If you caught last week’s Last Call, all you need to know is that I kept my sobriety train rolling all the way to Friday and that I was more than happy to leap off the wagon by the time Saturday rolled around. Good thing too. Whiskey Girl Saloon’s big opening was last weekend. Yes, I missed its first Friday night, and, yes, I couldn’t stick around to hear how the full bands sounded on Saturday night. But I caught a couple of decent solo acts on Saturday afternoon, and, all in all, Fort Worth’s newest venue has a pretty good vibe, especially as far as co-owner Trent Debth’s live-album ambitions go (“Whiskey Girl Saloon Opening Soon,” Monday, Sept. 24). For bands that play his club, the former Fort Worth police officer can offer them the ability to have their shows recorded for posterity, sale, and/or promotion.
I like live albums, and it’s interesting to me that there aren’t a ton of them being made around here. The primary advantage of live records is that they’re a cheap alternative to going into a studio, but what makes them worthwhile is the energy and inspiration shared between band and audience. Of course live albums capture all of the funny asides, in-jokes, and the crowd interaction, but they also catch little things, like a drummer nailing a fill he’ll never be able to do again in life or when the bass player listens to the lead guitar line and plays a melodic counterpoint that everyone in the band will forget by the next rehearsal. If a band is any good live and ends up packing a joint with people, the resulting rock ’n’ roll communion is often better than anything caught in the studio, where the safety of limitless retakes and punches often blanches the sublime recklessness found onstage.
Naturally, the skill of the soundman is crucial to a good live record, but the room itself — its vibe as well as its acoustics — plays an integral role. I’m sure a live album cut from a show at McDavid Studio downtown sounds great, but it probably also comes off a little airy. Conversely, a live album from Lola’s Saloon or The Basement Bar might not capture all of the frequencies you’d get in a finely appointed venue (or a recording studio), but it might nab plenty of the sweaty, drunken ambience that you don’t get on the former.
I never went to Rain, the erstwhile dance club that occupied Whiskey Girl’s space, but I assume the former establishment’s atmosphere was dramatically different from that of the new venue: lots of exposed wood, outlaw-courting artwork (I noticed a print on wood of two revolvers crossed above a maxim about not dialing 911), and general Texas roadhouse kitsch. Cool, fun stuff. The two bars in the main room manifest the sort of saloonish swagger that fits in with most of the Stockyards’ other watering holes. Think big mirrors, multiple shelves of whiskey and more whiskey, and Red Dirt-friendly neon. (Stillwater band No Justice has its own branded Budweiser sign near the stage.) The stage looked to be almost four feet off the ground, and while there were plenty of cocktail tables in front of it, there was also plenty of room for dancing.
Debth told me he wants to book indie-rock bands there, in addition to all of the country acts and singer-songwriter types you’d expect to find in a place called Whiskey Girl Saloon in a ’hood like the Stockyards. The Saturday-night lineup did include indie faves Calhoun, We The Sea Lions, and Sally Majestic. Maybe –– I hope –– the venue will attract a more diverse clientele, not just your workaday boots-and-Copenhagen ’pokes. He also told me, however, that he wants bands to sign a radius clause. I forget the exact details, but it didn’t sound unreasonable, like bands agreeing not to play elsewhere between the Stockyards and the West 7th corridor during the six days prior and six days following a show at Whiskey Girl. I was surprised by the names he dropped who were amenable to his policy, but I also thought of a few who would balk at having to be blacked out for shows at their usual haunts.
In any case, Fort Worth has another new place to catch live music, and if you’re a musician who’s strapped for recording cash, you should see what Whiskey Girl can do for you. –– Steve Steward
Whiskey Girl Saloon
2413 Ellis Av, FW. 817-945-2055.
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