First, I want to give some props to Penny Pub & Grill. The staff was outwardly welcoming, friendly (as West Texans tend to be) and accommodating beyond what you typically find from staff at the average venue. They set us up with dinner and beverages and wanted to be sure we felt at-home. So from the get-go, our night in San Angelo was enjoyable.
That particular evening, Saturday, September 7, was the night of the UT/BYU football game (let’s not talk about the game, please). And because Penny Pub & Grill is a sports bar in addition to a live music venue, the game was on several large screen TVs.
The kickoff for that game was rain-delayed almost two hours, which essentially pushed the entire evening’s schedule back two hours. So with extra time to kill, we got to wander around the property and stage area quite a bit. We met a local woman, for instance, who feeds a local population of stray cats. And we listened to strains of San Angelo Central High School’s marching band flow through the cool night air, as the hometown Bobcats pasted the Menlo Knights, 84-49.
But there was history awaiting me backstage. The walls in the room adjacent to Penny Pub & Grill’s stage is like a time capsule! Judging by the stickers and writing on the walls, several of Jason McMaster’s projects have graced the stage over the years, as have a number of bands found on Jeff Smith’s Saustex record label. I saw a Vallejo sticker and some record of Mark McKinney being there.
One of the first stickers I saw was actually from the Dallas band South FM. That band, fronted by vocal phenom Paco Estrada, was not only a regional sensation around DFW circa 2000 but also a big buzz band at Universal Records when I worked there right around that same time in New York City.
My bands frequently played Steamboat on 6th Street in Austin in the late 90’s. And if you were to pick a night’s line-up from there during that time, chances are you’d find a sticker or reference to those bands on the backstage walls of Penny Pub & Grill.
Mingo Fishtrap was another North Texas juggernaut, hailing out of Denton. Still playing today, they frequently made the trek down to Steamboat back then. My band 3 Penny Opera played on more than a few nights headlined by Mingo Fishtrap.
Even further back in the way-back machine, when I was still an R.A. in Moore-Hill dorm on the UT campus, we organized a few parties in our recreation room that included live bands. I believe one band that had their first (or at least very early) show in that setting was Plow Monday.
Plow Monday rawked. Their heavy sound and tight performances earned them a solid regional following, attracting gearheads and rockers alike.
One of Austin’s most beloved frontwomen over the past three (or four?) decades has been Patrice Pike. From Little Sister to Sister 7 and various incarnations since, including a major network coup on Rockstar: Supernova, Patrice’s live performance has always been among the most popular in Austin.
“Patrice Pike and the Black Box Rebellion” is scrawled on a backstage door frame. But contrary to the respect she’s earned tenfold over the years, some d-bag decided to sully the inscription with a bathroom-quality afterthought. Still, the “I was here” Patrice sig was pretty cool.
It was nice, during some unexpected downtime in the middle of West-Central Texas, to be reminded of old friendships, some great shows I’d seen, and feel welcomed by the mementos left by fellow Austin bands who’d played that stage before me.