On any muggy night, Houston is brimming with music from the Revention Center, House of Blues, the warehouse-like Walter’s, or ever increasingly, in the nooks and crannies of abandoned taquerias, industrial studios and houses which serve as the DIY venues this city has gained a reputation for.
As many of these venues struggled to remain open in 2016, a new contender rose to prominence out of an abandoned and derelict health clinic on Harrisburg Boulevard.
“I was just a photographer; wasn’t a promoter or anything at the time,” said Pablo Solis, the 20-year-old manager of the Clinic who co-owns the property with his mariachi father. “When I came in I told (my father) ideas and he told me that a venue would be cool in the future if we could get it to a point where he could knock down the walls and build a bigger stage for it.”
The Clinic’s first official show was thrown together early 2016 in the wake of Black Barbie and Harrisburg Studio — two other popular Houston DIY venues — closing their doors.
“It sucked for a lot of people because their shows got cancelled or moved real quickly and it’s tough because venues get booked up fast,” Solis said. “So what ended up happening was a friend of a friend hit me up for one of the shows that got dropped from Black Barbie and we had it over here.”
In spite of his insistence that he wanted to hold off on making the Clinic an official venue, its uniqueness caught the interest of Houston’s local music scene.
“It’s super badass and to me it was super underground, like something you would see in a Vice documentary,” said Xavier Morales, who has performed at the venue with his band “Town Destroyer” several times over the last year.
The Clinic’s unorthodox nature made getting permits a challenge. Solis said that they’ve been allowed to operate under required monthly inspections, a task made easier by the fact that the venue doesn’t offer any services other than its concerts — such as food or alcohol.
As the venue began picking up steam, Solis found himself reaching out to neighbors in the East Side community, helping him avoid noise complaints and even increase general parking for the concerts which happened as frequently as 25 times a month.
“A lot of people tell us we’re in a perfect location because we’re in the East Side which is perfect for people from Cypress, Pasadena and League City because that’s where a lot of the local music scene is from,” Solis said. “East side is growing right now with Satellite bar and Hellcat Cafe down the street, so we’re all right here making the East side bigger.”
Transitioning from a regular attender of shows to being the owner of a venue, Solis has become somewhat of a pillar in the local underground music community; often having to arbitrate disputes and arguments between performing acts.
“Sometimes delicate topics come up that will start fights and they have to be addressed, otherwise you have fights come up and less people come,” said Solis, “with the local scene it’s already hard enough to get people to come out to shows because people would rather go to the big shows so that’s why we really try to make sure that everyone’s safe and comfortable.”
Solis’ work as a venue owner has earned him and the Clinic a reputation among the local scene as welcoming to both attendees and performers, for whom it offers a respite from an at times insular music scene.
“In the Houston scene it can be real cutthroat and not many people are brotherly, just stepping over each other, but at the Clinic it wasn’t really clique-based,” Morales said. “From the moment I got there as soon as Pablo met me he brought me inside and introduced me to everybody; it was just open arms from day one.“
“In general I think the Houston music scene is about egos to be honest” said Hayden Wander a pre-business junior and bassist for post punk band “Ruiners.” “If more people were involved in just helping book a show and doing things like Pablo that’s where people need to start.”
Despite affinity for the venue’s current location, Solis made the official decision in late March to shut its doors in search of a better locale, relocating their one-year-anniversary show; the profits from which are being put towards finding a new location.
While the location of the Clinic may be up in the air, there’s confidence in its future among many in the scene.
“I see (Solis) doing something big; he cares about the music more than anything even himself as long as it’s still going and people are having fun,” said Morales. “He cares about this scene more than even some of the bands that play in it.”