Things to do: 22nd anniversary of the Continental Club

It’s the 20-year anniversary delayed by two years of COVID-19, The Continental Club of Houston is set to celebrate its 20th/21st/22nd anniversary on Saturday July 16th with a full night of shows on the main stage at the Continental Club and on the nearby smaller stage at Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge.

The free event will begin at 6 p.m. and will include performances by Johnny Falstaff, The Allen Oldies Group, Bayou City Funk, kalo, Shame on me, Luba Dvorak, Lethal Jets, Christopher Seymore, The lonely lairs and Houston’s ass

“We always tried to do this as a thank you to all the people for coming all year and giving us another year. People make it happen,” says club owner Pete Gordon.

Due to the pandemic, the Continental Club was unable to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2020 and was unable to celebrate the following year either due to COVID conditions.

“We have to throw a party so big it spans three birthdays,” says talent scout Allen Hill, who has performed frequently and been involved with the club since day one.

“We have to throw a party so big that it spans three birthdays.”

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It all started in Austin on one of the capital’s most iconic streets, South Congress, where the original Club Continentalowned by Houstonian Steve Wertheimer, has been open since 1955 and initially served as a posh supper club before becoming a mecca for live music and a breeding ground for local and national talent.

Gordon moved to Austin from Washington D.C. after connecting with Wertheimer through Gordon’s band at the time, The Neptunes. Gordon was involved with the Austin club and both knew they wanted to grow and build on the Continental Club’s longstanding legacy. They decided that Houston was a more realistic city to buy property than Austin.

Wertheimer and Gordon reached out to the developer and friend from Houston Bob Schultz. Says Shultz, “I had been nagging Steve for a long time to come to Houston. Then one day he called and said, ‘I’m going to introduce you to your new best friend,’ referencing Gordon.

Shultz took the two all over town to see potential locations for the club, but the location at 3700 Main Street, built in the 1930s, haunted them all. Despite the rough exterior and a tough surrounding neighborhood, they could tell the building had potential with its decorative and still functional neon lights hanging from the printed tin ceiling and the black and white tiled floor that has now seen countless footsteps. dancers.

“It was interesting because Wertheimer always had a good sense of vintage and you could tell we were going to do something really cool with it. There was a real feeling of that,” Shultz says.

The band did something beyond “cool” and slowly built up the entire Mid Main area focusing on preserving buildings and supporting not only the musicians who play the club, local or not, but also opening the Mid Main Lofts above all local bars, restaurants and shops nearby, making it one of our few mixed-use pedestrian areas in the city.

“We just wanted it to be authentic and to be from Houston,” Schultz says. “People would be like, ‘Oh man, this place reminds me of Congress South. and Pete was like, ‘That should remind you of Houston.’

Over the years, the Continental Club has hosted not only live music, but also fundraisers, weddings, memorial services and more. “It’s become a much bigger thing than the club now. I love how this club has also become a community center for the neighborhood,” says Gordon.

Their survival and their ability to develop the region have not been without difficulties; recessions, the long and messy process of building the METRO Rail, flooding and COVID, but it’s the club’s courage and ability to bring people together that has helped it maintain its place in Houston’s music landscape .

“It’s been amazing to watch this neighborhood grow,” says Gordon, who did most of the work on the buildings himself with help from his friends and team. “When I came here in 1999, it was me and a thousand tramps here. People didn’t even know this neighborhood existed.

The team continued to explore and acquire the block finding treasure after treasure behind the stucco facades of the old structures and, instead of demolishing them, decided to give them a facelift and maintain the integrity of the structures. historical buildings.

“Bob is the greatest at saving things and keeping things the way they should be,” Gordon says. Schultz, who had worked in nightclubs and bars before, knew firsthand the importance of maintaining a cohesive culture around the club to not only preserve an atmosphere but also to promote a sense of safety and community.

As they launched the Continental Club and began to attract people to this rarely visited part of town, they saw the need for more options on the block, including a place to eat before and after shows, which which led them to create the recently expanded Take-out tacos.

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The festive outdoor entrance to Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge.

Photo by Violeta Alvarez

Five years after the Continental Club opened, before acquiring the spacious courtyard, Gordon began cleaning up what is now Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge in hopes of creating a smaller stage to showcase local artists.

Once he started tearing down the drop ceiling and removing the many layers of paint, he discovered a beautifully preserved circus-themed mural along the walls from the 1950s when the room was owned by Playhouse Toys. Frank family.

Gordon took the theme and ran with it creating one of Houston’s fanciest bars centered on playful imagery of clowns, toys, year-round Christmas lights and the king of rock and roll Elvis Presley whose name rightly shines in large bright lights every evening in the garden. of the club.

“It’s inviting and it’s fun,” says Hill, who curates the funky little venue named after a real shoe shiner and friend of Gordon’s who had planned to join the club before he passed away. “I can book anything from a solo singer-songwriter and turn it into a listening room to have a punk band. This piece can be anything.

The fact that club owners and operators are primarily music fans seeps into club programming, as they often provide space for artists like Archie Bell, Wanda Jackson and the late Roy Head, preserving rock and roll in the process and celebrating these artists before it’s too late.

Continental clubs as well as Shoeshine Charley’s also served as a launching pad for artists or as a first stop for touring bands who then performed at much larger venues and festivals.

“The fact that Ronnie Wood finished a Rolling Stones show and came to the Continental Club is the epitome of that and how cool that is,” Hill says.

The relationship between the club and the musicians has always been a symbiosis that seems to blossom naturally, creating a full circle between owners and operators, most of whom are musicians and know the ins and outs of the business, the bands playing and fans.

“The magic is when you have the right group with the right crowd and the right club and then it creates something of shared energy and greater than the sum of its parts. It’s all built around those interactions and it there’s a lot of love and energy to facilitate communication,” says Hill.

For 22 years, the Continental Club has hosted many weekly events and residencies such as Bingo Nights in the First Years at Tango Mondays, Beetle Allen Oldies Thursdays every New Years, and Disco Expressions commemorating the holidays throughout the year. year.

“We really try to treat all musicians and bands with respect and we try to make it fun and easy for them and hopefully the bands will do the same with us,” says John “Goodtime” Smith, who managed the club. for the last 12 years.

Many of the club’s frequent performers are part of the continental carousel of musicians who split duties among several groups, further cementing the sense of community in the area and contributing to the growth of Houston’s music scene as a whole.

“Steve Wertheimer in Austin has always done a great job of nurturing talent. He sees something he likes and he goes out of his way to help them get off to a good start and I’ve always looked up to that as an example,” says Gordon.

Celebrating legends and helping younger bands is what has kept the Continental Club going and what will continue to drive them into the future. “I’m fascinated that we’re the old guard now,” says Hill, who understands the importance of introducing new bands. Hopefully fans new and old will continue to come to Mid Main to eat, shop and rock.

“Support live music,” Gordon encourages. “Come on, have fun, let yourself go, let your hair down, have a beer and be nice to people.”

The Continental Club Houston 20th/21st/22nd Anniversary Bash will be held Saturday, July 16 at the Continental Club and Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge, 3700 Main. Doors at 6 p.m., free.

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