No need to toss and turn at night wondering how you are going to “Keep Austin Weird” tomorrow: There are still a few institutions in this town that are keeping the flame of personality ablaze.
Silently perched at the end of Willow St., at the entry gate to the buzzing Rainey Street District, sits a place refreshingly outside the confines of time, trends and development: the Chain Drive. Opposed to the more on-the-map gay establishments like Oil Can Harry’s and Rain, the Chain Drive functions as a hub for a number of Austin's gay subcultures (leather, gear, bear, etc.).
“I’d say we’re like the stepchildren of the gay community,” says Chain Drive's resident disc jockey, DJ Mutt. “We play host to a number of different groups in the gay community; we have drag shows, bondage demonstrations, and leather/gear night. I see it as a no frills place where people who don’t feel comfortable at the more flashy bars in town come.”
Opposed to the contemporary goth scene, NDFH eschews the Hot Topic trappings of music that passes as "goth rock," and heads back to the genre's punk and post-punk roots.
In addition to operating on the fringes of gay culture, the Drive opens up its hairy, muscular arms to the outsider music community. Three times a month the more musically adventurous head down to the dead end at Willow St. to take part in Thirst Fursdays and No Doves Fly Here.
Many artists operating outside the unwritten codes of rock music in Austin are defecting from the waters of Red River and heading to establishments that also operate outside of dominant culture. Bars like traditionally black Club 1808, relatively new lesbian dive Bernadette’s and the Chain Drive offer artists free reign to program and perform whatever is in their strange little hearts, without the worrisome halo of money.
Happening on the first Thursdays of every month at Chain Drive, Thirst Fursdays is more variety show than typical concert. One might encounter alt-literature readings, every sub-genre of music imaginable and performance art all on the same bill. Austin’s own punk carnival maestro, Attic Ted, serves as the Paul Shaffer of Fursdays, introducing bands with his original tunes, while providing bonus comic relief.
“The people who work at the Chain Drive really appreciate us being here,” says Attic Ted, who, along with Stephanie Bonham, makes Thirst Fursday possible. “Their generosity definitely shows in the freedom which we have to operate.”
“I think it is special because it is a monthly event; this is no doubt reflected in the kind of strange and singular performances," says Bonham.
No doubt the atmosphere of the night runs contrary to the posturing and posing of other clubs around town. “You can come in here, and it is cozy and laid back, everyone can have fun knowing that you are all into weird freaky shit together. Plus, the drinks are cheap/strong and the bartenders are friendly!”
No Doves Fly Here
Acting as the more introverted sister to the theatrics and hyper-activity of Thirst Fursdays, No Doves Fly Here is a clubhouse for all the goths — and non goths, alike — who just don’t feel right amidst the outlandish outfits and synth rock at Elysium. Opposed to the contemporary goth scene, NDFH eschews the Hot Topic trappings of music that passes as "goth rock," and heads back to the genre's punk and post-punk roots.
Nevertheless, whether one is an outcast or not, No Doves Fly Here is a night for anyone who digs on the murky vibes put out by such bands as Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Killing Joke, who all fly under the NDFH death rock banner.
Indeed, the poorly lit, spartan atmosphere of the Chain Drive offers the perfect space for musical time traveling. With an interior that is blacked out (and contains barely any signs that the year is 2012), and drinks of uncanny stoutness, one could quite easily be transported back to Danzig-era CBGB’s or a murky, Nick Cave-inhabited club in West Berlin.
Thirst Fursdays goes down on the first Thursdays of every month. More information can be found on Chain Driv's Facebook Page. No Doves Fly Here happens on the first and third Wednesday of every month.
More information regarding dress code, the definition of death rock and set lists can be found here.