Washington Gives Back to Live Music…Not Really

Last August, I wrote a blog post about what I termed the “doucheification” of Washinton Avenue. This lead to a story in the Chronicle as well.

Since then, life on the Jersey Shore of Houston has continued unabated. Walter’s remains open as they supposedly search for a new home base.

Today, I ran across a story in the Chron about how one of the bars is bringing live music to Washington Avenue at the Salt Bar. Let me just post the excerpts and leave my comments.

The owners of Salt Bar on Washington Ave. have started a songwriter night, hoping to provide a venue for original work and, perhaps, build a live-music scene in Houston from the ground up.

Elecia Wheeler and her partners opened Pearl Bar on Washington Ave.three years ago. When they discussed opening a new watering hole next door she had a stipulation: “If we open a new space, it’s going to focus on live music.

“I want people to know that there’s so much great talent here in Houston,” Wheeler said. “You hear all the people, they’ve moved to Austin or they’ve moved to Nashville or they’ve moved to Branson. I want people to know they could come to Houston or stay in Houston and producers will come here looking for them.”

First off, Ms. Wheeler, if you were SO concerned about having live music on Washington Avenue, why not keep Mary Jane’s alive in the Pearl Bar? That venue had a long tradition of live music dating back to when it was called the Bon Ton Room and the Arc Angels were among the regulars.

Second, if you truly wanted to build a music scene from the ground up, why not encourage the same from your neighbors – Pandora (formerly Rhythm Room), Front Porch (formerly Cosmo’s), Blu Salon (formerly Satellite Lounge) the small bar next to Walter’s (formerly Silky’s Blues Bar)? There are MANY former live music venues along the half mile stretch of road just waiting for revitalization.

Finally, who from Houston has ever thought moving to Branson was a viable alternative. Austin I get, even Nashville, but BRANSON?

But, there’s more…

Wheeler said she wants songwriters to get on stage and present original work, to share a bit of themselves.


For now, the event will continue to feature both invited, established artists, and newcomers with a song or two to share.

Croucher describes the evening as something of a hybrid between a songwriter showcase and an open-mic night, “Which is very Houston, really: a weird convergence of everything.”

Ok, so your decision to bring live music to Washington Avenue has resulted in a Tuesday night open mic night? That’s it???

There are quite a few of those all over Houston. Mucky Duck has one of the most well-established and well-attended in the area. There are great blues jams on Monday’s and Tuesday’s in numerous locations, none of which would think to consider itself a “showcase,” understanding what they are, which is a chance for musicians to hang out and jam, maybe test out some new material on an audience.

If you REALLY want to help, Ms. Wheeler, how about having live music five nights a week at Salt Bar? Do your open mic on Tuesday. Bring in bands for happy hour Wednesday and Thursday with full on music nights Friday and Saturday. Maybe once a month on Sunday, coordinate afternoon or early evening performances with other venues on the street.

Speaking of which, how about getting together with your sister venue, which could still conceivably put on shows (though I know they won’t), or with Walter’s, right across the street. Convince some of the other owners to suck it up and put on a live original band a few times a week. Imagine the impact if 9 out of 10 of the venues up and down Washington had live music even three nights every week?

If you are truly serious, don’t put on an open mic night on a Tuesday and then expect every musician in town to drool at the prospect of a gig on Washington Avenue and don’t expect this sudden infusion of one night a week to make everyone in the city think we’re on the road to Sixth Street.

Look, I commend your desire to have live, original music on a stage in the heart of what is rapidly becoming the most popular entertainment destination in Houston and I will HAPPILY eat my words the day your Tuesday night open mic turns into an every-day occurrence along your thoroughfare, but please don’t expect any of us who have any history with this city to appreciate all the hard work it took to set up a mic and some speakers and invite people to play for free at your bar on a Tuesday night.

Photo by kshilcutt

  9 Replies to “Washington Gives Back to Live Music…Not Really”

  1. Bru
    May 17, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Ugh. I, for one, can tell you that Salt doesn’t have room inside of it for real live music, not to mention any form of a stage. Best to remove from your brain any concept of seeing a show there.

    Pearl would’ve had music, but the investors flipped it, initiating the great Doucheocalpyse. That’s why Brad left and started Big Star. Washington is dead. Walter’s is not our last hope, it is our last holdout. The only possibility of music on Washington will come after this strip crashes and becomes undesirable once more. Or if we could somehow secure a historical marker for Walter’s.

    And finally – Branson? WTF?

  2. Jay
    May 17, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    I was actually excited about the advent of Salt Bar. I thought it would be a unique tequila concept where you could sit down and sample great tequilas.

    Instead, it is a place to get jello shots and a choice of about four different margaritas. Served in a plastic cup. Roofies not included.

  3. Ramon "LP4" Medina
    May 17, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Bru’s got it right – the sad fact is the Washington Avenue we knew is dead…long dead. That street is now about catering to a certain clientele with a lot of disposable income who think it’s cool to pay though the nose to have the honor of calling their bartender a “mixologist.”

    So of course an article about Salt Bar providing singer songwriters a singular opportunity to play live is dumb and reads like a paraphrasing of some hyped-up clueless press release – look at its clientele. I guarantee you that if Salt bar were to have 5 nights a week of music it would cut into their business becasue the clientele would be just as happy with a jukebox as with a live band.

    Remember the Richmond Strip and how that was a sea of douchery? Well, the Washington scene is just the latest incarnation. So let the douchebags have Washington Avenue; there are enough local venues in this town.

  4. Jeff
    May 17, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    I agree that it is probably dead, but I do not agree there are enough venues in Houston. For live, original music, there are probably 1/3 of what there were 15 years ago. I’ve had older friends of mine tell me there were even more back in the 70’s. I wish there were more venues to play, frankly.

  5. John S. Gray
    May 17, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I dunno, I may play that open mic night. I have a couple of songs that would sound great with drunken brosephs chattering loudly over them.

  6. Jordan
    May 17, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Washington is a giant fail and even driving through there makes my ass itch…..and I shower twice daily. Reign? Club Reign? WTF is that? Why do these Dragon Shirts have to pop up everyhere, shitting on everything in site and bludgeoning what isn’t covered in said shit? Plague on every great city.

  7. December 21, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Washington is a giant fail and even driving through there makes my ass itch…..and I shower twice daily. Reign? Club Reign? WTF is that? Why do these Dragon Shirts have to pop up everyhere, shitting on everything in site and bludgeoning what isn’t covered in said shit? Plague on every great city.

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