Before It Closes, We Asked Fort Worth Musicians To Share Their Favorite Memories of The Where House.
It's hard to describe The Where House to someone that's never been there.
The short answer is that it was an old warehouse in Fort Worth that owner Casey Smith decided to convert into a music venue some years back. And that would be partly true, sure. After all, national acts including Das Racist, Stardeath & White Dwarfs, Mark Sultan and Acid Mothers Temple have all played in the space, as well as most every band in Fort Worth that's worth a damn.
Then again, that's only scratching the surface of what the place has meant to the Fort Worth music scene the last five years — or what it was like to party there. For starters, countless bands have filmed music videos in the space, including The Longshots, Un Chien, Luke Wade and, yes, even my own band, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, just to name a few.
Also? Too many album release shows happened there to count. And several bands wrote, rehearsed and played their first shows there. Hell, at least one notable Fort Worth musician even lived in the space for a pretty solid chunk of time.
Music was only half of the equation, though. I've been to bachelor parties, wedding receptions, slumber parties and hump-day parties there. I've even gotten tattooed out back — out on a patio notorious for its kiddie pools, skate ramps and dunking booths.
The Where House looked different almost every visit, too, thanks to Smith's willingness to let aspiring artists perfect their crafts by painting giant murals or building 20-foot-tall paper machete ogres. For his part, Smith welcomed it all, in turn fostering a community where creativity thrived.
This Sunday, The Where House will be hosting its last show. But before Son of Stan, Telegraph Canyon, Burning Hotels, Dark Rooms and Patriot perform as part of the venue's farewell show, we wanted to let a handful of Fort Worth musicians share their favorite memories of the place — no matter how fuzzy they are.
For whatever it's worth, here's my two cents: There's not really another place like The Where House in all of North Texas. Other places just don't handle so well the balancing act of encouraging the liquor-fueled shenanigans of a DIY space and earning the respect that comes with being a legit music venue. It was a brand of organized chaos that'll be hard to replace. And it will be missed.
Cameron Smith (War Party): “I'm trying to think of a good Where House story that would be appropriate. Its hard to pin one down because, cliche as it sounds, The Where House was really a foggy dreamland of passion and intoxication, of nights that had no end and parties that never stopped. So the specifics are all a little fuzzy. One evening, I remember watching 150 people crowd into the back courtyard to witness a drunken, out-of-practice skateboarder attempt to acid drop from the second story balcony into the quarter pipe. He slammed hard 15 or so times — always to the sound of unanimous shock and awe — but when he finally rolled away, the crowd roared with a ferocious intensity you would expect to find at Cowboy's Stadium. And this was the after-party! I don't even remember of what show it was. Anyone who has walked in those doors can tell you that the place was a funhouse — or maybe even a madhouse. It was Fort Worth's version of Warhol's Factory or perhaps even the Moulin Rouge, minus the prostitution. For many of the freaky folks of Fort Worth, it was a safe haven for any and all primal desires, a place where artists flock like moths to a porch light. Many of us have played music there, painted, written poetry and dreamed of a world free of the passionless and mundane. Lo-Life Recordings and Dreamy Soundz recorded both Group Therapy compilations there. Those are hazy memories for me, but cherished ones. So many people had their first shows, grew as artists and made lifelong connections there. And I have to believe that everyone got wet at least once — via the pool or the dunking booths or the sweat or spit from an overexcited, over-talkative socialite. I've been there covered in glow-in-the-dark paint, glitter, booze, sweat, smoke, champagne and hundreds of dancing bodies. I guess, eventually, the party does end. But no one who ever frequented The Where House will forget it any time soon. It was the clubhouse for a young scene that is continuing to find its way, and we are all sad to see it go. It'll be a difficult spot to replace.”
Jordan Richardson (Son of Stan): “Das Racist played there, and I never wore my shoes when I played there. It's the best ever. Then I'd eat Whataburger next door.”
