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Scene report: Closing night at Antone’s on Riverside

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Chad Swiatecki

Editor’s note: This article was originally published January 1, 2014

If you’re a stickler for details, 2014 at Antone’s on East Riverside Drive began somewhere during the second verse of Doyle Bramhall II and Smokestack’s “Green Light Woman.” Three songs into the final performance at the club and realizing the celebratory moment was eminent, or had just passed depending on your watch’s second hand, Bramhall and his band wound the song to an abrupt close to do the obligatory “3, 2, 1…” countdown and champagne toast.

Guest organist and Austin mainstay Mike Flanigin peeled off a few lines of “Auld Lang Syne,” the room full of blues fans exchanged their wishes of good fortune and then it was back to business for 90 more minutes or so while a question mark hung over not so much room – you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who shed a tear over that location’s coming hibernation - but the iconic cursive sign of its namesake.

Wandering through the crowd all evening it was easy to overhear patrons chatting about what the future holds for Antone’s.

A group of seven investors who purchased the club in November have pledged to reopen it in a new downtown spot, which will be the sixth Antone’s location since blues supporter Clifford Antone first opened it at Sixth and Brazos streets in 1975.

That group’s spokespeople had said they hoped to be open in time for South By Southwest in March but as of the closing night of the Riverside club there had been no confirmed news of where and when Antone’s will rise again.

Crowd chatter during much of Tuesday’s proceedings included lots of speculation and hopes that the former Emo’s spot on Sixth and Red River streets will become its new home.

Arnold Wells, a local photographer, musician and one of the partners in the club’s purchase was on scene Tuesday but wasn’t forthcoming with any information on what might be in store.

So rather than revelatory information about the legendary club’s next chapter – and how perfect would an announcement from the stage have been? – the latest in a string of closing nights for the club wound down like any of the thousands that have taken place under the Antone’s banner over the course of nearly 40 years. Club manager Ray Colgan certainly tipped his ever-present trilby hat at that history, introducing Bramhall and his band as pretty much the perfect way to end the latest chapter of Antone’s history.

After the show Flanigin, who has performed at three of the five Antone’s during his career, said he and others Antone’s supporters go into 2014 hoping that the next incarnation retains as much of the club’s blues-infused history as possible.

“We’ve been through this before and I don’t think this place was open long enough for people to get attached to it,” he said. “It’s just bittersweet because in the past we’ve always known where the next Antone’s was going to be but we don’t have that this time. The important thing is that it retains the feeling of Antone’s and where ver it’s at doesn’t really matter.”