Open from the ‘70s until 1999
Sixth Street has gone through different phases, but the Steamboat scene was a consistent positive for three decades. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Johnson played here, but the first big breakout artist was Christopher Cross, who was playing for affable drunks and cokeheads on Sixth Street one year and the next year he was winning five Grammys.
“The weekly Austin All-Stars jam on Monday nights, which started around 1978, was the glue that held the rock scene together” for almost a decade, said musician Ernie Gammage. Such high level R&B cover bands as the Bizness and Extreme Heat kept the dancefloors filled in the ’70s.
In the early ‘80s they started regularly booking national acts like Los Lobos and Red Hot Chili Peppers, but the club’s glory years were in the late ‘80s/early ’90s when Danny Crooks took over and built a scene on local rock bands like Ugly Americans (with Bob Schneider), Del Castillo, Vallejo, Mr. Rockit Baby, Little Sister, Pushmonkey, Ian Moore, Breedlove, Sunflower and many more. It was an old-fashioned rock club, where you went to hear loud music and tried to find someone to sleep with. And you got drunk. Nothing fancy, but, again, we’re finding that the best clubs were the ones where you felt like family.
A couple of Middle Eastern dudes from out of town wanted to open a bar on Sixth Street so they went to Steamboat’s landlady in ’99 and offered to pay three times the rent. They got the space and called their laidback cocktail bar the Library. Steamboat closed a few months after Liberty Lunch, giving a scene a big 1-2 punch to the gut.
Danny thought he’d found new paradise when he moved Steamboat to that money pit on Riverside near South Congress where La Bare used to be. Overhead and some moderately-attended road shows did him in. Paul Oveisi of Momo’s took over for a short while, but this Steamboat has been in dry dock the past decade and a half. Crooks put on an annual reunion concert for many years at Threadgill’s, but I’m not sure if that’s still going.
Club trivia: The 403 E. Sixth Street location was the site of the Mayflower Café in the ‘40s and ‘50s.