DFW Music News

The Rail Club Is No Longer "Just" a Metal Club

The Rail Club has been a mecca for metal since opening its doors in 2010. But new owner Josh Campbell hopes to expand it to include other genres of music, making it a mecca for all musicians.

"When it comes to music, I play metal and I love metal," Campbell says. "But I don't think a venue can operate properly on just one genre of music."

Campbell is the drummer for Hell's Half Acre, a newly formed local metal band whose sound is brutal and heavy with samples by Earnest Watson sprinkled throughout the music, which is nice change to the redundant Pantera-driven screamo music that seems to be littering the local music landscape in recent years. (After all, there was only one Pantera, and they were not screamo.)

The Rail Club's history is as metal and seedy as some of the people who used to frequent the place. Before it was known as a mecca for metal, the club was a strip joint and everybody used to say, "Hey, let's go to the Rail." Buster O'Keefe used to frequent the topless bar, and then purchased it when it closed down. He remodeled the place, turning it into the premier music venue on the westside of Fort Worth.

Opening in 2010, "The Rail" seemed like a promising place for people to promote local music. Its stage was like something out of a musician's wet dream with a logo that paid homage to its Texas roots hanging just behind the band as they dominated the crowd, a rockin' sound system with an experienced sound tech and a bartender who co-hosts a local metal show and makes killer drinks.

Campbell was born and raised in Fort Worth and met O'Keefe not long after the club opened. Ridglea Theater was closing its doors, and he was looking for a place for his former band Eighth Circuit to play. He started booking shows at the club, and working relationship was formed.

At the time, The Rail was only offering metal shows, which included some national acts, two nights a week. And O'Keefe was happy with a weekend metal bar, which isn't necessarily a bad thing unless you're trying to turn more profit.

When O'Keefe decided to sell The Rail to take care of his elderly father, Campbell and his partner Kyle Booker went to visit the club. As soon as they walked in, Campbell had this gut feeling that this was the place they needed to buy. "I tend to trust my judgment on things," he says.

Since buying The Rail in November, Campbell and his partner have replaced the sound system with a killer digital one. "More speakers, more power." And he plans to move the stage to where the Speed Bar is currently located toward the back of the venue. But it's a few months out before he can make that transformation. "I'm not going to sit here and act like it's not going to take an arm and a leg to get it done," he says. "It's a big investment."

Looking at places like Three Links and Trees, Campbell thought the clubs in Dallas seem to be doing extremely well offering a variety of music for music lovers six nights a week. He wants to offer people something similar and turn The Rail into the premier music venue of North Texas.

"But don't get me wrong," he says, "metal is our bread and butter. We do love it."

Campbell is hoping to offer blues, regular rock and country. He's currently seeking promoters who offer something other than metal.

"As far as I'm concerned, if Alanis Morissette wants to play, I'm going to let her," he says. "And I hate to say this too much, but it's true."

Be sure to catch Ride for Dime's Battle of the Bands on Saturday night.

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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.