the best bar in Houston. When he left it turned into douche central.

    Anyway, here's the blog. Excellent work, Jeff.

    http://blog.jeffbalke.com/2009/08/the-doucheification-of-washington-avenue-soon-complete/

    The Doucheification of Washington Avenue Soon Complete

    by Jeff

    Well, it was bound to happen. Craig Hlavaty from the Houston Press reported on Twitter that Walter’s on Washington will close down after Halloween and has promised more details tomorrow.

    This should really come as no shock to anyone who has been watching the slow, painful demise of the Washington Avenue corridor. What was once a promising hot bed of live music venues has turned into a long stretch of douchtastic venues for Hummer-driving popped collar assholes.

    Everyone needs a place to drink and act like a moron. It’s just a shame that this stretch of road has to suffer the fate once relegated to Richmond Avenue between 610 and Chimney Rock.

    For those who are unaware, Washington Avenue has, over the years, been home to some of the city’s most important music venues. Here’s a partial list. Feel free to comment with others.

    Rockefeller’s

    One of the all-time great music venues in our city’s history, Rockefeller’s hosted a wealth of artists from Garth Brooks (early days) and Suzanne Vega to BB King, Tower of Power and Chick Corea. Built out of an old bank building, the unique two-story interior was often packed for multiple shows. When acts started looking for larger venues where they only needed to do one show (crowd size issues were sometimes a problem for the venue that would be an IDEAL size today), Rockefeller’s died.

    What is there now? A wedding and corporate events venue

    The Fabulous Satellite Lounge

    One of my favorite all-time places to see bands in Houston, “the Satellite” as everyone referred to it was a big, open, loud room with a great sound system and plenty of killer bands to pack the place. In some ways, Satellite was the precursor to the Houston version of the Continental Club and hosted a lot of the same acts. I played MANY shows there in the mid-90’s and always had a good time.

    What is there now? A salon

    Club Hey Hey

    Directly across the street from Rockefeller’s, Club Hey Hey was one of Houston’s preeminent blues bars for a number of years. On one particular night, BB King playing Rockefeller’s and Albert Collins (a native Houstonian) playing Hey Hey met in the middle of Washington for a jam session with the doors to both clubs wide open. Now, all we can expect is two drunk jerkoffs standing in the middle of the street having a text-off. Brilliant.

    What is there now? Apartment complex

    Rhythm Room

    One of the more recent venues to die off (just a few years back), the Rhythm Room was one of those places that seemed like a perfect music venue. It was essentially a long hallway with a stage at the far end, pool tables and bar in the back. It had a great sound system, was built for easy load-in/out and had a backstage set up. It never seemed to gain ground on venues like the Engine Room (now dead as well) and the taxes on the property were probably too high, so they folded.

    What is there now? An empty building still for lease.

    Tones

    A tiny blues club next to Walter’s, Tones worked under several names when Walter’s was still an ice house, but it was a great week night hang where you could hear some killer blues music.

    What is there now? A small non-live music bar.

    Cosmo’s

    Cool little converted diner. I remember doing a bunch of gigs there and seeing some really cool musicians play there. The bar staff was always friendly and there was always good live music on the weekends and a jam night on Wednesday’s. Thanks for the help with remembering the name!

    What is there now? The Porch Swing

    The Vatican

    In the mid-90’s, the Vatican was THE place to go see live alt bands. Such notables as Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails came through the venue that was once a pretty majestic church. It was a HUGE venue and a competitor for Numbers that just didn’t survive, most likely because the bills on a venue that size must have been brutal. It was at the far west end of Washington and I remember it fondly because their phone number was only 1 off from mine in those days and I regularly got wrong numbers meant for them. When someone wanted to know who was playing and didn’t listen when I told them it was a wrong number, I usually made up band names like the Cheesy Weasels and the Stinky Monkeys. You’re welcome.

    What is there now? Office space

    The Bon Ton Room/Fat Cats/Mary Jane’s

    Last year, I was dating someone who said that her friends wanted to meet her at a new bar called the Pearl Bar, so we went. What I found made me ill (both of us, actually). What was once the Bon Ton Room, home to the earliest incarnations of the Arc Angels among others, and, ultimately, Mary Jane’s, was now a packed, hot bar filled with yuppies – and that was before the velvet rope went up. Since it’s opening, I’ve often hoped the hipsters at Walter’s across the street and the yuppies at Pearl Bar would meet in the middle of the street like some sort of modern day West Side Story and fight it out.

