From The Crazy Horse to the Red Room 

The evolution of an iconic downtown venue

Skyler Durton, Jen Kniss and Peter Schott prove that Bass Matters at Red Room.

Dave Schenker

Skyler Durton, Jen Kniss and Peter Schott prove that Bass Matters at Red Room.

Far from the chaos of Sixth and Main streets, wedged between a locksmith's shop and a design firm, stands a two-story building in which the Boise music scene has thrived for more than a decade.

Local musician Matt Hunter fondly recalls a show at the location's first iteration--The Crazy Horse.

"It was Assorted Jelly Beans and Guttermouth," said Hunter. "We were drinking in the parking lot, so later I bought a 12-inch record and didn't even have a record player."

The Crazy Horse was Boise's mecca for the punk scene before 2000. Mohawked teens wore jean jackets as bishop's robes, imbibing cheap beer or pulling from flasks as an illicit sacrament before entering the papal space.

"It was the first venue I ever stage-dived at, which was fun," said showgoer Peter Schott. "They had just really super-awesome shows. Like the Dirt Fisherman, Built to Spill I saw there, Sublime, Black Cathy, stuff like that."

Schott was one of the punk kids who crowded into the The Crazy Horse between 1991 and 1994, the walls even then doused in a bright shade of red.

"It was hard to see anything--sweaty, smoky, bad circulation," said Schott.

In 2011, the Red Room relocated from its Sixth Street home to its current location after Terrapin Station closed its doors. The building's exterior is still dumpy looking and garishly painted. The top floor is a tattoo parlor, the bottom a venue.

Schott, Hunter and thousands of others made the pilgrimage to the innocuous corner of 16th and Main streets over the years to catch everything from punk sets to hip-hop shows, and later colorful neon dance parties. From The Crazy Horse days on, the spot has always been home to music.

"I can't think of a single other venue back in the day that played good music shows. All my very favorite bands back then just played specifically there," said Schott.

Now Schott is part of Bass Matters, the crew that stepped in to organize booking for the Red Room in late February.

"We're trying to remember The Crazy Horse, because that's really the heart of where the Red Room started. Everybody knows about it, from old-school to new-school people," said Schott.

Nailing down the exact dates and details of the venue isn't easy. From 1991 to 1994, it was The Crazy Horse, then it became J.D. and Friends until Terrapin Station opened in 2005. In 2010, Terrapin shut its doors and the Red Room moved in early 2011. While everyone agrees that the Crazy Horse existed years and hundreds of cans of Pabst ago, memories are hazy regarding the specific details.

The space hosted hundreds of bands during its years: Swinging Utters, Youth Brigade, The Misfits, Prong, The Business and more.

"A zillion touring bands played there, like Built to Spill's first Boise show and a few others that ended up becoming real popular like Green Day," said Allen Ireland, owner of Neurolux and former owner of The Crazy Horse.

The lingering rumors of greats who played there also make up an exhaustive list: Korn, Black Flag, 2 Live Crew, Sublime, The Flaming Lips.

"It's crazy to me how many bands who made something of themselves started there," said Schott.

But perhaps most famously, Boiseans claim that Nirvana played The Crazy Horse in its early touring days. The Neurolux Message Board keeps the Nirvana debate alive, relying on burnt-out memories and old show posters.

"It was a long time ago and it might take me a while to search through my brain for your answers," said Ireland.

After some reflection, Ireland said he's sure that Nirvana never played The Crazy Horse--it canceled. The band did, however, play at a different Boise venue, The Zoo, which was located at the corner of 12th and Front streets.

Hunter and others also made mention of the space's all-inclusive booking. Up until the venue became the jam band-heavy Terrapin Station in 2005, it was not uncommon for hip-hop shows or neon-heavy dance sets to follow sweaty punk shows.

"It seemed like a place where people from those scenes could go and not be judged. It was kind of punk-dominated, but very open at the same time," said Schott.

But as the scene grew larger, Boise started to crack down on the all-ages aspect of the venue, despite a chain-link fence erected to cage off the bar during the J.D. and Friends era.

"There was a lot of underage drinking outside the bar; kids coming to the show drunk," said Hunter. "That's the problem with J.D. and Friends. Every story is going to implicate somebody in something illegal."

Perhaps that's why J.D. and Friends didn't last, Hunter speculated.

"I suspect that the city got wind of what was going down, and they thought it was a lot worse than it was," said Hunter. "But, I mean, they were telling punk rockers essentially not to do punk-rock shit."

Most agree with Hunter. They look back on their years in the space with a sigh-heavy reverence. Years later, Schott's memory at times is just blurs of the place, tagging along with his older sister and girlfriend for his first concerts.

"It was very, very, very loud. Extraordinarily loud. I don't know if it was just being a kid or what, I just remember this was the loudest anything had ever been," he said.

For Schott, his new role managing the shows at Red Room is close to his heart. He's tasked with integrating the past and present into what is now the Red Room.

"We're just trying try to implement that open-minded, gritty, fun vibe that they used to have," Schott said. "So that we can kind of slowly transform it back to something that was as legendary as The Crazy Horse."

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