The Black Cat Lounge was a bar in Austin, Texas. It was on 6th Street in Austin's downtown district. The Black Cat was a second home to many of us, we grew up there. It was a hole in the wall, a real dive. Three dollars for the most expensive beer at the bar, two dollars would get you a Lone Star tall boy. A place where no one knew your name, but after a while they learned your face and would greet you with a firm handshake. It had always looked like they had put a roof over an alley way. Describing how to get there was always by omission. "You know the 311 club? You know the Scruffy's Food Mart? Yeah, it is the dark hole between them"
On August 6th at about four in the morning the Black Cat Lounge burned to the ground. It was an electrical fire, apparently sparked by the ATM machine attached to the front of the bar. No one was hurt, but one of the bands that played there Friday night had left their equipment there. When I got there the fire had been out for a long time, and the bar was still smoldering a bit. I stayed long enough to see them start pulling down the front face of the building, it was going to collapse of it's own weight. It was about all I could take.
They let anyone in, unless you had a history of causing trouble there. There was always a diverse crowd on a Saturday night. Rednecks to frat boys, hippy to greasers, tattooed maniacs to college professors. The only requirement was that you be brave enough to come through the door. A biker bar to the T, they let anyone with a motorcycle license in free, no question. The place didn't even have a phone. If you wanted to play there, you walk in and audition, like everyone else.
An Austin landmark, it has been owned by the Sessums family since 1984. There was a shrine to Paul Sessums Sr. sitting on top of the broken beer cooler. A picture of him smiling, candles and a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon that it was rumored to have held his ashes. I had always joked about wanting the same for myself.
- Walking up to see someone getting thrown out into the street, laughing with the girl at the door saying "Looks like y'all made room for me."
- Dancing with hundreds of different girls, spinning gleefully through the night.
- Withstanding two punches from a huge skinhead and dragging him out the front with my friends, only to have him buy me a beer three weeks later.
- Falling in with the Flametrick Subs, going from fan to roadie. Learning every Saturday night just what goes into making a live show happen.
- Swing dancing with a 5 foot tall punk rock girl with a two foot mohawk.
- Turbo breaking the door, kicking it open to kick someone out.
- Finding out that a skinhead friend was gay, and sharing a good laugh with him about it.
- Gaining a grudging acceptance from the old regulars, and eventually becoming one myself.
- Rebuilding the stage with Jeteer, Aaron, Mike and Chad. Feeling like I was giving back to the place that had given me so much.
- Finding my place in the world. Home.
I remember the first time I went there. I was dragged there by my pal Logan. Being mostly a homebody I had been down to 6th Street only infrequently, when he finally talked me into going down. I remember being kind of nervous walking up to the place. You could hear the music spilling out into the street as you walked up, psychobilly tearing into the night. As we walked through the door and saw the place packed, lit only in red. Buying a beer and working our way forward we squirmed up to the stage where the Subs had switched to a slower song, and Satan's Cheerleaders were grinding evilly to 'The Way I Walk'. I was in love. With the band, the girls, the bar, the atmosphere, the night and the people. I caught a glimpse of my future that night, and I haven't looked back since.