Some of DFW's Best Venue Managers Recall Their Favorite Bygone Venues
It's the 25th Anniversary of the DOMA. And while it's true that bands and venues come and go, many of the people behind them have been here all along. We asked a few of these long standing music veterans -- now behind the scenes at DOMA nominated venues The Kessler, The Foundry and Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios -- about their favorite old venues.
Jeff Liles, Artistic Director/Talent Buyer at The Kessler Theater
The Bronco Bowl. People usually assume that the center of gravity for live music in Dallas had to be somewhere in Deep Ellum. While I spent many years there (born at Baylor Hospital, in fact) I'd still have to say that arguably the best Dallas live music venue of all time had to be the Bronco Bowl, which was located in North Oak Cliff. The track record there speaks for itself: The Clash, U2, The Cure, REM, The Smiths, David Bowie, Prince, Metallica, Peter Tosh, Elvis Costello, Public Enemy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Slayer, Bruce Springsteen, Beastie Boys, Wu Tang Clan, Skinny Puppy and literally hundreds of other amazing acts; in an intimate auditorium that held less than 3,500 people. Don't get me wrong; I will always love Deep Ellum. But most of these huge legacy acts like Bowie, Prince, U2 and Springsteen never played there.
The larger concert hall at the Bronco Bowl had perfect sight lines and great sound, and was part of a larger, "old school" entertainment complex that included bowling lanes, an archery range, a putt-putt golf course and a smaller 350-capacity venue called the Canyon Club. Getting to see some of these artists in a place like this - before they graduated to basketball and hockey arenas - provided countless amazing personal memories for thousands of people my age. (Trying to keep your balance while the entire audience jumped up and down - literally shaking the entire building - during a System of a Down show; watching the audience trying to rip Morrisey's clothes off; women diving on top of one another in an attempt to tackle a shirtless D'Angelo; that kind of thing.) Prior to the onslaught of indie rock artists that began around 1980 or so, the venue was known for hosting everything from acts like The Everly Brothers and Chubby Checker to Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult and Grand Funk. The Bronco Bowl was the closest thing we've ever had to our own Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And the scene outside in the parking lot before shows was always a blast!
Jeff Biehler, Bar Manager at The Foundry:
My favorite venues that are no longer around are Club Clearview and Bar of Soap. Clearview was sweet because you had all these killer bands like Liabach, for example playing that tiny stage, some of my favorite shows ever were in that tiny room. Bar of Soap for obvious reasons. Bands -- mainly louder punk type bands -- set up in the corner by the door, and usually packed the place out. It was an anything goes type of place. I saw Bob Log III there several times before he blew up, loved that place.
Christopher Jeffers of The Foundry
One of the best bar jobs I ever had was at the Muddy Waters on lowest Greenville. There were several versions of Muddys, but the one I speak of was the one that flew under the Barley House flag. When I started Carter Albrecht was running it. There were just four bartenders total, all of whom had been there for years. Carter booked the bands, and I helped wherever I could. It was the perfect storm of live music during that period of time. Bands like Pleasant Grove, The Lonlies, and Radiant all had month long weekday shows. Bands like Slobberbone and Boys Named Sue would use the bar as practice space, and we would open just as an excuse to watch and drink beer. And when Carter had forgotten to book a band he would just play himself, or with his band, The Sparrows. They were as close to a house band that you could get. The place was a shit hole, but it was our shit hole.
The location also played a big hand in its success. The crowd was a perfect mix of lower Greenville residents, musicians, and drunks -- like myself at the time. We also had the best jukebox in town, and Carter would change out music weekly. It was also haunted but that's a whole 'nother story.
Josh Baish, Owner of Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios
I saw Tripping Daisy here my first night in Denton, and never left. Ended up working there for five years, first as janitor, then 'light guy,' then bartender.
Favorite Bands I saw there: Tripping Daisy, Reverend Horton Heat, Deep Blue Something, Bass X, The Nixons, Slobberone. Hagfish, Brave Combo, Zeke, Edie Brikell, Frank Black, Course of Empire, funland, Mojo Nixon
It sat two blocks away, and was Rick's biggest rival and complete opposite. It was home to Denton's core music community.
Favorite Bands, and People who made up the scene: Bed Head, Breadbox, Light Bright Highway, Choke Bore, Dooms UK, The Pulley Brothers, Will Johnson, John Freeman, Scott Danbom, Wanz Dover, Rob Peters, Trinidad, Phillip Crowley, Dave Willingham, and Matt Barnhart.
I really liked GC. Orbitnroom too. I once saw Sparklehorse play to a mostly empty room :,(
In the early '90s, the place to go to see any show in DFW bigger than a house show or mid sized venue. The old Trees will probably always be known by the whole Nirvana thing, which is actually a good story. Look it up.
HOUSE OF TINNITUS
Rob Peters ran a DIY house venue on the Denton south side. The best part about it was that no matter what day it was you could hear bands from three blocks away in a residential neighborhood. It was always loud and dark.
Bands, and people who made it great: White Mice, Liturgy, Shane English, Rob, Andrew Haas.
Short lived as a venue, but no one who saw a "show" there will forgot walking into a 10'x10 smokehouse to be greeted by an ornery old black guy sitting behind the front counter in a trashed recliner, swigging from a gin bottle, and watching court shows, barking at you, "WHAT YOU WANNA ORDER?!?!? "
Seeing Astronautalis do early versions of audience-suggested topic freestyle with a crowd of 20 friends all sloshed on BYOB booze is a favorite Denton memory.
Bands, and people who made it great: Astronautilus. Steve. Batey. Wally Campbell (35 Denton Operations Manager) seemed to be around a lot.
GYPSY TEA ROOM/ BALLROOM
Just a really great venue. Sorely missed. I once had to break up an escalating confrontation between an ex and Mark E. Smith.
Bands that made it great: The fall, J. Mascis, Vic Chesnutt, My Morning Jacket, Gang of Four, Mastodon.
Run by a gone too soon collective led by Mr. Scott Porter, it sat across the street from Dan's Silverleaf, the former DIY space now a Rusty Taco.
DAN'S BAR/ DAN'S SILVERLEAF
I first met Dan in '94? '95? Dan is a Denton treasure. I'd marry Dan. Has been the handsome older brother to me for longer than he'd probably like. He's the patron saint of Denton music.
Bands, and People who made it great: The Wrens, two Cow Garage, Drive-By Truckers, Slobberbone, Centromantic, Baptist Generals, Dan, Pam, Ashbaugh, brent, Kate, Bonnie, Issac
Bonus! Favorite new venue, sorta:
My ex-roommate, Michael Briggs, hosted a web series. Violitionist Sessions, of endless bands in the front room of my house. I once made Ty Segal, Mikal Cronin & Co. some really stout drinks with 90% mix of alcohol, and whatever juice was left in the fridge
After I "kicked him out," he moved to a new house, and does the same thing, but now it's shows too, and he has a bunch of people over, whereas I wouldn't allow it. He calls it Macaroni Island, and he does it well, and I'm very proud of him. Briggs is a great guy with a genuine love for music. Sad to say I haven't been to MI yet, but that's only because I got married and had a couple of babies, and I'm old.
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