Bye Bye Blackheart: One final day and night at Rainey Street’s best hangout
On the chalkboard sign out front and in the Facebook page for the event, Sunday’s swan song for Rainey Street’s much-loved Blackheart Bar was dubbed “See You in Hell.” There was a let-it-all-out feel to the afternoon and evening, to be sure, but we thought local band Harvest Thieves might have nailed the title. Peeking at their set list as they took the backyard stage just after 9 p.m., we noticed it was titled: “Bye Bye Blackheart.”
More than a dozen acts, most of whom had played regularly at the venue over the years, signed on for half-hour finales that rotated between the bar’s dark indoor and bright outdoor stages from 5 p.m. till past midnight. They all wanted to say goodbye to a place that, as Harvest Thieves leader Cory Reinisch put it, “was the best thing that happened to this street.”
Many of the musicians worked at the Blackheart over the years as well. Reinisch even did some work behind the bar on Sunday before his band’s set. Corey Baum of Croy & the Boys mentioned that he used to work the door there. Mike Schoenfeld, who kicked things off just past 5 p.m. in the sunlight on the backyard stage, told amusing stories about watching baby raccoons cavorting on the roof, and that time he called the police on himself. (A missing motorcycle was involved.)
Mostly the vibe was celebratory, even as the bittersweetness of the moment was not lost on anyone — particularly co-owner Jeremy Murray, who described the day as an “emotional rollercoaster.” Erica Shamaly, manager of the city’s Music & Entertainment Division, noted that her office had offered help to the Blackheart owners if they wanted to start up again somewhere else, though it’s unclear at this point whether that might happen.
Out on the front porch was another example of the venue’s legacy. There for the taking were a handful of vinyl copies of Austin band Sweet Spirit’s album “Live at the Blackheart,” recorded here a few years ago. The band couldn’t be there on this final day, but with their offering, it was clear they were here in (sweet) spirit.
Inside, the band that followed Schoenfeld early on was an intriguing one. By Pass was a hip-hop collective blending members of Austin’s Mindz of a Different Kind and the group Nouvel R from Angers, France. Its very existence is an outgrowth of collaborative exchanges between the two cities in recent years, including an annual Austin-Angers Week that happens each year in the fall.