Rumors about the Gypsy Tea Room closing swirled last year. Well, word came down yesterday via a Robert Wilonsky post that the venue will be closing in a few months. Shows are booked through April, including Animal Collective and Ted Leo. If this is indeed the end of the venue, I will not have mixed feelings like when Trees closed. I will be pretty bummed.
With the exception of a bouncer acting like a football coach while I waited for a backstage pass to arrive, I had no problems with their staff. I don't recall any problems with the bouncers, doormen, sound guys or bartenders. Their shows were always well-run, on-time and sounded great.
I saw plenty of shows in the tea room side and the ballroom side. In the last three years, it was a spot where I did a lot of book interviews. In case this is the real end of the Gypsy, here are some of the most memorable shows for me:
Mark Kozelek, February 12th, 2004
On the day before I turned 25, I saw Krazy Koz deliver a solo set in the tea room. Playing a number of songs from the recent Sun Kil Moon record, Ghosts of the Great Highway, he played a number of covers by AC/DC and the Cars, along with Red House Painters songs. He even encored with an a cappella version of "Things Mean A lot."
Before he started the second song, he called out a guy near the stage for yapping on a cell phone. The guy apologized saying that a friend had recently died and he had to take the call. Kozelek responded he had plenty of friends die, but that didn't mean he would talk during a set. Nice.
After the show, he came out and talked to fans. I briefly spoke to him and dropped the line about how my birthday was the next day. He sincerely told me happy birthday and was pretty floored.
Neil Halstead, early 2002
Promoting his solo album Sleeping on Roads, the Mojave 3/Slowdive frontman gave a relaxed but dreamy performance. Nick, Brad and I interviewed him for a radio interview before the show. It was there that I realized how to be mellow around mellow people. Plus, it was surreal to find out the opening solo act was from my hometown, Kingwood. He said he moved away in 1987, the year I moved there. I filled him in on what all had changed about the town. Small world.
Before the show, I asked Neil if he ever does Mojave 3's "My Life in Art." He said no since he couldn't remember all the words. So it was to my surprise when he did the song in the set and remembered all the words.
Hey Mercedes/Sense Field, August 28th, 2003
From time to time, I have a tendency to lose my marbles while I watch a band. The Promise Ring in '98 at Fitzgerald's made me dance and sing passionately along. The one-two of Hey Mercedes and Sense Field did the same years later.
Hey Mercedes' Loses Control wasn't even out yet and Sense Field's Living Outside had just come out. Thanks to SoulSeek, I knew both albums by heart a couple of months in advance. The melodies and lyrics really hit close to frustrations I had at the time, so I just let loose.
Troubled Hubble, July 2005
Never before or since have I seen a band jump so high onstage. Troubled Hubble was great on record, but even more exciting live. I'm so glad I saw this show because they would break up later that fall.
. . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead/SOUND team, late 2004
Not as insane as the previous time I saw TOD, but still great. Touring a few months before Worlds Apart came out, when "Will You Smile Again" started off the show, the double drums felt like they were trying to knock me over. By the end of the set, food was flying, as well as instruments, into the crowd. There's nothing like trying to walk out of a venue and slipping on crushed grapes.
Jimmy Eat World, February 2005
Thanks to my friend Eddie, I got a backstage pass for the show. I met all of the members of the band and even interviewed Zach for the book. Even after selling 1.3 million records, those guys were as cordial as I remembered them back at Rubber Gloves in '99.
For the show itself, Eddie and I watched from the side of the stage right behind the sound board. Looking over at the crowd all on their tippy-toes, I could appreciate my vantage point. I saw a number of shows before where I could have benefited from being a little taller.
Cursive/Jeremy Enigk, November 26th, 2006
I wrote about this show elsewhere on the blog, but I will add this. The next night, I came back to the venue in hopes of seeing/interviewing Chuck Ragan from Hot Water Music. Chuck never showed up and I never paid to get in, so it wasn't a big loss. However, if this ended up being my final trip to the Gypsy, it will definitely go down as an odd final note.