Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Greatest Austin Clubs of All Time: #14 Hole In the Wall

1974 to present

My theory is that the mob buried some bodies under the building in the ‘50s. How else could you explain that the Hole In the Wall is still there on the Drag, unleveled in this era when “mixed use” throttles mixed drinks? This nightlife warhorse has had more false farewells than the Who.

Hole in the Wall men’s room. Photo by Steve Hopson.

We thought we lost the beloved Austin Cheers, where everybody slurs your name, in June 2002, when the closing made front page news. But the Hole came back a few months later, all cleaned up and catering to a broader audience than the daytime stool-flatteners and the younger people who had to order over them.
It’s true that Steve Earle and Nanci Griffith played at the Hole in its early years, but the club at 2538 Guadalupe St. didn’t really build its reputation as a live venue until the roots rockers of the ‘80s, including the Commandos, Two Hoots and a Holler, LeRoi Brothers and Buick MacKane.

Playing in the picture window, like some Lower East Side Esther’s Follies, bands came to embrace the Hole as a stage to pull themselves out of with the sheer force of their performance. Spoon, Fastball, Timbuk 3, Damnations, Sincola, Carper Family and the White Horse Saloon all came out of there. “This place was the litmus test for bands,” musician Jacob Schulze told me in 2002, on a night when Kathy McCarty raised goosebumps on leather jackets by belting “Living Life.”

“You couldn’t move onstage or hear yourself, and chances were pretty good there wouldn’t be much of an audience,” Schulze continued. “But if you couldn’t get up there and rock out and have fun, then you had no business playing music.” Those who couldn’t pull it off onstage were often scathed in instant reviews on the men’s room wall, the closest thing Austin had to a second daily paper.
It’s been a long time since Don Henley, hidden in a dark corner, jumped onstage to sing “Don Henley Must Die” with a stunned Mojo Nixon. Or since Courtney Love comandeered the men’s room for a sniffing session the night before her rambling SXSW interview. But the spirit’s still there, even as the Hole is now run with rare efficiency by Will Tanner.

Emmylou Harris sits in with Rosie Flores after her ACL taping. Photo by Roscoe Shoemaker.

 

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