Zachary Edwards (Ice Eater): “If there is one thing I can remember about The Where House, it's that I got drunk there. A lot. Not because I'm some raging alcoholic or anything, but because it was a magical place where the rules governing the sale and consumption of alcohol were bent to the extreme and the concepts of time and fun melded perfectly into one. It was a place where reality was subverted. It was, in a word, a community. It was the Fairmount's own private clubhouse, which I would always describe to outsiders as being like The Foot Clan's lair in the first TMNT movie, where a young Sam Rockwell would greet you at the door asking, “Regular or menthol?” I remember the first time that I went there. It was New Year's Eve of 2009 or 2010. I'm not sure. I can't remember that, specifically. But there was this band playing. I thought that I recognized some of the dudes onstage from The Moon Bar — another pivotal Fort Worth music venue that helped shape the scene that thrives today — except it was hard to tell on account of all the fog and lasers and the hundreds of people all crammed together. But I had heard that one of these dudes was in a real hot shit band from L.A., so I wanted to see what it was all about. I began to take in my surroundings. It was like I just walked into hipster Neverland and I felt right at home. I immediately noticed a large mural to my left that featured what seemed to be my likeness swallowing a cowboy made of cancer. But it turns out it was another long-haired, mustachioed dude called Jardine. The band played one of the most surreal shows I had ever seen, one that for some reason reminded me of the movie Wizards. Of course, that band was Epic Ruins, the supergroup of DFW veteran musicians, whose current bands all dominate the scene we know today, and whom I have the pleasure of sharing the stage with and calling my friends. Over the course of the next few years, I met so many wonderfully talented, creative and interesting people of the community that I love — including my bandmates in Ice Eater. Our band literally formed there. We debuted on a bill that featured a magician, an interpretive dance that took place among the dilapidated rafters and the bar band to end all bar bands, The Hanna Barbarians. Where else would you see a bill like that? We played our first shows there and rehearsed and wrote there. Like so many others, it was our home, a place where we could really be ourselves, and I say that with all sentimental sincerity. The Where House really went out of its way to not only be a special place to party but also to nurture its community and give it a foundation on which it could stand. It's a damn shame that it's gone.”
Wayne Floyd (singer-songwriter): “The Where House has served as venue to many different concerts, benefits, art shows, artistic endeavors and just flat out drunken debauchery over the last few years. For example, at The Where House I have: played shows; shot multiple music videos (Whiskey Folk Ramblers and The Longshots) and short films with Brandon Schwindt; been a part of benefits for an array of things; barbecued; gone swimming (well, more so gone wallowing around massive inflatable pools). The list goes on, too — from BB gun shoot offs to dropping in on skateboard ramps in cowboy boots to carnival-style dunking booths. The best way I could describe The Where House over the past eight years is the Foot Clan's hideout from the first TMNT movie, and [owner] Casey Smith is its Shredder.”
Steve Steward (Oil Boom): “In June of 2011, Epic Ruins played a party at The Where House; I forget the bill, but we didn't go on until after 2 a.m., so needless to say, all six of us were pretty drunk, and most of us had taken some mushrooms, thinking we would have this amazing, haggardly brilliant performance. Of course, it was awful. One of us ended up freaking out and crawling around on his hands and knees. I played most of the show with a fuzz pedal turned up way too loud, which would have been tolerable if I had played any of the right notes. Casey had set up a big kiddie pool in the back, and, after we played, I jumped into it in an effort to belly flop in two feet of water, smacking my face pretty hard on the concrete underneath the pool. It was probably around 3:30 a.m. and the party was still going, but I decided to call it a night before I did something else stupid. I remember seeing a couple of chicks got in the pool after I got out, and their tops came off as I was saying my goodbyes. I walked home looking like I'd been punched in the face. But, overall, it was a pretty rad night.”
Joey Gorman (The Longshots): “Whilst combing through all of the glory nights spent at the beloved Where House, searching for a memory that could pay my respects in full, I realized that remembering a “Where House night,” if we are talking details, is damn near impossible. The memories aren't so much foggy as they are glazed and laced with the shit dreams are made of. I could talk about how we grew into our own inside its ironically rehabilitating walls. Or I could talk about all the magical WTFs, like the rumor-turned-fact that The Where House was theoretically owned by a homeless man. The place blurred the lines, while keeping the balance, between DIY and BYOB. I could go on and on about amazing rock 'n' roll shows, music video shoots, album releases, songwriter nights, BB gun competitions, pool parties and themed labyrinths, too. But come on: If you ever paid admission or spilled talent (and or guts) at The Where House, you know that the love I'm getting at goes very well without many words other than “Holy shit! What happened?!” and “Thank you!” And, for what it's worth, Bill Murray totally missed out.”
Paul Hernandez (Bummer Vacation): “I moved here from Dallas for a reason, and things at the Where House were a big part of that. For the last several months, both War Party and Bummer Vacation have been practicing there. We decided to give up our practice space to afford a van payment so that both bands can tour more. It's called helping each other succeed, and we will be touring very soon. The Lo-Life/Dreamy Soundz compilations were recorded there, live, and both War Party and Bummer Vacation have written songs there. We played our first real show at The Where House, not even a year ago, at midnight on Valentine's Day with Leon Bridges — y'know, back before everyone wanted to be homeboy's bestfriend and claimed they'd heard of him and had his back since Day One. I got one of my favorite tattoos there, too. We'll definitely miss this place, but we will find a new home.”