UPDATED: Houston's Top 25 Closed Music Venues

Categories: Only In Houston

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Photo courtesy of Mark C. Austin
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears at Walter's on Washington
UPDATED (Tuesday, 5 p.m.) to correct an error in the Club Hey Hey item.

Before we go any further, this isn't over. Houston fancies itself as forever moving forward, a "city of the future," but in a relatively short time span -- the past 40, maybe 50 years -- it's managed to rack up an impressive number of live-music stages that have come and gone, and left quite a lasting impression.

So, when Rocks Off's Nathan Smith recently suggested a list of Houston's top bygone music venues, the names just kept coming. And coming. They're still coming. Soon enough the standard ten became 20, which easily became 25. And that was before we mentioned this idea on our Facebook page, and our readers kept giving us name after name.

So yes, there will be a Part 2. Again, we welcome your suggestions. Let's go for 50.

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Photo by Jay Lee/Courtesy of Lisa Sullivan & J.R. Delgado
The entryway of the Axiom in the early '90s
The Axiom
Home to Houston's underground and indie music scene in the late '80s and early '90s, the Axiom occasionally featured a touring act, the most famous of whom was a very young Nirvana in 1989. The no a/c or heat only added to the sweaty or shivering ambiance. JEFF BALKE


Blue Iguana
Where coke dealers met Rice students who met off-duty strippers. Early porn shots of Madonna with motorcycle gangs passed for bathroom-wall décor. With its gnarled, twisted dead oak tree behind the bar extending to the ceiling and a jukebox that defied categorization, there hasn't been a bar like it, before or since. Horseshoe, Sundowners, Southern Backtones, and Jay Hooks used to burn this joint up. But most importantly, no Blue Iguana, no Little Joe Washington. They bought him a guitar, kept it at the bar, and made sure the little guy made some money each week when he was at a low point. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH


The Bon Ton Room
What eventually morphed into Mary Jane's and ultimately Walter's before surrendering to the Pearl Bar was once a damn fine rock club that featured, what seemed like every month, the Arc Angels blowing the doors off the place. JEFF BALKE


Cabaret Voltaire
Some of the greatest punk and hardcore bands of all time played this bombed-out house on the east side of downtown. It was dirty, dank and filled with kids, exactly as every punk venue should be. JEFF BALKE


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Cardi's
There may be no greater example of how Houston kills its live music venue than the fact that Cardi's, a bar that saw U2, Metallica, Ratt, Bon Jovi and countless other rock bands grace its stage, is now Spotlight Karaoke. There was even a documentary made about its heyday in the '80s. Even driving past that strip mall on Westheimer and Fountain View is depressing. JEFF BALKE


Catacombs
Operated by Ames Productions and possessing no liquor license, Catacombs, at 3003 S. Post Oak, was essentially an underage hangout that existed solely on ticket prices. Jeff Beck Group, Mothers of Invention, Grateful Dead, and Jethro Tull played their first Houston gigs there. The venue eventually moved to the corner of University and Kirby in Rice Village, but closed shortly after moving to be reopened as Of Our Own.

The guys in ZZ Top were regulars, particularly when Lightnin' Hopkins took the stage at this uber-eclectic club. The flowering of the Catacombs paralleled the flowering of middle-class teen drug culture in Houston. It also continued what was becoming a Houston tradition of mixing genres on the same bill. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH


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125 comments
donbr549
donbr549

If that picture is the late great Scotty Daniels, then I'm Elvis Presley. Who checks copy at this rag? Looks like Ian to me. Ask any Rhythm Roomer alumni.

budnickto
budnickto

I was just a little too young to catch anything at the original Cardi's. And I'm sure once Backstage renamed itself Cardi's to recapture some of its glory, it fell far short. Backstage in its day was pretty awesome though. Great sound and lights. I caught KISS, Stryper, Ace Frehley, Ugly Kid Joe, Ratt, and Firehouse there, among others. I remember seeing the ads in Rivethead or Public News when I was younger and Pantera would play there about every other month.

