Hole in the Wall Timeline
“Cheap Music. Fast Drinks. Live Women.” Those six words have hovered over Guadalupe Avenue for over 41 years. That’s decades before Austin had a recognized “weirdness” to preserve, back when the little city was still a best-kept secret and “south by southwest” was just a vague way to give directions. And although everything about The Drag (and some would say Austin itself) has changed over the decades, Hole in the Wall is the same hole in the wall it’s always been (well, they did get a fancy new kitchen with fusion pub grub from Top Chef’s Paul Qui). As one of the last living remnants of Austin’s freakier past, it remains a haven for fledgling bands to hone their chops, a roost where veteran punkers and bona fide rock stars return to their roots, and a permanent home for Austin’s dyed-in-the-Lady Bird lake, baptised in Barton Springs denizens. And if the wrecking ball ever comes (the bell has tolled, as it does for every classic Austin venue), the memories remain. Here’s a few keepers from Hole in the Wall’s storied, but not always savory, history:
1974: Hole in the Wall opens directly across the street from the UT Campus auditorium where Austin City Limits taped for decades, and where KUTX radio still broadcasts. The floors aren’t sticky yet. Gerald Ford’s reign has only begun. Nobody knows what a Star War is.
1975-ish: Buddies and hometown heroes Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley, exhausted from writing beautiful songs that’ll be appreciated posthumously, live rent-free under Hole in the Wall’s pool tables.
1976: Decades before being named “America’s Best Songwriter” by Time magazine, Lucinda Williams is playing the Hole for tips
1977-ish: Velvet Underground guitarist Sterling Morrison, long freed from a life of Lou Reed and Warhol, drops by the Hole every weekend to play guitar before bailing to Houston to be a tugboat captain. That’s not a joke. He was reportedly a very good tugboat captain
1983: A fresh-faced R.E.M. swings by to take snapshots of the marquee and jam on the stage. An impressed Michael Stipe says, “Mumble, garble, mmmmmmph” (he learns to enunciate around 1987).
1986: Post-punk duo Timbuk3 studies nuclear science with a crazy teacher who wears dark glasses. Things are going so great, and only getting better, that they go across the street to Hole in the Wall and perform “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” for an entire year.
1990: Mojo Nixon plays his new hit, “Don Henley Must Die.” The actual Don Henley jumps on stage and sings the chorus. Mojo Nixon pledges to rename the song after Michael Bolton. True story.
1991: Knock knock. Who’s there? Dave. Dave who? Dave Grohl, and I gotta use the bathroom because someone spilled beer in my hair, and it’s 1991, so my hair’s still really long.
1994: Knock knock. Who’s there? Courtney. Courtney who? Courtney Love, and I’m gonna stay in this bathroom as long as I wanna.
1995: Fastball chase a guitar thief down the street, trap him in an alley, eat him alive, and then write the Grammy-nominated hit, “The Way”.
1993–2014: Britt Daniel and his fledgling band Spoon start playing Hole in the Wall, and eventually become the non-fledgling indie-rock titans Spoon; Quentin Tarantino annoys a local band by requesting intentionally obscure songs and tossing out heckles that he stole from obscure Japanese cinema; John Stamos drums on a Sunday night jam; Justin Long and Drew Barrymore make out on a busted picnic table in the beer garden (they’ve been together ever since).
2015: The lease runs out in December, and the rent is going up exponentially. Owner Will Tannen says there’s a 33% chance the place will survive. But Tanner, fans, and the entire music community of Austin at large, refuse to lose hope. 33%? The odds could be much worse.