(Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Axiom
This weekend, one of the most beloved and memorialized clubs in Houston history throws itself a hell of a 25th anniversary party. From 1987 through 1991, the Axiom took a run-down former drugstore/motel in the still very seedy East End of downtown and created a home for punk, metal, thrash, noise and any other kind of alternative rock before Nirvana - who played the Axiom - blew the doors off.
Photo by Jay Lee/courtesy of Lisa Sullivan & J.R. Delgado
Earlier this week, via email, Rocks Off spoke with three people who were central to the Axiom about the club's illustrious past: Lisa Sullivan, who published underground-music zine Rivethead "more or less as a gimmick to promote local bands" and saw it grow to a circulation of more than 10,000; J.R. Delgado, a member of the Party Owls who owned the club and is co-planning the reunion; and Julie Grob, the Axiom's publicist, booking agent and co-manager. Grob co-planned the Axiom 20th reunion at Fitzgerald's in 2007 and helped on this one where she could; today she's a librarian at U or H who oversees the DJ Screw collection, among other things. (R.I.P. Joe Claytor.)
Lisa Sullivan: The Axiom is a very old building that sits of the corner of McKinney and Live Oak. I believe that it had been a hotel at one time. When it was thriving - before the Maggot Colony (Francisco Studios) became a place for musicians to rehearse and squat - J.R. opened his doors to many young people who either worked for him or were part of the scene.
David Yammer (aka Kommando Poet) was a bartender and lead singer for Bayou Pigs and Academy Black who lived there for some time, along with his girlfriend who also worked at the Axiom. J.R. was like a surrogate parent, looking out for everyone around him. He is a little older than the rest of us and a patriarch in the Houston punk scene, playing for bands like Sugar Shack and the Party Owls.
Claire Richards, another notable Houston artist, also resided at the Axiom, although I am not exactly sure when.
J.R. Delgado: The building downstairs was originally Askew's Drugs Store. The upstairs was a motel/hotel; in later years it was more a brothel. When we occupied the building, there were still remnants of the previous business, a lobby with a counter to register, a handwritten sign about hourly rates, when rooms were cleaned and available sheets. The upstairs consisted of a lobby, one large center room, one communal bathroom, and nine small rooms. I made rooms available to employees and bands coming through town. I lived upstairs as well.
"The first bash J.R. ever let me throw," smiles Lisa Sullivan.
We had many bands stay there until there next gig. One musician in particular, pianist D. J. Lebowitz from San Francisco, made the Axiom his headquarters. He would play all the other Texas cities then return, then head east and return a few weeks later to play The Axiom again. DJ loved it there. Once Scream (Dave Grohl) played Numbers, then came to the Axiom afterwards to hang out and spend the night before heading out the next day. Most bands were welcome to spend the night if needed.