When I was starting to play shows in the fading hair metal days of the early 90s, short-lived clubs like After Dark, Live Wire, Barcelona Nights, Struts, Hurricane Alley, and Equinox were the places to go, but none ever really got much traction.

One venue that was GREAT that just suffered from poor management and a hard-to-get-to location was Westpark Entertainment Center aka Lone Star Amphitheatre, where that Garden Center was down near Bubba's Texas Burger Shack before the Westpark Tollway was built. It was like a mini Woodlands or Southern Star Amphitheater. The sound was phenomenal when I saw silverchair with Local H there in 1997.

homasworld
homasworld

Family Hand / Texas Rose Cafe. Little Feat recorded a song about it.

Kelly Watson
Kelly Watson

If ever there was an article that wrapped up the Htown scene in a nutshell ,this is the one.

Christopher Tatum
Christopher Tatum

The Island definitely needed a mention.Black Flag,Dead Kennedys,X,B52s .All in their early prime

Kelly Watson
Kelly Watson

Goat's Head Soup,Urban Art Bar, Deep Phat and Showbar on Washington Ave all failed to make the list.....Like it never happened..Sad

thewhether
thewhether

This just reminded me of Instant Karma, where Maria Selma is now. They had live shows, but apparently nothing of note, since I can't remember a single one.

aarghpirategirl1
aarghpirategirl1

I was also a huge fan Toad's Tavern and Goat's Head Soup (before it was torched).

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah topcommenter

did anyone mention Of Our Own? Saw Little Feat there....and Quicksilver Messenger Service playing and smoking joints on stage...

RandyS47
RandyS47

Showing my age, but I remember La Mason a Go-Go in an old church in what's now Neartown in the Tuam- Chartres area. Parked in the Texas Mortuary School's parking lot. Live psychedelic rock in the mid- to late-Sixties.

davisjumper1
davisjumper1

Great piece but that is not a pic of Scott Daniels. That's Ian Barry.

veryterigreene1
veryterigreene1

Carnaby's.  They had the Electromagnets, Tony Campise, et al.

Texas Opry House.  I saw the first Jan Hammer Group tour there, and Jean Luc Ponty, I think the Mothers, and more.

kosmojoeo1
kosmojoeo1

The Ale House had live music seven days a week from 1978 to 1986.

Cafe Mode/Power Tools was a lot of fun. The Replacements redeemed themselves there with a great show a couple of years after a disasterous show at Lawndale Art Annex.

I can't believe nobody has mentioned The Island/Rock Island!  Black Flag, Dead Kennedy's, B-52's, X, and countless others played the venue in the late 70's and early 80's.

cbit1
cbit1

White House Motel on S Main and its Big Band jazz concerts.

txadplant
txadplant

La Bastille - saw T-Bone Walker there in 1972 along with many jazz

acts back in the more civilized era when they played 3 & 4 day stints.

Dance Town USA - Houston's premier honky-tonk before Gilley's got running.

Still here, albeit as a bingo parlor.

Shepherd Drive-in Theater - the first time I ever saw Willie Nelson, shortly

after he hit it big with The Red Headed Stranger.  Special guests - one of the

last appearances by Jimmy Bryant & Speedy West.

Kelly Stephenson Doig
Kelly Stephenson Doig

Does anyone have a memory of a place on Allen Square - underground - called the Cave or the Cavern, maybe? My dad took me and my sister to see B.W. Stevenson perform there back in 1975-76, I believe. Ray Wylie Hubbard and David Allen Coe also performed there. The name might be off - but it was a rowdy, smoky joint - no frills - what I think of now as a beer hall. Any ideas?

Jimi Austin
Jimi Austin

There was also a cool venue downtown in the 90s called Froggies or Toads if anyone remembers it.

Nathan Ammons
Nathan Ammons

Urban Art Bar, Power Tools, 321 Alabama, The Oven, Deep Phat, the Unicorn, the Abyss, Urban Underground, Backstage

Jimi Austin
Jimi Austin

Back to times when Houston was fun. I'll also throw in a few from the Northwest side that were fun....Hurricane Alley, Equinox, and Forgetta Bout It.

