Culture / Newsy

Iconic Houston Concert Venue’s Demise Has Been Exaggerated

It’s a Breakup, Not a Shutdown

BY // 08.07.15

After August 29, 2015, an important chapter of the Fitzgerald’s story will be over and a new one will begin. That’s the date of the final Pegstar-booked show at the almost-100-year-old concert venue. While the concert — featuring local acts like Buxton, Wild Moccasins, Sideshow Tramps and Young Mammals — is labeled the “final show,” that doesn’t mean Fitzgerald’s on White Oak is shuttering its doors forever. But it does mean that perhaps the most exciting chapter of the Fitzgerald’s story will definitively come to an end.

The building that houses Fitzgerald’s was built in 1918 by the local Polish community as a gathering spot (called Dom Ploski, members cooked food downstairs and enjoyed it upstairs — with plenty of dancing thrown in for good measure). The building was purchased in 1978 by namesake Sara Fitzgerald, who turned the venue into a home for fledgling local acts to blossom and under-the-radar out-of-towners to stop by. In 2010, the hall was taken over by concert promoter Pegstar, a group of people (including Johnny So, Jagi Katial and Omar Afra) who turned it into a hub for slightly bigger names to come through Houston; acts as diverse as SolangeCharli XCX, Big Boi, Riff Raff, St. Vincent and Caribou have all graced the stage in the past five years, making Fitzgerald’s a spot for indie and indie-friendly artists.

Keeping with the original spirit of Fitzgerald’s, it was also a spot for local acts to develop, including now nationally recognized names like The Suffers, The Tontons and Fat Tony. Where before acts on this scale would be scattered throughout Walter’s, Warehouse and Numbers, for five years Fitzgerald’s rebuilt its reputation as being ground zero for this type of performer and their fans.

Citing noise complaints, general comfort, safety, parking and even the trouble of loading musical instruments up flights of stairs, Pegstar made the departure from Fitzgerald’s official in an open letter posted on the Fitzgerald’s website. There are limitations on what a nearly century-old concert venue can do, as regulars would no doubt attest. But in addition to all these reasons, another simple fact is that Pegstar has already begun building a new concert venue scheduled to open in the spring of 2016, dubbed White Oak Music Hall.

Bigger stages, more parking, more bathrooms, more space and a more convenient location just minutes away from the Metro Rail, White Oak Music Hall could be considered Fitzgerald’s Redux: bigger, newer, better. Pegstar will fill the time between August 29 and spring 2016 booking shows at Rudyard’s, Numbers, Warehouse Live and Walter’s.

In the meantime, current Fitz sound engineer Lauren Oakes will take helm of Fitzgerald’s when Pegstar departs, after renovating the club’s sound and lighting systems, improving the parking situation and generally giving the place a facelift. It is expected to reopen sometime in October. Transmission, a concert-promotion group responsible for Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest and booking shows in that city, will help take charge at Fitzgerald’s when it reopens later this fall.

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