Houston Music Venues Weathering the Storm After Hurricane Harvey

Continental Club, Houston Texas
Bob Levey/Getty Images for SiriusXM

The Continental Club in Houston.  

For a bustling town where the music never stops, it's been an eerily silent week in Houston. In the lead up to and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, dozens of venues around the city have gone dark, either because they sustained damage from the tropical storm once it swept in and dumped nearly 50 inches of rain across Southeast Texas, or because the roads to their doors were impassable in the aftermath of the storm.

The good news is that many of the city's clubs were spared major flooding, with most going dark on the night before the storm made landfall on Saturday (Aug. 26) and staying shuttered all this week out of an abundance of caution and because many roads are still impassable. "The actual damage was minimal -- we have some water that got into the building and we're pulling up boards now and vacuuming and replacing some sections of the floor -- but it's nothing that would keep us from re-opening," says Gabe Leal, general manager of The Big Barn, which had to cancel or postpone shows on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday by local acts and push back a planned gig tonight (Aug. 30) by Marc Broussard and another on Thursday (Aug. 31) by Tab Benoit. Leal tells Billboard he hopes to have the lights back on by the weekend. 

Over at the White Oak Music Hall, organizers have teamed up with a number of bands to launch Houston. We Rock On -- Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund which aims to raise $50,000 for those affected by the storm by offering all door profits from a rescheduled Sylvan Esso show that was originally slated to take place on Thursday. In addition, Diplo has offered a kickstarting contribution to the fund and synth-soul outfit Twin Shadow are donating signed mix tapes and t-shirts as part of a fundraising auction.

"Fortunately, White Oak Music Hall was spared any major damage from the flooding," managing partner Johnny So tells Billboard in an email. "We have canceled some shows out of an abundance of caution, but not because of damage to the venue. We just want to make sure our guests, artists, and employees are able to attend a show safely. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate given the devastating impact on our fellow Houstonians. We expect to resume concerts this weekend."

One of the downtown clubs that somehow miraculously avoided any serious damage is Warehouse Live. Marketing Director Ashly Montgomery says the venue floods "all the time" whenever it rains and that for a minute she was "freaking out" about the possibility of losing the club given the danger of major water damage. But at press time they'd only gotten a bit of water in their offices, which was not unusual during a rain event. "We couldn't believe it, there wasn't even water in the street," says Montgomery, who notes that just a few local shows were impacted by the venue's shut down. 

Because they fared so well and are closed until next week for now, Montgomery says Warehouse Live has begun accepting donations from concerned fans around and outside Houston who have been sending items to the club, which will distribute them to a local shelter across the street and other area charities. 

Also spared any major damage was the Continental Club, which has been closed for a week and hopes to open doors again by Thursday. "The roads are still impassable for anyone who wants to come from any distance, so we lost about five nights of music," says owner and GM Pete Gordon, who had to cancel a gig by rockers Death Valley Girls on Saturday. Gordon is planning to get back online on Saturday (Sept. 2) with a free show by Houstonian Archie Bell that he hopes will lift some spirits.

While Billboard had not heard back from Revention Music Center, Smart Financial Centre, House of Blues and a number of other well-known venues at press time, Sara Fitzgerald of Houston Heights' 40-year-old Fitzgerald's says in an e-mail that she'd "fared well" in the storm. "Our 99 year old building sits high above the White Oak Bayou that rose all the way up to the overpass with a 15 foot clearance sign," she explains. "We only got a little water under the doors and along the edges of the building, nothing that would keep us from opening again as soon as the streets open back up."

Though a show is scheduled for Thursday, she isn't sure if the act would be able to make it from Dallas for the date. "Some neighborhoods were destroyed and others were spared. None of my employees, who live all over town, were flooded out of their homes, but some have been locked in by flooded streets," she writes. "Bands are calling to sponsor benefits and clothing drives... last night six people unable to get back to their houses slept in the club (backstage)."?

In a statement Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion CEO/Presdient Jerry MacDonald says CWMP, "has had no physical damage to the venue from the impact of Hurricane Harvey and is in good shape. Our current focus is on our staff, fans and community whose homes are experiencing devastating flood waters." 

As previously reported, some major shows in Houston were canceled because of the storm, including gigs by Coldplay, Lady Antebellum and Mary J. Blige; MacDonald adds that a Sept. 2 show, Jeff and Larry's Backyard BBQ featuring Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy has been canceled as well. The city's theater district has also reportedly been hit hard, with the Alley Theatre flooded up to its front doors, with all electricity, mail servers and phone lines offline at press time thanks to a rush of water tha rose past the high water mark of 2001's Tropical Storm Allison in some areas, according to a statement. A note from Theater District Houston board chair Perryn Leech also notes that the district was heavily impacted. Among the buildings suffering water damage are the Wortham Theater Center, Neuhaus Theatre, the Jones Hall for Performing Arts, the Hobby Center and all Theater District garages. 

The Red Cross has provided a list of flood safety tips, and those who wish to help can visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text he word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Other organizations supporting those affected include AmeriCaresCatholic Charities, the Salvation Army and AABB.

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