Nathan Ammons
Nathan Ammons

Catal Huyuk, Lovecraft, Instant Karma, the Asylum, the Edge bar, Downtown Grounds, Goat's Head Soup, Epstein's

ChuckEye
ChuckEye

I'll second Blythe Spirits, Munchies, Downtown Grounds, The Astrodome, The Summit, Bavarian Gardens, and Southern Star Amphitheater, and toss in The Pig (once saw Steve Howe do a free solo set there the weekend of one of KLOL's Rock & Roll Auctions)...

Mary Miller
Mary Miller

The Ale House - spent many nights there listening to bands such as Herschel Berry and Two Tons of Steel, so sorry to see that place closed down.

bibulb1
bibulb1

Also - I'm an idiot. MUNCHIES. Holy crap, how did I forget that one?

bibulb1
bibulb1

And while I never went there, the Caribana in the Village was a pretty good reggae club, I hear - after their Cullen Auditorium show (and that place probably oughta get a shout-out as well), the Clash went and hung out there. 

bibulb1
bibulb1

I though something else was where you've got Cardi's - wasn't Cardi's on 59 at Bissonet? Or did it move there in the later '80s? (I know that in late 1991, I saw Inclined play at the 59 location.)

bibulb1
bibulb1

Also, for 1990/1991, Downtown Grounds was pretty damn impressive in its stature.


bibulb1
bibulb1

The biggest for me is Blythe Spirits - IMO, you had the heyday of late '80s Houston (and Texas touring) pop/rock go through there. The Pack, the Kick, the Wackadoos, Beans Barton, the Reign, Mulberry Jane, Bicycle Thieves - I mean, DAMN. The Judy's even did a 2 night stand there. (And I've previously mentioned the show when Evan Johns and the H-Bombs were playing, and some buddies of theirs came by after their show at Numbers - so we got the Smithereens jamming alongside for about an hour at the end of the night.) 

Also, for times when there weren't bands, Blythe's jukebox was EXCELLENT.


You mentioned the Satellite, and that was a BIG damn deal when it closed. I still don't go to Star Pizza as a result of its closing.


Someone else mentioned Joe Star's Omni and Consolidated Arts Warehouse  (and the hallowed Island) - all the greats went through those. The Haskells, Herschel Berry and the Natives, the Dishes, the Explosives (with and without Roky) all had some fantastic sets there. 


(Hokey Smokes - I forgot Black Forest/Bavarian Gardens! Whole bunch of rock and folk went through those doors.)


I need to find some of my old Public Newses and see what I might be missing. And also make lists of shows to bootleg for when I get that time machine. 

Francisco Muñiz-Belmares
Francisco Muñiz-Belmares

I'm glad the Engine Room is closed. Those guys were fucking asshole who treated the local scene like shit. Seriously feel that it was part of the reason it could no longer remain open. It bit the hand that fed it.

Andrew Sutton
Andrew Sutton

Instant Karma was left off. Home of TKOH on Sundays and many bands went through there over the years. The bean bag room made it quite iconic too.

kmaher23
kmaher23

@Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah Yes. I saw Captain Beefheart there.  Bruiser Barton & the Dry Heaves opened--that was an early Beans Barton project....

bibulb1
bibulb1

@kosmojoeo1 The island's been mentioned in the comments several times, but HOLY CRAP HOW DID I FORGET THE ALE HOUSE.

cbit1
cbit1

@Mary Miller And Pig 'n' Whistle before that!

RandyS47
RandyS47

@Kelly Stephenson Doig It was The Cavern. One of THE places in late Sixties. Was at Allen's Landing just off The Square downstairs. Heard 13th Floor Elevators there.

ChuckEye
ChuckEye

@bibulb1 Yeah, that was one of the first ones that came to mind for me. The place where the Houston Symphony would hang out after rehearsal and jam. :)

mitchako85
mitchako85

@bibulb1 Marty Racine and I were at the Evan Johns show with the Smithereens. Pretty sure Marty wrote about it. 

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