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Hole in the Wall history, director’s cut

Peter Blackstock
pblackstock@statesman.com

Editor’s note: This article was originally published June 19, 2014

Campus-area bar Hole in the Wall celebrates its 40th anniversary with 10 days of special shows by 40 acts June 19-28, beginning tonight when Grand Champeen, Moonlight Towers and Lil’ Cap’n Travis take the stage.

Our story on page D1 of today’s American-Statesman left a few things on the cutting-room floor. Most of the extra text is in the online version, including reminiscences of memorable nights involving a Mojo Nixon/Don Henley duet and the audience chasing down a would-be guitar thief at a show by Fastball precursor Magneto U.S.A. (Both Fastball and Mojo Nixon are part of the anniversary schedule.)

One passage left out of both the print and online versions was a personal account of my introduction to Hole in the Wall, as follows:

My own Hole story started in the fall of 1984, when the Texas drinking age was 19. It seemed an obvious place to check out for a University of Texas sophomore taking journalism classes in the communications building across the street.

Onstage the night of my first visit was a band called the Commandos. There could be no more perfect introduction: Lead singer Suzy Elkins was a tall, sultry ball of fire with a voice that could sing sweetly or scorch the wood-paneled walls. Sometimes guitarist Gerry “Phareaux” Felton stepped up to the mic, growling and grinning as the rhythm section of J.J. Barrera and Ram Garza propelled the band’s muscular sound. The Commandos had a headlock on that quintessential Austin mix of rock ’n’ roll, country and blues, and they sounded perfect at the Hole in the Wall.

In short order, it was easy to latch onto a young duo named Timbuk3, who’d started playing the Hole regularly around that time after moving to Austin from Madison, Wisconsin. Nobody at the bar (including the band themselves) could quite believe it when Timbuk3 had a song in the top 20 of the pop charts just two years later.

In 1991, I wrote a short bit in a column for the American-Statesman about the Hole’s seemingly improbable 17th anniversary celebration. “Among bars that feature music seven nights a week, the Hole in the Wall’s long lifespan is nothing short of a miracle in this town.” Add 23 years, and the miracle has become an utter defiance of reality.