I remember the first time I ever set foot inside The Studio. My friend Renee took me there. She was a concert promotor at the time, and was friends with an intense local band named Bozo Porno Circus. They had a very cool studio that was located in the heart of the Montrose neighborhood. Soon after that introduction to the place, I was asked to join the band, a decision that would radically change the direction of my life for several years. Possibly forever.
The Studio was located right next to a nondescript mom-and-pop convenience store about a block from the major intersection of Montrose Boulevard and Richmond Avenue. I’d probably passed the place without noticing a hundred times in the past. To the left of the convenience store’s entrance was a blacked out door and display window. A location that spawned so much Houston music was hidden in plain sight.
“The Studio” was Bozo Porno Circus’s home base, and was a nice set up. It was big enough for a large band like BPC to comfortably practice, was a good storage place for the numerous props and gear that we needed to perform, and was also set up as a recording studio. It was decidedly not fancy but it was one of the better practice rooms I’d ever seen, definitely nicer than any of the band rehearsal complexes that I’d been in prior to that.
As that band became a second family to me, the studio became a second home, and I spent almost every day there for several years. The studio had a benefactor and “System Administrator” named Al that kept the technical end of things running smoothly, while also paying a lot of the bills.
I wouldn’t know it at the time, but Al would go on to become a very good friend of mine over the years.
Without getting into the history of the bands that played in the studio back then, eventually BPC moved on and Asmodeus X became the main client. Even though my band had left, I liked the space enough to want to keep my foot in the door. Spaces like that one were not something I ran across often, and I’d grown quite fond of it over the few years I’d been there.
So I made a deal with Al, and my catch-all music project Pitchforque moved in. By then, the studio was known as Fjardeson Studios and other bands had found homes there.
Honestly, the place meant more to me as a gathering place for creative types and a club house as much as anything else, but it also was the location of a lot of great music over the years.
I became a much less frequent visitor over the last three or four years. There were many reasons for that, primarily a demanding work schedule out in the real world, and I sort of lost touch with the newer bands filtering through the place. Most of those people seemed to view the place as just another practice facility, and a lot of the comradeship that had made The Studio such an important part of my world seemed to taper off. Things change. Places change too. That might be one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in life. Change is inevitable, and it’s probably best to accept that reality rather than to attempt to hold on to something forever.
The Montrose has been gentrifying for the last twenty years at least, and recently it seems like that process has accelerated. It’s sapped away a lot of what made the neighborhood interesting to me, and it’s also made rents skyrocket.
The seemingly inevitable cycle of a neighborhood becoming desirable because of its local color, and then driving out the creative types that gave it its specialness is in high gear. The owners of The Studio property, the family owning the convenience store next door, doubled the rent. Taking it steadily from a “great deal” into “almost a mortgage payment” territory.
Al couldn’t really hang on anymore, and no one else could afford it either. The Studio was going to go away. I actually teared up when I heard the news. Places become a big part of our lives, and like a seemingly eternal family home, it was a shock to realize that the source of so many good times would soon be gone, replaced by a stupid nail salon or flower shop, something ordinary and lame.
But that’s life. I realized that with the loss of the actual place, a location I’d been a part of for over fifteen years, that the friendships I’d made there were the really important things, and that those will last forever.
The Studio will always be part of who I am, and its memory will last the rest of my life. I imagine some of the other people that were a part of that place feel the same way.
801 Richmond Avenue. I will always remember that place.