First Impression: The Beauty Ballroom
Better late than never, the Beauty Ballroom, a spinoff of the Beauty Bar on 7th Street, is celebrating its grand opening tonight with Theophilus London, Treasure Fingers, L.A.X, Vegas Banger and Rickey Jean Francois.
We stopped by last Saturday during the soft opening to catch RAC (Remix Artist Collective), a group of DJs who put a slick, often minimal dance twist on indie rock tunes. It ended as all good Beauty Bar sets do with a majority of the crowd on the stage. Good times.
But what did we think of the heir apparent to that glittery Red River District staple, the Beauty Bar?
• Cheap drinks: Drinks are reasonably priced. When we were there, 16 oz. cans of Tecate were $3 and some abysmal-tasting lager out of Pennsylvania we had never encountered before called Stoneys was free while it lasted. They also offered well drinks for $2 from midnight to 2 a.m.
• Smart layout: There’s a long list of things I like about the 7th Street Beauty Bar, but size and stage visibility have always been a big negative. The Ballroom is much larger without suffering from the same boxy warehouse vibe of Emo’s East. There are tables and chairs on a slightly raised level at the back wall from the stage, perfect for chatting with friends while keeping an eye on the action. The bar and bathrooms are easily accessible near the entrance and their lines never poured into the crowd. While the upstairs area was roped off, I can envision a nice VIP vibe similar to the upstairs viewing area at Dallas venue Trees.
• Fun crowd: The dance floor, which is probably about as big as the entire floorspace of Beauty Bar, was lively as far back as I could see from near the stage. Highlights included: two guys rubbing their shirtless abs together, a girl sitting down on a dirty-dancing hipster (not in a sexual way, but rather sitting down on him like he was a chair), and the aforementioned stage rushers. From everything I witnessed, folks were having a good time and inhibitions were low.
The Not So Good
• Location: The new venue shares a parking lot with Emo’s East at 2015 East Riverside, and while there’s no place in Austin I’d rather be than neighboring Rosita’s Al Pastor, I rarely find myself in that neck of the woods, especially on the weekend.
• The look: While the interior is much better than Emo’s East, it’s still a little off. The glitter on the walls looks a little cheap and the color scheme just doesn’t feel right to me. I want the pink and gold sparkles of the Beauty Bar, not primary colors and sickly orange-colored wood.
• Parking problems: While there appears to be ample parking outside of Beauty Ballroom and Emo’s and in neighboring lots, if there’s a show going on in both spaces, as there is bound to be on most Fridays and Saturdays, those spaces get snagged up quick. We arrived at 9 p.m. and circled the lot twice before looking elsewhere. Many neighboring lots have signs promising to tow, reading, “No Emo’s parking.” (And as much as I’d love to argue with a tow-truck driver that I was technically parking for Beauty Ballroom, I have a feeling it won’t get me out of that fat towing fee.) The big, mostly empty lot just west of the building is reserved for Bingo parking. Try going south on any of the residential streets and you’ll find most of the space is off limits. We managed to grab a questionably legal spot curbside just in front of the club. Hopefully the owners can work with nearby businesses to make sure there’s enough parking space to accommodate the Ballroom’s 700-person capacity.
The Beauty Ballroom isn’t quite ready for full-time drunken revelry just yet, as it’s only open on a show-to-show basis, but it makes me a little more confident about the future of Riverside as a destination for live music. There will be no replacing the Beauty Bar, which is reported to be closing some time after SXSW 2012, but the Ballroom definitely offers some big improvements over the original. Now to see how these guys handle SXSW.