Red River Music Venue Barracuda Closes
Rent due and no revenue, thriving club shutters
By Kevin Curtin,
12:30PM, Wed. Jun. 10, 2020
In what ranks as the most devastating loss to the live original music scene Downtown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Barracuda has gone out of business.
An early morning social media post served as the bearer of bad news. “To everyone who’s walked through our doors at 611 E. 7th Street, Austin, TX: The time has come for Barracuda Club to bid adieu. From the incredible artists to our amazing staff, we thank you for making us part of your lives for the last five years. For our going away party, we ask that you share a memory of us with #Barrys4ever.”
“It’s just that we can’t keep paying rent and having no revenue – aside from t-shirt sales and fan club stuff,” explained Barracuda Senior Talent Buyer Dan Holloway on Wednesday morning.
Doubling up with a spacious inside room and an even larger, self-contained back patio for big local concerts, roadshows, and South by Southwest, the club opened in the winter of 2015 at the address where Red 7 previously held reign before being bucked by high rent. At that time, the future of the live music scene on Red River appeared in doubt, which Barracuda proved wrong over the next five years. The club’s proprietors, which included Hotel Vegas co-owners Brian Tweedy and Jason McNeely, plus musician Max Vandever and investor Cliff White, completely transformed the space, reorienting the indoor stage, wrapping the front rooms in woodwork, and ultimately giving the property an intimate club aesthetic despite its deceptively roomy size.
“That’s the dream of every venue: you have a club where people come to see the bands then want to hang out afterwards, sit on benches outside with their friends and have drinks,” reflects Holloway. “We came as close to that as any other venue I’ve worked for. It was a bare bones set-up at the beginning, but Jason laid out his vision. It reminded me of the classic clubs I grew up with, like the Bottle Neck in Lawrence, Kansas, and the Hi Tone in Memphis, where I started booking.
“And the patio reminded me of the classic-era Emo’s. We had the opportunity to bring the bands we wanted and really put together the vibe that was envisioned for it.”
Colloquially called “Barrys,” the business quickly became a go-to spot in Austin’s heralded music scene, hosting marquee local shows while also serving as a popular room for touring acts from around the globe. It also stood out as highly utilized space for venue-oriented festivals like Levitation, Austin Terror Fest (Now Oblivian Access), and the homegrown phenomenon Free Week.
Like virtually all other Austin music interests, Barracuda suffered a devastating one-two punch in 2020. After investing heavily into the programming, production, and product for the week of SXSW, the global gathering got canceled over the threat of COVID-19. What’s followed remains a scenario where high-capacity general admission shows are unsafe to orchestrate.
Such a combination continues to threaten the livelihood of venues far and wide.