Final Countdown

Thirty-three years of Back Room shows and events can hardly be summed up in one timeline

True Believers
True Believers

Thirty-three years of Back Room shows and events can hardly be summed up in one timeline, but with the end of this established venue in our sights, it's worth a try. Great roadshows and historic local shows have come and gone from the Riverside metal mecca, but more important is its spread of genres. What reads metal today had its turn in folk rock, alt-rock, and even a few bouts of country. Panned together from talks with regulars, bookers, and years of ads and notices, a spotlight review follows. Just remember, as the ad used to say, "A Neat Appearance Is Required."Nov. 1973: Back Room opens its doors at 2021 E. Riverside, now a ThunderCloud Subs. For nearly a decade, the live shows include residencies by W.C. Clark, Stephen Doster, and Angela Strehli, among others.

Late Seventies: Back Room moves to 2015 E. Riverside and transforms the Copper Dollar biker bar into a massive game room.

1981: Wayne Nagel takes over as talent buyer.

April 1985: The Back Room expands to double its size.


April 4, 1985: Austin all-star band the True Believers takes the Back Room stage for the first time.

April 10, 1985: British metal trio Raven plays, possibly the Back Room's first metal show.

July 5, 1985: The Unforgiven play before their Willie's 4th of July Picnic appearance; Willie Nelson joins them onstage for 30 minutes.

July 11, 1985: Megadeth opens for Exciter.

Late 1985: Wayne Nagel leaves the Back Room to go on the road with Charlie Sexton. Jim Ramsey takes over as talent buyer.

Final Countdown

Jan. 29 & 30, 1988: The Ramones rock Halfway to Sanity.

March 1988: Dangerous Toys sign to Columbia Records after their SXSW Back Room showcase, during the second SXSW Music Fest.

May 4, 1988: Molly Hatchet plays, eight days before Foghat.

Jan. 13, 1989: Jane's Addiction

April 23, 1989: Mother Love Bone opens for Dogs D'Amour; less than a year later, lead singer Andy Wood dies of a heroin overdose.

Warren Zevon
Warren Zevon

June 29, 1989: Danzig

March 1990: Pariah plays their SXSW showcase at the Back Room; eight major labels scout the show, and the band signs with Geffen.

Sept. 29, 1990: Modern English stops the world and melts with the Back Room.

Oct. 16, 1990: Alice in Chains opens for Extreme.

Nov. 15, 1990: Warren Zevon makes one of many Back Room appearances.

Kiss Hoot Nite
Kiss Hoot Nite

Nov. 27, 1990: Alice in Chains opens for Iggy Pop.

Jan. 27, 1991: "Back Room Superbowl Party featuring Jim's legendary kickass championship chili" – one of many fiestas.

Oct. 9, 1991: Pearl Jam brings grunge to the Back Room stage for less than 100 people after a Sound Exchange in-store. While doing a legendary rafter climb, Eddie Vedder's locks catch in the fire sprinkler head; the hair remained there until the stage was switched around years later.

Nov. 30, 1991: Dallas' Pantera blows the P.A. system with their first note, literally; the show is rescheduled for Dec. 7.

April 13, 1992: Mr. Bungle

Public Enemy
Public Enemy

April 25, 1992: Widespread Panic

May 21, 1992: Blur

June 1, 1992: Kiss Hoot Nite, one of the first of many to come, including Van Halen Hoot, Aerohoot, Metallihoot, and ZZ Hoot.

June 28, 1992: On their Opiate tour, Tool opens for the Rollins Band; it's the first early, all-ages show at the Back Room.

Oct. 1, 1992: The Back Room wins best P.A. System in the Best of Austin Critics Poll.

Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Vega

Oct. 2, 1992: Motörhead makes one of many Back Room appearances.

Oct. 15 & 19, 1992: Public Enemy

Nov. 3, 1992: Mary's Danish plays a free K-NACK show, and Bill Clinton is elected president.

Dec. 2, 1992: Stone Temple Pilots

Dec. 5, 1992: Asia reunites and plays the Back Room.


Dec. 12, 1992: Trance Syndicate Showcase: Ed Hall, Pain Teens, and the Cherubs.

Jan. 2, 1993: Ice-T & Body Count roll through on their Cop Killer tour; cops line up backstage.

Jan. 3, 1993: Ice Cube

Feb. 12, 1993: Great White

Feb. 28, 1993: Suzanne Vega

Jim Rose Circus
Jim Rose Circus

March 9, 1993: Rage Against the Machine opens for House of Pain.

June 3, 1993: Toto follows in Asia's footsteps with a Back Room reunion show.

Early 1994: Jim Ramsey hands the reigns over to Mark Olivarez as talent buyer, who worked his way up from barback.

Jan. 15, 1994: Warrant plays "Cherry Pie," and everyone gets a perm.

March 31, 1994: Pantera plays a "secret show" as Cowboys From Hell; a line forms around the club to get day-of-only tickets.


Nov. 17, 1994: GWAR, Skatenigs, Buzzoven – classic.

Jan. 14, 1995: Marilyn Manson makes his first Austin appearance, and the band is wearing jeans.

June 6, 1995: Friends gather outside the Back Room after learning of Pariah bassist Sims Ellison's suicide.

Sept. 21, 1995: Spoon

Oct. 20, 1995: Deftones open for Monster Magnet.

Bun B
Bun B

May 19, 1996: 2 Live Crew incites the Back Room crowd to fisticuffs, and cops are called in to empty the club. Not a pretty sight.

Feb. 27, 1997: "The New Jim Rose Circus! Female Sumo Wrestling Championships! Mexican Transvestite Wrestling! See the Man with Horns Growing from His Forehead! As seen on X-Files, The Simpsons, Lollapalooza, and the NIN tour!"

Nov. 8, 2003: Dangerous Toys headlines the Back Room's 30th anniversary show.

Feb. 27, 2004: Drifter and Mindcrime – two favorite Back Room tribute bands – perform as Iron Maiden and Queensrÿche, respectively.

July 23, 2004: W.A.S.P.

Jada Pinkett Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith

Aug. 20, 2004: Soulfly

Oct. 2004: Mark Olivarez steps aside as booker and hands off to Eddie Vasquez, Sean McCarthy, Tammy Moore, and eventually Phillip Nitch, aka Captain Phleabag, singer of pirate band the Jolly Garogers.

Feb. 2005: Mark Burnett Productions holds auditions for a new INXS lead singer at the Back Room. Ouch.

Summer 2005: General manager Sean McCarthy's son James Dean begins promoting hip-hop at the Back Room, following several years' worth of successful SXSW hip-hop showcases. Locals Dirty Wormz stoke the fire, and soon acts like Bun B, Devin the Dude, Trae, and Bavu Blakes follow suit.

Oct. 2005: The Back Room beer garden opens in response to Austin's new smoking ban and caters to a less black-clad crowd.

Dec. 4, 2005: Jada Pinkett Smith rocks with Wicked Wisdom.

July 15, 2006: Deicide makes one last Back Room appearance.

July 29, 2006: The Back Room's farewell show. A big chapter of Austin metal writes its last page.

  • More of the Story

  • Welcome to the Jungle

    Metal and alt-rock collide and flourish during the Back Room's glory years
  • Exit Pole

    Jason McMaster reflects on the passing of the Back Room

    The Player

    Jim Ramsey reflects on the passing of the Back Room

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