A Hole In The Wall opens in Austin

This Week in Texas Music History, a Hole in the Wall opens in Austin.

A Hole In The Wall opens in Austin

Jason Mellard from the Center for Texas Music History at Texas State University

On June 15, 1974, fifty years ago, Billie and Doug Cugini opened the Hole in the Wall as a casual bar across the street from the University of Texas at Austin. It didn’t book music from the beginning, but enough musicians hung out there in the progressive country heyday that it started to foster performance as a natural next step. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Doug Sahm, and Townes Van Zandt spent time there, but the Hole really excelled in fostering new and eccentric talent.

Take Timbuk 3, the folk-rock duo of Pat MacDonald and Barbara K, who played the Hole in the Wall accompanied by rhythm tracks on cassette. Bookings at the Hole paved their way to an appearance on MTVand the indelible 80s hit “The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades.” It wasn’t the only top 40 single forged in the Hole. In 1998, another venue stalwart, the band Fastball, found national success with the wistful love song “The Way.”

A whole book could be written on the music made in the Hole in the Wall between the years of those two hits, 1986 and 1998. That it was across the street from the Austin City Limits studios also meant that big names popped by now and again, a surprise visit from Emmylou Harris or a Don Henley game enough to sit in with Mojo Nixon for a rousing version of “Don Henley Must Die.” 

There’s a Spoon music video and Alejandro Escovedo’s glam project Buick MacKane, an early Nanci Griffith residency and seedy lore on Courtney Love. In 1998, bar manager Debbie Rombach purchased the venue, and it changed hands again after a short closure in 2002.

JORDAN VONDERHAAR ‘Wall of Regulars’ at Hole In The Wall

Throughout, the Hole in the Wall platformed local bands in a rapidly changing Austin, which is all the more reason to celebrate the victories of its fiftieth anniversary: a new lease on life supported by financial assistance from Austin’s Iconic Venue Fund.

Sources:

Michael Corcoran, “Birth, Death, and Revival of Hole in the Wall,” January 30, 2022. https://michaelcorcoran.substack.com/p/birth-death-and-revival-of-the-hole 

Erinn Park in Laurie E. Jasinski, Gary Hartman, Casey Monahan, and Ann T. Smith, eds. The Handbook of Texas Music. Second Edition. Denton, TX: Texas State Historical Association, 2012.

Barry Shank. Dissonant Identities: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Scene in Austin, Texas. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.

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