By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Killmer, who opened the Basement in September 1987, a year after he graduated Texas Tech with an architectural degree, says the club is closing down for a host of reasons, the prime one being that clubs like the Basement--ones geared primarily toward hard-rock and metal--have outlived their usefulness; instead, he insists, they are being supplanted by so-called alternative clubs, the lines between metal and alternative having been blurred into nonexistence over the past couple of years.
"It's probably time to go to the Basement of the '90s because the Basement as it is now has outlived its target market," Killmer says, explaining his new club will be geared toward a Deep Ellum-ish audience and will not have the same name. "When we first opened in 1987 as a rock club we targeted the bare-chested blond-haired pretty boys and heavy metal, and the perception remains what we used to be as opposed to what we are.
"The Basement probably is more of a rock club that you'd perceive, but because the building always has been an old deteriorating building and because of our association with the Pantera name and Z-Rock, people think it's more a metal club and not a rock club."
Oddly enough, when the club opened it initially featured new-wave bands such as the regionally legendary Judys and the Romantics, and even booked Wednesday night shows by such local artists as the New Bohemians, Reverend Horton Heat, and Johnny Reno. But when Club A opened in late 1989, it siphoned off a good hunk of the Basement's alterna-business, and the Metal Mondays expanded to the other six nights of the week.
Since then, the club has hosted everyone from April Wine and Blue Oyster Cult to Jesus Lizard and Barkmarket, its roster reading like a list of "Beavis and Butt-head" pin-ups: the Black Crowes, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Lita Ford, Candlebox, Ugly Kid Joe, Kix, Bullet Boys, KMFDM, Cannibal Corpse, Quiet Riot, Raging Slab, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke. It also served as haven for the local metal scene, having birthed the likes of Solinger, Lord Tracy, Rigor Mortis, Step Child, and the king daddy of them all, Pantera. In 1993, Details magazine even named it one of the best rock clubs in America, celebrating its caged dancers and wet boxer short contests and "all the hard stuff you can take."
But recently, Killmer says, business has begun to show a noticeable drop-off; he explains that his revenue--at the door and at the bar--is down nearly 25 percent from this time last year.
"Clubs like the Basement and On the Rocks [a Deep Ellum nightclub that shut down just a few weeks ago] are becoming archaic," Killmer says. "The elements you find in rock clubs are changing, and you have to change with it. Five, six years ago, Dallas was among the top rock markets in the country. Dallas happens to have a good rock mentality, but the rock clubs are using something that has passed, and I think it's time for a new formula. This is not a flourishing time for rock clubs. If I was doing better, maybe I could have found a way to keep the Basement open."
But, as it is, Killmer has had trouble keeping up with rent payments on the building and the adjacent parking lot, which is operated by the Kroenke Group out of Columbia, Missouri--which, incidentally, is owned by the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame. Mike Decker, the Kroenke Group's local representative, says Killmer has been paying "60 to 70 percent of his rent" in the past two years, but that the real estate company has not "pressed him" for the money.
Killmer insists another reason he is shutting down the Basement is because the Kroenke Group has not made certain repairs to the building and the parking, which he believes they are responsible for. Killmer says he figures it will take $10,000 to make the necessary repairs, and when he contacted the Kroenke Group about helping to defray some of the costs, they balked; rather, Killmer says, they raised the rent. Decker says Killmer is solely responsible for the repairs, however, and that his company is "not kicking him out," but that Killmer is "leaving of his own free will."
The farewell celebration for the Basement commences on January 12 with a party celebrating the release of the Tales from the Crypt film, which features Pantera on the sound track; likely, the members of the band (sans Phil Anselmo) will attend the post-screening fete. The following night, Step Child and another local band will perform, and on January 14, Ice Cold July and Magicbox will grace the club's stage one last time. Rock, you know, on.
W.T. Greer, the pianist-singer who's been a fixture at the Melrose Hotel's Library Bar for seven years, has quit his gig as this town's best lounge singer to record his first album. Tony Sheppard, who has been filling in since his departure, will leave the bar on January 14 and head to Miami's La Playa Hotel, and the Melrose currently is seeking a full-time replacement for Greer and is holding auditions...
Liberty Valance will perform at Bar of Soap in Exposition Park every Thursday in January from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., promising nothing but "dancing, drinking, and singing.