Posts Tagged ‘walter’s on washington’

17th May
2010
written by Jeff

Last August, I wrote a blog post about what I termed the “doucheification” of Washinton Avenue. This lead to a story in the Chronicle as well.

Since then, life on the Jersey Shore of Houston has continued unabated. Walter’s remains open as they supposedly search for a new home base.

Today, I ran across a story in the Chron about how one of the bars is bringing live music to Washington Avenue at the Salt Bar. Let me just post the excerpts and leave my comments.

The owners of Salt Bar on Washington Ave. have started a songwriter night, hoping to provide a venue for original work and, perhaps, build a live-music scene in Houston from the ground up.

Elecia Wheeler and her partners opened Pearl Bar on Washington Ave.three years ago. When they discussed opening a new watering hole next door she had a stipulation: “If we open a new space, it’s going to focus on live music.

“I want people to know that there’s so much great talent here in Houston,” Wheeler said. “You hear all the people, they’ve moved to Austin or they’ve moved to Nashville or they’ve moved to Branson. I want people to know they could come to Houston or stay in Houston and producers will come here looking for them.”

First off, Ms. Wheeler, if you were SO concerned about having live music on Washington Avenue, why not keep Mary Jane’s alive in the Pearl Bar? That venue had a long tradition of live music dating back to when it was called the Bon Ton Room and the Arc Angels were among the regulars.

Second, if you truly wanted to build a music scene from the ground up, why not encourage the same from your neighbors – Pandora (formerly Rhythm Room), Front Porch (formerly Cosmo’s), Blu Salon (formerly Satellite Lounge) the small bar next to Walter’s (formerly Silky’s Blues Bar)? There are MANY former live music venues along the half mile stretch of road just waiting for revitalization.

Finally, who from Houston has ever thought moving to Branson was a viable alternative. Austin I get, even Nashville, but BRANSON?

But, there’s more…

Wheeler said she wants songwriters to get on stage and present original work, to share a bit of themselves.

[…]

For now, the event will continue to feature both invited, established artists, and newcomers with a song or two to share.

Croucher describes the evening as something of a hybrid between a songwriter showcase and an open-mic night, “Which is very Houston, really: a weird convergence of everything.”

Ok, so your decision to bring live music to Washington Avenue has resulted in a Tuesday night open mic night? That’s it???

There are quite a few of those all over Houston. Mucky Duck has one of the most well-established and well-attended in the area. There are great blues jams on Monday’s and Tuesday’s in numerous locations, none of which would think to consider itself a “showcase,” understanding what they are, which is a chance for musicians to hang out and jam, maybe test out some new material on an audience.

If you REALLY want to help, Ms. Wheeler, how about having live music five nights a week at Salt Bar? Do your open mic on Tuesday. Bring in bands for happy hour Wednesday and Thursday with full on music nights Friday and Saturday. Maybe once a month on Sunday, coordinate afternoon or early evening performances with other venues on the street.

Speaking of which, how about getting together with your sister venue, which could still conceivably put on shows (though I know they won’t), or with Walter’s, right across the street. Convince some of the other owners to suck it up and put on a live original band a few times a week. Imagine the impact if 9 out of 10 of the venues up and down Washington had live music even three nights every week?

If you are truly serious, don’t put on an open mic night on a Tuesday and then expect every musician in town to drool at the prospect of a gig on Washington Avenue and don’t expect this sudden infusion of one night a week to make everyone in the city think we’re on the road to Sixth Street.

Look, I commend your desire to have live, original music on a stage in the heart of what is rapidly becoming the most popular entertainment destination in Houston and I will HAPPILY eat my words the day your Tuesday night open mic turns into an every-day occurrence along your thoroughfare, but please don’t expect any of us who have any history with this city to appreciate all the hard work it took to set up a mic and some speakers and invite people to play for free at your bar on a Tuesday night.

Photo by kshilcutt

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26th August
2009
written by Jeff

Well, it was bound to happen. UPDATE

According to the Press, Walter’s is moving, NOT closing. Good news for live music fans. It doesn’t save Washington Avenue, but it’s something. Thank you for all the comments here and on Broken Record. Keep the faith.

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.

Photo via Katharine Shilcutt

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