Contributed by Chad Swiatecki
Five songs and roughly a half dozen stage dives into his band’s farewell-to-Red 7 show on Friday night, Riverboat Gamblers singer Mike Wiebe took a short breather to consider what the night meant to him, his band, and the 600 or so fans jammed in front of the club’s two stages.
After a bit of a ramble he got to the heart of the matter, that in its nine years of operation Red 7 had earned a spot on the continuum of dearly departed Austin clubs such as Emo’s and Liberty Lunch. It did that, Wiebe explained, by hosting shows with acts trafficking in adventurous original music, rather than "some (expletive) Stevie Ray Vaughan cover band in one of those places a few blocks from here."
It’s not a new dichotomy that’s going to cause any jaws to drop, but pointing out the stark difference in booking philosophy and customer base between the Red River/Seventh Street corridor of which Red 7 was an anchor and the adjoining cover band-heavy Sixth Street bar district gave the night a necessary bit of context.
With Red 7 closing its doors, there would be one less haven for musical risk takers and outcasts to earn their stripes.
Friday night’s farewell show for the club certainly reflected its ideology and that of its nearby club peers, with a mashup of a half dozen heavy, loud and aggressive bands making one last blast of racket from its indoor and outdoor stages.
Inside was for the local talent, with the catchy garage punk of Sweet Talk preceding the two-guitar/drums no wave noise of Spray Paint, and the Gamblers rounding things out and adding to their spot as perhaps the most-tenured act in Red 7’s nine years of operation. This writer can recall at least a half dozen very good-to-stellar Gamblers shows there, and I’m probably forgetting a few.
Outside, the proceedings were topped by North Carolina metal heroes (and coulda-been "Mad Max: Fury Road" extras) Valient Thorr and Georgia southern sleaze punks Nashville P.
Even if neither of those bands have deep histories with Red 7 – Nashville P. singer/guitarist Blaine Cartwright admitted he only became aware of its existence three or four years ago – their volume and sound were fitting for a club that has taken on the role downtown Emo’s held for years as the go-to place for heavy touring bands.
So in all the night was a bit of a hodgepodge, with the Riverboat Gamblers providing the most emphatic farewell even before Wiebe teased that the bands and fans assembled there were taking part in a sort of Viking funeral, with many of them likely too drunk to properly aim their figurative flaming arrows at the club’s funeral boat as it floated out to sea.
Ending the set with their traditional closing number "The Art of Getting (Expletive)," Wiebe and his bandmates (with Rise Against guitarist Zach Blair filling in for core member Ian MacDougall, who was on tour with the Foo Fighters) gave the night the exclamation point it needed as a roiling pit of fans slammed together when they weren’t holding the crowd surfing singer aloft.
Outside Nashville P was still blazing forth with skuzzy odes to sin like "I’m So High" and tracks from last year’s "Up The Dosage."
By that time, though, the crowd had started to thin as many of those assembled said their goodbyes before calling it a night.
A lot of them will look to Sidewinder – the rechristened Red Eyed Fly that is being booked and managed by much of Red 7’s ownership group – to carry the torch as a home for all things angry, loud and distorted in Austin music.
Time will tell if that goes as planned. The team led by Transmission Events partner Graham Williams and Tyson Swindell and Jared Cannon that will lead the way at Sidewinder have a lot of years of experience and good will built up to make the new venture work.
But the memories they made out of the concrete box that was Red 7’s inside, and its no-frills outdoor stage, are the stuff that sets truly special venues apart. By being just hospitable enough, Red 7 earned its place in Austin live music lore, and it is a place that will be missed.