By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
All it takes is a little perspective, really. A little added backstory.
In the story of Abboud Greig, the 74-year-old Fort Worth landlord killed early last month during an attempted robbery, a little perspective goes a very long way.
See, there's quite more to Greig's case than his death—stuff that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, in all its dutiful coverage of his death over the last month or so, failed to pass along to its readers.
Take, for instance, the story of Joe's Garage, the restaurant-turned-music venue that Greig, or "Abb" to his friends, owned and operated in west Forth Worth from 1984 until it closed 10 years later. During that time, Greig was something of a father figure to metalheads, offering area thrash and, at the time, underground metal acts like Pantera, Rigor Mortis, Gammacide, Rotting Corpse and Solitude Aeternus a place to call home, a stage on which they could express themselves and, in many of these bands' cases, some of their very first gigs. And it all happened because Greig was willing to take a chance on these outsider kids.
"He didn't like our music at all," Rigor Mortis and Texas Metal Alliance frontman Bruce Corbitt recalls. "He was a funny guy, a nice guy. He was in his 50s, and he didn't like our music, but he was smart enough to see that we had a pretty big crowd. Joe's became our home for all of that. People from Dallas would drive a good hour just to get out there. It was far, but it was the original birthplace for underground metal in the area, so we'd drive."
Before Greig opened his doors to these shows, the underground metal scene in North Texas was, truly, an underground phenomenon. Most shows were held in open fields or, in some cases, in a tombstone factory. But Joe's Garage, simply by adding even the slightest amount of formality to the formula, provided the scene with an outlet in which it could finally grow beyond an underground craze.
"Well, it was an actual venue," Corbitt says, with a smile. "It was a club. And once we had our own club, it became a very big deal. We went from playing the tombstone factory to playing the Arcadia Theater because of Joe's."
And the shine from Joe's Garage wasn't reserved solely for local products. Joe's was one of the first North Texas clubs to open its doors to shows for famed national acts like Sepultura, Tool and Slayer. Says Corbitt: "I just spoke with John Perez of Solitude Aeturnus, and he told me how he spoke to a booking agent that told him that, at one point in the '90s, Joe's was the No. 1 place in the country for death metal shows."
Impressive stuff for a venue that only had about a 150-person capacity, legally speaking.
"Everyone who was part of that era, that period, looks back on it as some of the greatest parts of our life," Corbitt says.
And, yet, even Joe's was just a small part of Greig's legacy, says Corbitt, who points out that Greig helped bring youth soccer to Fort Worth as well.
"He always loved helping kids," Corbitt says. "And he knew that we [in the metal scene] didn't have a place of our own. In his life, it was a small thing. But for us, it was a big deal. I don't think he ever realized the impact he had on the metal scene in DFW. As soon as [Joe's Garage] was gone, we were lost there for a while. It was like the best of the metal scene, and then the end of an era when it closed. We felt it for a while. For years, I've been getting messages from people from back then, and they all remember the same thing: the Joe's Garage years."
As such, Corbitt and other musicians who called Joe's Garage home in the late '80s and early '90s have planned a reunion show on May 22 at Dallas' Rockstar Sports Bar. The bands playing the show (Solitude Aeturnus, Puncture, a recently reunited Gruesome Fate, Dark Alliance, Blood of the Sun, Mitra, Belief System, Violent Intentions, and Corbitt's own Texas Metal Alliance, which will also feature various members from Gammacide and Rotting Corpse) will perform for free and charge $5 at the door—just as Joe's Garage always had—and all proceeds will go to a charity chosen by Greig's wife, Ruth.
"It's not like some of these bands don't get paid well," Corbitt says. "The true testament to the man is that most of us haven't seen him in 15 years since the club closed, but we felt this pretty hard. Metalheads, we've got a rough exterior, but deep down, we've got good hearts. I always refer to it as the DFW metal family, and the metal family was out in full force at his funeral. But it wasn't like we needed this tragedy to realize what he meant to us."
Maybe just a little perspective is all.
"That period, and what Abb did for us," Corbitt says, "it's never going to be forgotten."