Dallas Musicians' 8 Most Memorable Gigs: A Strip Club, an Art Museum and More
Socrates once said, "Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful." And nowhere is this training more apparent than when a band takes the stage at a live music venue.
Courtesy of Don O
The importance of live music venues has spawned numerous articles, books and blog posts. Rolling Stone even created an interactive map of some of the best music venues in America. But what is it about attending a live gig that sparks so much interest? In a recent article "10 Fabulous Music Venues," reporter Dana Joseph of CNN says, "Nothing beats the Adrenalin, the exhilaration of a watching an amazing performance live in a beautiful space, or the rush of discovery that comes with witnessing the birth of a newcomer you know will become a massive star." Attending a live show is a ritual of artistic and social communion. It's one part a religious ceremony and the other a school of hard knocks for bands trying to reach the pinnacle of their career.
Yet, like any good religious leader will tell you, place is also an important part of the mystical process. It's something about the feel of the place as if the architecture and the people it attracts somehow transcend the boundary between matter and flesh and touches something sacred, spurring memories that last a lifetime.
Most bands have a gig or two that stand out in their mind, whether it's jamming at a place like Porky's motorcycle bar where leather is the required dress or playing at a redneck barbecue where calves' testicles are the main course. So we here at DC9 at Night asked a few local musicians to discuss some memorable gigs they've played during the course of their career.
8. The Hole in the Wall
The Hole in the Wall was located off Harry Hines in an old, dilapidated building, "but the vibe in that place was unmatched," says Chris Watson of the Chris Watson Band. It could only hold about 75 people. It was a funky little blues juke joint that showcased tremendous talent and some of the best hamburgers Watson has ever eaten. It could only hold about 75 people who often would need an umbrella when it rained because the roof leaked everywhere. The tile was worn off the floor from "decades of people dancing their asses off."
As a teenager, Watson played at the week night blues jam sessions hosted by local bluesman Brian "Hashbrown" Calway. "I cut my teeth with great musicians," he says, "and I have a special place in my heart for that nasty little joint." It wasn't just local musicians showing up for the jams, either. In the '80s and '90s, this place was the go-to spot for big name acts after their gigs. He once saw Don Henley of The Eagles wearing a ball cap and sunglasses. "Nobody bothered him, but we all knew who he was."
A few years back the Hole in the Wall was bulldozed to make room for construction on Harry Hines, "but its memory will forever live on," says Watson.
7. The Prohibition Room
The Prohibition Room sounds like a place where a bunch of old politicians would gather to hatch plans to prevent locals from drinking or smoking weed. But it was actually one of the best places to catch Texas blues in the heart of Dallas. Brian "Hashbrown" Calway used to jam with a bunch of legendary musicians, including Mikey Raphael from Willie Nelson's band, Donovan Leech, the Paladins and many local blues artists. It's rumored that Alex Moore did his last recordings there, too.
Located in the basement of an old Brewery building near West End, The Prohibition Room had almost cathedral-like ceilings with round columns scattered throughout the room. A bar on one side of the wall and a large stage in the center offered a good setup for aspiring and established artists. Barrels of peanuts were all around the place, and peanut shells covered the floor. "The manager/bartender Louis was really good to us," Hashbrown says, "and I remember many nights when we all got drunk together!"
Hashbrown has played several memorable venues that rank up there with The Prohibition Room, including Original Texas Tea House, Schooners and The Texas Trap, just too name a few.
6. Tombstone Factory
The Tombstone Factory chiseled headstones and some of Dallas/Fort Worth's legendary punk, metal and rock acts such as Cro Mags, Raided X and Warlock. Located just off HWY 820 and Sun Valley in Fort Worth, this cinderblock building with a muddy parking lot was a classic underground venue that helped spawn a one of a kind scene that still haunts its participants.
"We would wake up Eddie the Tomb Keeper late at night and practice," says Scott Shelby of Gammacide/Warbeast. "We left our equipment set up in there and the next day rats were living in the kick drums and ate holes in our bandanas."
This creepy little place felt like vampires would crawl at of the shadows to take part in the debauchery that included, as Jerry Warden who once managed the place said, "Nothin' but sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll." The vibe even frightened bands like Destruction who booked to play at the factory but pulled up, said "fuck it" and just left when they saw it.
"We had some great times," says Shelby. "There will never be an underground scene at places like these again."
5. The Vampire Lounge
The Vampire Lounge.... just saying the words sparks an image of a decadent place where blood addicts toy with their blood whores like on HBO's True Blood, Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat or even the golden assholes from Stephanie Meyer's Twilight fiasco. But this ode to Neil Jordan's Interview with a Vampire and Farhad Mann's Nick Knight was an actual music venue in Dallas back in the late '90s until Target staked it a year and a half later.
Despite its short life span, the lounge was a place where local bands like Drowning Pool, Solinger and were able to log some stage time to perfect their craft. "It was dark and creepy just like the name," says guitarist CJ Pierce of Drowning Pool, "but a lot of 'rock star' type of stuff, if you will, went on in there. Crazy times for sure."
Pierce knows about dark and creepy. Drowning Pool has played at converted churches like The Alter Bar in Philadelphia ("almost the perfect set up for Rock 'n' Roll religion"), an old Gothic church in Scotland and a Free Mason-designed mansion called The Rave in Milwaukee, and The Alter Bar in Philadelphia. "The owners claim it's haunted," he says. "All kinds of scary stories about that place. Always a great rock show though!"
But Drowning Pool's earlier gigs weren't all at dark and creepy places. They also jammed at clubs formerly known as a Denny's or an iHop, truck stops and topless bars. "Strip clubs were always kinda weird for the stage set up," he says. "There's a poll right in the middle of the stage that you have to avoid. But some of the girls hang out for the show and that's always fun."