    What is there now? Pearl Bar

    Walter’s on Washington

    Finally to Walter’s, a place I played both in its current form and when it was an ice house. Over the past few years it’s been a source of controversy with over zealous cops and annoying NIMBY neighbors and let’s be honest, it was never exactly an ideal music venue given its size and dimensions. But, it was pretty much the only live music venue in town that still had that ratty, run down, indie music vibe outside of Rudyard’s and maybe Numbers on a non-goth night. It was also the only venue that bid on cool indie shows here in Houston and losing it most definitely hurts.

    What is there now? Who knows

    Anyone old enough knows this process is sadly common in Houston. Even before my time, Market Square, a once thriving live music spot, turned into a bunch of bars for people who worked downtown. Party on the Plaza became country and cover band-centric. Richmond Avenue started out with live original music, but eventually de-evolved into Sam’s Boat and whatever remnants of the slimy coke-fest are still there.

    Some of us even had high hopes for Main Street, but clearly we were mistaken.

    Houston is simply not original music friendly. As a city, we don’t support live original music or demand that venues remain open. Washington Avenue, a quirky, ethnic street filled with tiny taco joints, funky warehouse lofts and pawn shops is slowly gentrifying into a plastic, vacant hell hole.

    What’s worse is that, like all the other places before it, it will eventually be abandoned too. It’s not like Reign or Pearl Bar are going to be here in 20 years. When people find a cooler place to hang or when there are one too many drunken shootings along the gaudy, townhome-laden side streets, everyone will move on to some other area and infest it with the same crap that is now invading Washington Avenue.

    RIP, Walter’s. You made it longer than the rest. Kudos.
     
  2. DFWRocket

    DFWRocket Member

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    Sad days indeed...almost glad I'm no longer in H-town to see this mess.
     
  3. Roxfan73

    Roxfan73 Rookie

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    Good read. The stuff about the Richmond strip is spot on. I remember how all of the booking on the strip used to be controlled by this sleazy dude. I can't remember his name, but he would always book cover bands.

    So where are the good music venues nowadays?
     
  4. the futants

    the futants Contributing Member

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    Sounds a lot like Austin. Welcome to the New Way.


    (Obviously, Austin still has live music venues on every corner. However, long-gone are the core haunts like Liberty Lunch, Cavity Club, The Cave Club, The Black Cat, etc. Austin is Douche-Bar central.
     
  5. rhadamanthus

    rhadamanthus Contributing Member

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    Great piece.
     
  6. Ziggy

    Ziggy QUEEN ANON

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    One day Jeff is gonna be an old man sitting on a porch somewhere and I am gonna send my kids over so he can tell them about the good ole days. I definitely agree that all the new Washington hangouts are 'douchtastic", I don't mind a few of those places. But its like there is no room for a decent laidback place to just relax anymore.
     
  7. Jugdish

    Jugdish Member

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    I can't believe Walter's lasted this long. I've seen so many great shows there...most notably Arcade Fire opening for the Fiery Furnaces and Unicorns.

    I know the article was about music venues, but it's worth mentioning what happened to The Pig Stand, which is now a two-story sports bar with freaking valet parking.
     
  8. leroy

    leroy Contributing Member

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    Great article, Jeff. I have many many fond memories of Rockefellers, Satellite Lounge, and The Vatican. A good friend of mine ran the box office for Rockefeller's in the mid 90's. I got into all kinds of shows for free and helped me get into Satellite for free. For my 20th birthday, we saw Ben Harper at Satellite when he was touring on his 2nd album. There wasn't but 30 people there which made it an awesome, very personal show. He also hooked me up with tickets so I could take a date to Rockefeller's to see Average White Band. Even better was the guy who made this fantastic bbq outside the 2 clubs. It was a great way to end the night...


    That was once a great area for music. It's truly a shame that Houston doesn't do more for live music. What is there really outside of Fitzgerald's that has stood the test of time in Houston?
     
  9. Air Langhi

    Air Langhi Contributing Member

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    isn't this what every generation says about the newer generation.
     
  10. Roxfan73

    Roxfan73 Rookie

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    Yep, I can't help but think of the Big Band era veterans witnessing their scene's sunset in the 60's & 70's. I always wonder when it finally hit them that the Big Band sound was giving way to smaller, electric groups - with all of their swanky dinner clubs and music halls suffering the same fate as our modern live music venues.
     
