Long Live Liberty Lunch

With the final nights at the old Liberty Lunch creeping slowly around the corner, we called up a small herd of local music industry veterans and asked them for a few choice words about the club and its closing. Almost all were happy to oblige. Some of these words were spoken with anger, a few with excitement, most with the heavy sigh of inevitability -- and a hint of cautious hope. To a person they had warm words for owners J-Net Ward and Mark Pratz, and wished them luck at their new location. -- Jay Hardwig

Casey Monahan, Texas Music Office
"The City Council absolutely does not need a new City Hall, but Austin needs Liberty Lunch. My opinion is that if voters had a ballot choice between a new City Hall and an old Liberty Lunch, the latter would trounce the City Hall booster boys, hands down."

Eddie Wilson, owner, Threadgill's
"The Lunch is what it is in the minds and memories of a lot of people because of who was there and where it was and what was going on. You take a name, relocate it, and it becomes a little bit more like a car dealership. It's like moving a gift shop from the Grand Canyon to somewhere else. You can still get postcards, but it's not the Grand Canyon."

John Kunz, owner, Waterloo Records
"It's definitely bittersweet. It was bittersweet having a roof on there, too. It was nice when it was pea gravel instead of cement. It was nice when they served lunch. Things change. But I think the spirit and the music is something that can be moved to a new location, and that's what they're doing."

Craig Koon, manager, Sound Exchange
"I think it's perfect that a computer company is going in there. It's part of Kirk Watson and his minions' message to Austin: Be part of my future or get out."

Roscoe Shoemaker, former Liberty Lunch employee
"Liberty Lunch meant a lot to me, and Mark and J-Net meant a lot to me, and all the family that we had down there meant a lot to me. That's why bands loved to play there. We saw the best bands in the world. I remember seeing the Pogues puking in the middle of the afternoon, seeing the Replacements, the John Hiatt show, awesome. Probably the loudest show I ever saw was Sugar and My Bloody Valentine, which was incredibly loud. There were people coming out, honestly, with blood coming out of their ears. It was the greatest time of my life."

Robert "Beto" Skiles, Beto y los Fairlanes
"Liberty Lunch opened up Austin's music gates to African music and to reggae and ska and so many other kinds of things. It was a truly alternative place. You had politicians and you had symphony people and you had children and you had punks and you had bikers and just anyone who wanted to dance. It's sad that it's going down. I had the same feeling when the Armadillo was taken down."

Clifford Antone, Antone's Nightclub
"In 1975, we opened [the original Antone's] on Sixth and Brazos. They tore our whole block down to build a high-rise across from the Driskill. I'm still in shock over losing my original building. I sat there and watched that big ball knock it down. They'll be thinking about it a long time. They've known for many years that it was gonna happen, but it doesn't make it any easier."

Terry Lickona, Austin City Limits
"One of the strongest memories I have of Liberty Lunch is seeing kd Lang perform there for the first time with her band. It was one of those seminal moments, one of the few times that I've literally had goosebumps from hearing somebody sing for the first time, that feeling of discovering somebody."

Randy Biscuit Turner, musician:
Big Boys, Cargo Cult, Swine King
"What an institution that place is. I find it extremely sad, especially if it turns into some idiot condos. It's totally dorky. It was inevitable, being downtown, but it's a drag when it finally comes. Hopefully where they're gonna go to will make them as happy as [they were] in the past. I sure wish them good luck."

Davis McLarty, musician/booking agent
"I remember one New Year's Eve with the Ely Band. Joe's wife Sharon had decorated the stage with about 300 hubcaps from Hubcap Annie's, and Mike Crowley had rented one of those huge spotlights for the street in front of the club. When we hit the stage right before midnight, they pointed that blinding light back through the front door and onto the stage. Joe came puttering up on stage riding a motorcycle. He jumped off and we started the show. Very surreal and very much fun."

Terri Lord, musician: Sincola, Lord Douglas Phillips
"It's gonna be really sad to drive by there and see this big ugly building and say, 'That's where I got my ass kicked in the parking lot by a skinhead girl in a tight red dress; that's where I had my one true groupie experience, when I brought Mick Jones of the Clash to have a beer and see the Twinkle Brothers; that's where I snuck into SXSW disguised as Elastica. There's too many memories. Every band I've ever been in has played there."

Bill Lodwick, superfan
"The men's bathroom was the most musical bathroom I've ever been in. If the music wasn't sending you, you could go in the bathroom and pretend to take a pee. The music sounded better in there. If you didn't like the music from the bathroom, it was time to leave."

Johnny Walker, deejay, KLBJ
"What a great place. I drank more beer in Liberty Lunch than any other club, because they didn't sell tequila. It's sad that we're losing it. It seems like once again we're tearing down paradise and putting up a factory, all in the name of progress, and I think we might be moving in the wrong direction."

Louis Jay Meyers, former Liberty Lunch booker, entrepreneur
A little piece of Austin will be lost forever when Liberty Lunch moves. I remember Fourth of July and sitting on the roof watching the fireworks above Auditorium Shores, and at the same time explaining to the bands why their fans couldn't get to the club until the fireworks and traffic were over. Watching the Big Boys and Bad Mutha Goose mesmerize a packed house of kids way too young to drink -- and that those kids are over 30 now. Long live the Lunch.

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