Teahouse of the former Moon

Defunct space gets a new lease on life

Mike Snider, still stinging a bit from his ouster as the principal booking agent at the popular Sons of Hermann Hall, has landed on his feet, hooking up with Deep Ellum power Wood Management (Trees, the Green Room, and the Dark Room). Together the two are taking over the old Moon Under Water nightclub space, calling it the Gypsy Tea Room after an old Deep Ellum hotspot. They'll be kicking things off with a "hard-hat construction party" featuring the Derailers and the Lucky Pierres this Saturday, February 28. Then, on March 26, the space will throw its grand opening wingding, with Steve Earle and the Dukes performing.

Wood Management is what remained of Robinson-Wood--familiar to most local music fans through their Rainmaker Records, which releases records by popular local acts like Grand Street Cryers and Jackopierce as well as national acts--after the departure of Scott Robinson, who joined Arista Austin last fall (Rainmaker remains active and the province of the Wood brothers). Now brothers Brady and Brandt Wood are running the show themselves, and the loss of Robinson doesn't seem to have slowed them much. "I don't know if we'd even be considering something like this if it wasn't for Mike," Brandt says, standing amid the disorder of his newly acquired space, which is currently in the process of being refitted to his specifications.

Snider's connections with the most respected Americana and roots-rock acts--not to mention his solid standing in Texas music circles--are to form the bedrock of the club's booking policy. "We see this space as distinctly different," Brandt explains. "It's a great opportunity for us to vertically integrate our operation a bit more: Trees is the rock club, the Dark Room our showcase, and this is going to be our adult space." In addition to booking the Gypsy Tea Facilities, Snider will also book the Dark Room and help out with promotion and marketing at Trees.

Moon Under Water was one of the shortest-lived attempts at a club in recent memory. Originally built around a microbrewery, the original owners spared no expense in installing the infrastructure of the club, which is probably part of the reason they folded so quickly. All of their expense has benefited the Tea Room. The space for the "talent"--the backstage area for the bands that play--is large and equipped with a bathroom and shower. There's a full-service kitchen and tiled bathrooms for customers. "The air [conditioning] is powerful, the plumbing is good...the stage has the subs [subwoofers] built into it," Brandt says. "This space is well built."

After the giant stainless-steel brewery tanks were sold off--along with the original space's weird seashell-styled chairs, many of which now support butts at Deep Sushi--the group finally had the room clear and could start framing it in the shape of their own plans. The space spans the block between Elm and Main, with an advertised address of 2548 Elm. That's the front door of the Gypsy Tea Room proper, a dark, cozy space--at 25 feet wide and half a block deep, a typical Elm Street space of around 2,500 square feet (for comparative purposes, the Dark Room is approximately 1,700 square feet). This will be where a close, intimate atmosphere holds sway, and the small stage at the back of the space is perfect for small singer-songwriter type acts. If you were to walk the length of the Tea Room, at the very back by the restrooms you would gain passage into the larger Gypsy Ballroom, a 10,000 square foot area designed to host bigger road shows like grand opening act Steve Earle. There you'll find couches, restaurant seating, easy chairs, and coffee tables, all arranged around a hardwood dance floor in front of a large semicircular stage. If you were to keep walking, you would eventually come to another set of doors that face Main Street.

Snider and Wood plan to open the place four or five nights a week, offering both live and recorded music. The enormous kitchen facilities are planned to support not only a full-service in-house kitchen, but also complete banquet and catering facilities, with what Snider calls "an eye toward private parties and corporate events. (In fact, as Snider points out with no small amount of pride, the space is already booked for an upcoming bar mitzvah).

"We're not looking to use a lot of wallet power," Brandt Wood says. "I think that the first owners here proved that doesn't necessarily work. What works is good booking and creativity."

"We're looking to be flexible, and stress community and neighborhood," Snider adds. Wood Management is looking to him to provide its enterprise with the identity that a club acquires through its music. To that end Snider, who still regards much of what he does as sort of a personal mission, will pursue a booking strategy similar to the one he employed at the Sons. He has plans to bring acts such as Dan Hicks and Son Volt and mentions how excited he is to be making the next step up the local ladder.

"I don't really even know what I'm doing as far as a 'concept' goes," he allows. "What I'm doing is so broad. But whatever it is, it's definite." He points to his news release, announcing both the hard-hat party and the Steve Earle grand opening. Across the bottom are stylized figures dancing in front of a bandstand. Each pair has a cartoon balloon overhead, and Snider reads the words out loud.

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