Two years after legendary Austin blues club Antone’s changed ownership and shuttered its short-lived East Riverside location, the venue’s new management team has announced plans to reopen at 305 E. Fifth St. on New Year’s Eve. The show is billed as a soft opening with a grand bash scheduled for early 2016, but the entertainment should strike a chord with longtime fans of the storied Austin venue. The club has tapped notable Zydeco artist CJ Chenier to perform. The booking nods to Antone’s history. Chenier’s father, “King of Zydeco” Clifton Chenier, was the headlining performer on the first night at the club’s original location, opened by Clifford Antone on East Sixth Street in 1975.
Located roughly three blocks that point of origin, the new Antone’s is in a two story building with 5800 sq. ft. on each floor. In addition to the club’s 400 capacity main room, the space will include a gift shop/retail area downstairs and a 300 capacity upstairs room available for special events. As far as the musical roster, club owners say bookings will reflect to the club’s roots with a strong focus on blues, soul and R&B — the club’s defining sounds. Musician Zach Ernst who books the Paramount Theatre will work in conjunction with the Austin Theatre Alliance to book performances at both venues. The club plans to be open seven days a week with a mix of local bookings and touring acts.
“We are so thrilled to bring Antone’s back to the heart of downtown Austin where it all started and it’s so special to have C.J. reopen the club. It really couldn’t be anymore perfect,” said Susan Antone, a partner in the venture.
For the better part of a year following the club’s sale, the future of Antone’s was up in the air. The ownership group, led by National Geographic explorer-in-residence Spencer Wells, a Lubbock native and a UT grad, failed to secure a suitable downtown location and disintegrated in less than six months. Then in August of 2014, Wells restructured the partnership, bringing on Will Bridges, a partner in Arlyn Studios and Lambert’s BBQ and Austin guitar hero Gary Clark Jr., who pledged to keep the Antone’s brand alive in Austin.
Before his “Austin City Limits” taping in August of this year, Clark said signing on to help resurrect Antone’s was an easy choice. “I wouldn’t be doing anything that I’m doing, I wouldn’t have the musical education, the knowledge… if it wasn’t for (Antone) who allowed me to hang backstage with Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins and James Cotton,” he said.
Clark, who plays a couple dates in Australia in early January, is not likely to be on hand for the new Antone’s opening. He won’t be back in town til March 5, when he’s scheduled to play a sold out show at ACL Live.
The NYE event is open to the public and tickets are only available at the venue box office at 305 East Fifth Street day-of show beginning at 5PM and cost $20 (cash-only, there will be an ATM available).
Additional acts set to perform on New Year’s Eve include a one-night-only lineup comprised of The Antone’s All-Stars featuring Marcia Ball, Derek O’Brien, Denny Freeman, Sarah Brown, Don Bennett, Kaz Kazanoff, Riley Osborn and Damien Llanes, as well as special guests Lou Ann Barton, Eve Monsees, and Georgia Bramhall. Doors will open at 8:00 p.m. with music set to begin shortly after at 9:00 p.m.