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Author Topic: Riverside Rock
Old Timer
Posts: 17
Post Riverside Rock
on: October 1, 2013, 00:22

The Back Room was at 2021 E. Riverside – I remember Dan and Dave were regulars on Dead Day Thursdays.

The Back Room was on what was considered the wrong side of town, even back then. When the throng of sweating masses exited the club at 2 a.m., the club offered a security escort to unescorted women so that they could walk to their car at night's end without problems.

But, even with it's perception of being in the wrong place, it was the place to listen to great music for an inexpensive cover. It was always filled with great people and great music for those into variety, as you could find just about anything from metal to religious music on any given night.

Owner Ronnie Roark had a model that was considered different at the time, but it worked. He would consistently pay top dollar for the acts, charge less for the cover, and make up the difference at the bar and on the pool tables. It worked as long as people wanted to hear the acts, drink and play pool. But, to do that, it had to have great acts to pull the people into the club, even with the lower ticket price.

The Back Room had a 30+ year run as Austin's Rock Club. It was not the best venue in town, but it managed to book the acts that pulled the people in. Roark, ace in the hole was to hire Jim Ramsey as his booking agent in 1986 and for seven years, Ramsey and his crew filled the club with both local and touring acts - Dangerous Toys, Pariah, Zero Tolerance, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Steve Earle, Jane's Addiction, Dragon's Lair, Golden Tee, Alice in Chains, Extreme, Spoon, Dig/Seed, Unloco, Ritalin/Riddlin' Kids, Junkyard, Johnny Law and Lance Keltner.

Ramsey had already created a name for himself, booking U2 into Club Foot when he owned it. He was almost single-handedly responsible for South Park Meadows, and brought the Police to Austin in 1983. His office was high above what had been the sacred ground that the Armadillo had sat on, at One Texas Center, and his cohorts included Tim O'Connor, French Smith, Marc Proct, Brad Meyer and Steve Hauser who became a vice-president at William Morris Nashville. This group made Austin the Live Music Capitol of Austin, just as much, if not more than the brave club owners and the throngs of musicians who climbed onto the stage for little more than beer money over the years.

When Ramsey ceased booking the acts, the job was taken over by a series of Back Room employees including Mark Olivarez who was the bar manager, Mike Boudreaux who had been head of security, Phil Nitch who ran sound.

A side note: It was at the Back Room that I met this strange kid from Cabot, Vermont that opened one night for one of the larger acts. Years later, while I was living in the small town of Real de Catorce, Mexico, I was having dinner at Restaurante Abundancia, when this guy walks in and started playing. I thought, I know him, and I did. It was Ethan Azarian, the musician and artist from Austin that I had seen all those years ago at the Back Room. Check him out at online.

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