By later standards of grandiosity, that New Year’s Eve party wasn’t a huge affair — mostly just Rogers playing his iPod through some speakers — but it drew a big crowd of revelers, and it convinced him and Smith that they could get people to hang out there regularly.
“That courtyard in the back, with its half-demolished rooms and its general ‘zombie apocalypse’ appeal basically screamed, ‘Have a party!’ ” Rogers said.
So parties happened in the wheels-off fashion that would later define the venue.
Rogers envisioned a place that would become as professional as they could make it, and the clash between his sensible business model and Smith’s predilection for “event first, permits later” rubbed him the wrong way.
“The Where House existed in loopholes,” Rogers said. “Casey was really good at making sure we weren’t getting into legal trouble, but it was always kind of the least amount of legality we could get by with. I’m a little more cautious than Casey. I wanted insurance and a [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] permit.”
Smith just wanted to get rolling with the projects and parties: “Ben wanted to talk about all these ideas, to have stuff a certain way, but I just wanted to do them. For example, [when] I decided to build a stage, he didn’t agree on the height. It was just stuff like that.”
Rogers conceded that when he lived there, mostly what he and Smith did was talk rather than act on their ideas. “Plus, I wasn’t interested in living in a venue,” Rogers said. He moved out after about nine months.
“I’ll say this, though: The Where House lasted a lot longer than I ever expected, and I’m proud of Casey’s DIY ethics,” Rogers said. “He’s probably the only person who could have made it work the way it did.”
While Rogers lived there, the space began to take shape. Quaker City Night Hawks bassist Pat Adams worked for Smith’s construction business and began helping him furnish the space as well as being the main contact for booking.
“At first it was just a shop with some people living there,” Adams said. “But I helped Casey build the stage, the bar, the partitions in the back. Pretty soon, it was kind of turning into this big thing, with lots of people coming in, booking shows.”
Quaker City had come together as a band around this time. They rehearsed in one of the rooms in the small separate building on the property, and in the fall of 2009, they played the first show at The Where House, opening for The Orbans, Telegraph Canyon, and Burning Hotels, pretty much the three biggest Fort Worth bands at the time. This would be the same lineup, minus The Orbans, at The Where House’s final show five years later.