Last Saturday, during the Official Austin City Limits after-show, Toronto dance-punk band Death from Above 1979 took the stage at Emo’s main room, becoming the last band to ever do so.
Located at 603 Red River Street, the famed Austin music venue has been a staple in the city’s thriving downtown music scene since 1992 and hosted thousands of bands, everyone from Killdozer, Nas, Jawbox and Diplo to Kid Rock, De La Soul and Scratch Acid. On Sept. 17, Emo’s permanently shut the doors to its outdoor room.
Owner Frank Hendrix confirmed two days later that he sold the property to Sixth Red River LC. “We were going the way of CBGB’s,” Hendrix said, “When Moody Theatre moved downtown, it raised the bar for everybody.”
Rumors of what the buyers will do with the space have begun to surface, ranging from “boutique hotel” to “live music venue,” though none of Sixth Red River’s other properties are venues.
Before the closure of the large room, however, sister venue Emo’s East opened in the east Riverside area of Austin, a short drive from the legendary Red River location. The site, called the Back Room until its closure in 2006, originally housed heavy metal shows. It has been renovated and blown out to a capacity of 1,700 persons.
Joe Gross, culture reporter at the Austin American Statesman, says the newly opened space isn’t quite like the old Emo’s. “The outside room could sit about 1000, the inside room, about 200,” he said. Unlike the original space, though, the new venue has “excellent sound” with more modifications coming in the future.
“It’s a very different kind of room,” continued Gross, who has covered the Austin scene since 2001. “It’s more of a show venue than a club. That’s a very different vibe all around. The original Emo’s was in an extremely convenient location, making it a hub for a lot of the music scene. This new place is not a long drive, but it’s not in the same area. It’s a difference experience.”
“It’s apples and oranges,” Hendrix agrees. “It has the same heart and soul, and it’s on par with any venue of its size. It has Emo’s spirit, but with a different façade: the toilets flush; instead of running on 150 amps, we have 1,500 amps at the new place.”
Frank Hendrix announced that he will open a new space “within walking distance” of the previous location. The specific address is undisclosed, though Hendrix claims, “if you were staying in front of Emo’s, and you had a good arm, You could throw a rock to it.”
The smaller, inside room at Emo’s will continue to host shows through December of this year, with the final show scheduled for December 24th, Christmas Eve. “We’re hoping for a proper send-off,” Hendrix said, “with bands who’ve played Emo’s in the last 14 or 15 years to say good-bye to the downtown location.”
As far as Hendrix is concerned, though, all he’s saying goodbye to is a spot of real estate.
“What makes a venue a venue is not four walls, it’s the people and the community that support it. We haven’t lost our spirit. We’re still Emo’s.”