  11. Fatty FatBastard

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    While many still mourn the passing of the Pig Stand on Washington, home of Houston's first drive-through, the land was too valuable for it to lie idle for long. Along comes Sawyer Park Sports Bar (2412 Washington, 713-863-9350), a two-story place owned by brothers Jeff and Daren Van Delden together with their cousin, Adam Karam; they also own the Red Door in Houston and Union Park on 6th at Rio in Austin.

    "Yes, it's a sports bar; it's casual, but we wanted to step it up a notch and make it a nicer venue, nicer lounge and better food," says Daren Van Delden. "We have an incredible rooftop bar that has a great view of downtown, as well as a first-floor patio. Then there's our private game room, which you can rent...It will seat up to 30 people. It has its own bar and hi-def TV." Daren is responsible for putting together the menu. "It's typical bar food, which we've taken up a notch...For example, our quesadilla is made with brisket. We also have healthier food like our turkey wrap or our hummus plate."

    When Dish visited one Sunday afternoon just after the place opened, it was hopping with sports fans, who were glued to every TV available. The "surf and turf" burger was a fascinating and outstanding find — a patty topped with slaw, shrimp and crab. And the Baja fish tacos were as good as any you'll find in the city. We washed them down with a Stella Artois, which was on tap.



    http://www.houstonpress.com/2009-08-27/restaurants/sawyer-park-sports-bar/
     
  12. gucci888

    gucci888 Contributing Member

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    I was talking to a bartender at a bar on Washington and she told me that 40 liquor licenses have been sold the last couple months. Apparently they want to make Washington like 6th Street where you can walk up and down the on the street with a bunch of bars and stuff. Take it for what its worth.
     
  13. Smokey

    Smokey Contributing Member

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    Pearl Bar LMAO.
     
  14. Ziggy

    Ziggy QUEEN ANON

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    Holy crap! I didn't even know Pig Stand was gone. The craziest part? I have been to Sawyer Park within the month. LOL. I always loved how it was close to the courthouse. The Food Channel even did a bit on the Pig Stand awhile back.
     
  15. mrdave543

    mrdave543 Contributing Member

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    money talks
     
  16. ima_drummer2k

    ima_drummer2k Contributing Member

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    Yeah, great piece from Jeff. Sadly, Houston is a pretty crappy town to live in as a musician.

    I remember a few years ago, I found out my band was playing at Rockefellers. I was so excited to be playing at such a historic venue. I remember seeing Tower of Power and Chick Corea there in it's heyday. Only when I got there did I learn that is had been permanently converted to a wedding venue. If you’ve been there since that happened, there is pretty much NOTHING to indicate that it was EVER anything but a wedding venue – which is pretty sad. Sort of took away from the whole mystique of playing there...…

    The Fabulous Satellite Lounge was also a great venue. Spent a lot of time playing/seeing other bands play there. Any time a band came through town, there was always a line outside the door. I couldn’t believe when it turned into a salon.

    I never really liked Mary Jane’s. The times I’ve played there the A/C never worked and the whole place smelled like a gigantic cigarette butt. But they certainly did support local music, often having 3 or 4 local bands a night.

    And I also remember that cokehead who used to book all the Richmond cover bands back in the 90’s. Can’t remember his name though. Anyone? I wonder whatever happened to that guy. Always hated him…
     
  17. B-ball freak

    B-ball freak Contributing Member

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    Dennis Lange - one of the biggest assassins of original music in this town. He said to me more than once, "who wants to listen and dance to music they never heard before?".
     
  18. Hippieloser

    Hippieloser Contributing Member

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    According to Pam, the lady that runs Walter's, the venue is not closing at all but MOVING!

    http://blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/2009/08/walters_on_washington_owner_pa.php

    From the article, it sounds like the new place will be downtown, where the dirt goes down. It'd be great if it's anywhere near Alabama and Main. All in all, Washington is douche central but rumors of the Houston music scene's death have been (as always) greatly exaggerated.
     
  19. JuanValdez

    JuanValdez Contributing Member

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    That's what I was thinking. This blog entry is confirmation that Jeff (and everyone who relates) is now old.
     
  20. SWTsig

    SWTsig Contributing Member

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    while i disagree wholeheartedly that the music scene in houston in despair (in fact i'd say it's as strong as it's been in ages), the closing of walter's pisses me off to no end... that is hands down my favorite music venue in town. sure the sound kinda sucks, and it's shaped weird, and it would get hot as hell, but it was AWESOME. knowing that they're moving (allegedly) takes the sting off of it slightly, but not much. just envisioning another trendy-ass, lame as **** douche-factory taking it's place makes me want to punch a stripey-shirted spikey-haired *****tard in the face.

    :mad:
     

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