The Austin Chronicle

Playback: Holy Mountain Closing Oct. 1

By Kevin Curtin, June 26, 2015, Music

Leases are time bombs in Austin's increasingly exorbitant real estate market. As the contract ticks down, rent hikes turn meteoric, and if the renter can't compensate ... Kaboom!

So goes the fate of Seventh Street venue Holy Mountain, which will expire with its lease on October 1. Casualties of the pricing boom, owners were confronted with a 45% rent increase, putting their monthly bill at $8,000 plus "triple net" fees – taxes, insurance, and maintenance – totaling in the thousands. It's an unmanageable figure for the club to sustain, confirms co-owner James Taylor.

A small room with big ambitions, Holy Mountain opened on New Year's Eve 2012 in the revamped shell of erstwhile hipster chain Beauty Bar. Under the ownership of Taylor and Jared Cannon, Bart Butler, Niraj Mehdiratta, Ryan Cano, and Aaron Berkowitz, the 200-capacity club made all the right moves to remain relevant: nurturing homegrown acts, hosting rising (inter)nationals (like Kate Tempest's recent sellout), and participating in festivals including South by Southwest, Chaos in Tejas, Fun Fun Fun, and Weird City Hip-Hop. They also became models of community involvement, with Taylor spearheading Red River Cultural District initiatives.

Yet good citizenship counts for little in this seller's market, where top dollar trumps culture. Holy Mountain took over a five-year contract inked by Beauty Bar in 2010, and Taylor says that, until April, they were optimistic about re-signing. The partners tried negotiating an extension with landlord Jim Daywood to no avail.

"I'm not going to walk away from the terms of the lease thinking that those three years were wasted," says Taylor. "The landlord can take away the property, but he can't take away the time Mos Def played at Holy Mountain, or the time half of the Neville Brothers played with Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, or when the Cro-Mags stood onstage and talked about how important DIY all-ages hardcore venues are.

"All of us got into this because we came from booking shows, throwing parties, or being in bands," he continues. "If we're going out, we're going out doing the best damn shows possible."

Taylor's filling Holy Mountain's September calendar with old favorites and bucket-list acquisitions. They'll host a weekly "Super Secret Special Guest Series" on Mondays, bringing in mega-artists for underplays announced on the day of the show. Beyond marquee bookings such as Lætitia Sadier of Stereolab (9/17), familial locals will soundtrack Armageddon: Hard Proof, Not in the Face, Feral Future, East Cameron Folkcore, Harvest Thieves, Ben Ballinger, and Mike & the Moonpies, who'll be the last band to play Holy Mountain.

The issue of venues struggling to survive overvalued rents remains a citywide concern. An active example exists next door to Holy Mountain, where Red 7 is currently in negotiations with the same landlord, who's seeking to raise the monthly payment from $9,000 to $14,000. Red 7 partner Jared Cannon tells "Playback" they're working to re-sign their lease, which also ends September 30, but haven't secured a contract.

Meanwhile, prospective tenants have toured the building at 617 E. Seventh Street. A restaurant's already looked at the space, but the notable potential lessee is a consortium of well-known club owners and higher-ups at a local concert promotions company. A new music venue would help sustain Red River's vaunted culture, but one source close to the matter pointed out that it's specious for music community leaders to ignore Holy Mountain's initial distress signal and instead seize the opportunity to advance a new venture.

News of Holy Mountain's closing comes at a time when the frustrations of Austin venue owners are boiling over. On Tuesday night, some 25 club operators convened at the Hole in the Wall for an impromptu summit discussing issues including permitting, encroaching development, and how to effectively represent their concerns to city government. Consensus was clear: unite and fight or continue to be abused.

You now have 98 nights to enjoy Holy Mountain. Make some memories before it joins the annals of bygone venues.

Institute Cooks Tamale House

The Sunday morning breakfast patrons at Tamale House couldn't have suspected what the cozy Eastside taqueria would look like that night: thick with smoke-machine fog and packed wall-to-wall with punks – the new breed, with tucked-in T-shirts and ill-fitting strapback hats – all sparking self-injury, nudity, and mayhem.

It was the singular local tour stop for Institute, a young Austin post-punk quartet whose wretched insurgence burgeons nationally with this month's Catharis LP, released by Brooklyn tastemaker label Sacred Bones. The platter collides a colorfully melodic drive with discordant vocal garble that zaps all righteousness, frustration, and bravado out of punk and replaces it with immense self-hatred.

Singer Moses Brown reflects it in his posture. Hunched over like he's taken a kick to the balls and slurring like his tongue's a luxury he doesn't deserve, he takes being pitiful to a level of performance art. "Beat me to a pulp till you can't recognize me!" he wailed in "Admit I'm Shit" as the crowd crashed around to the wrench-tight basslines of Adam Cahoon and a woman yanked up her shirt, pulled down her pants, and charged ass-backwards into the pit.

Eventually, Brown collapsed face-first onto hard tile, allowing the crowd to lift him back up, then fell back down again. When the band stopped, he rose, spitting and smiling. His outward misery wasn't a plea for deliverance, just good, clean fun.

Half Notes

The Chronicle Cookout reps a diverse slab of Austin rap at the Scoot Inn on Saturday, 5pm, free (see "Music Listings"). Arrive early for a master class in Southern hustle from Country Cousins and stay late for the dreamy production of Eric Dingus backing League of Extraordinary Gz sparkplug Dowrong. In between, catch neo-soul femcee Alesia Lani, lyrically dexterous hip-hop crew Subkulture Patriots, and gritty street poets Mindz of a Different Kind.

Slim Richey receives the ultimate afterparty Sunday at Fischer Hall outside Wimberley. The free-spirited jazz guitarist, who died of lymphoma May 31, gets toasted by friends, fans, and fellow musicians at the event, which begins at 2pm and carries on all night with camping. Bring booze, a dish to pass, but most importantly an instrument.

Scorpion Child stings the Belmont Friday with a release show for their new 7-inch. The local quartet that bridges stoner and glam rock was captured in concert by Austin scene documenters the Good Music Club, who pressed the live cuts to colored vinyl. GMC's Richard Whymark says pre-sales have been nuts with orders coming from all over the globe.

Saints of Valory join an exclusive group of locals including Los Lonely Boys, Ian Moore, and the Bump Band by securing an opening slot for the Rolling Stones. The eternal UK bad boys, who passed through Dallas earlier this month (revisit "Live Shots," June 12), also host Rascal Flatts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 4.

Cheer Up Charlies owner Tamara Hoover, who's currently watching her patio become a construction site due to encroaching development (see "Cheer Ups Cheerless Over Development," June 26), says she won't use her five-year option when the venue's lease expires in 2019. "I'll tell you right now I have no interest in signing again," she told "Playback." "I'm just fed up. I'm so sick and tired of landlord BS."

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