In the late 90s, there weren’t too many places for all-ages shows. Sure, every now and then, there would be concerts at the Myriad (still a better name than Cox Convention Center), Will Rogers Theater, the Diamond Ballroom, and even the Tower Theater (until the promoter oversold a Slipknot show). Or your local coffee shop might book some crappy high school bands, like Nancy’s Cyber Cafe in Midwest City, or if you were in a Christian pop punk band, Outer Cafe. Everything else seemed to happen at places like the Samurai Sake House, which I was too young to go to so I’d settle for the radio ads with the greasy voice of Greg Zoobeck announcing some kind of weekly ‘Hot Mama Contest.’
All that changed in 2001, when Reggy and Lucy Wheat opened the Green Door. The first time I went, I was a junior in high school. We’d heard about the place, so a crew of my friends drove out from Midwest City to see some random show on a Saturday night. It was this weird, sketchy part of town. The building looked like a bombed-out crater, and the parking lot was straight out of Mad Max. We paid the $5 door charge, got the X’s marked on our hands, and looked around. It seemed out of a movie- older (to us) punks drank at the bar, biker-lookin’ dudes played pool and flipped through the now-legendary jukebox.
I can’t remember any of the bands that played that night, only that the first act was a long-haired stoner rock act, and they had a song that began with the eloquent lyricism of “I’M A DIRTY MOTHERFUCKER.” My young, goofy friends and I both felt out-of-place, but also like we really belonged at the Green Door. Most of the scary guys were even pretty nice to us, so we felt welcome and came back for so many shows.
They booked a lot of my favorite bands at that age, such as the Halloween 2002 show that Japanese noise rock shriekers Melt-Banana played. I dressed as Kimmy Gibbler because I was a weird kid, don’t @ me. The Locust also had a pretty wild show there with lots of heckling and beer can throwing. I’ll never forget going to see Attack of the Clones on opening night, being kinda disappointed, then seeing The Weakerthans play that night and giving me all the warm’n’fuzzies.
But the best experiences were going to see bands that you’d never heard of, and finding a new favorite. Once, on a week when some of our friends were out-of-town, a buddy and I decided to see a band called Sleepytime Gorilla Museum because we liked their name. We didn’t know what to expect, but they were a really amazing, weird performance art band, and would see them several more times before they split up.
And don’t forget about all the shows they booked with bands that would eventually blow up. There’s the White Stripes show on September 12, 2001 that everybody claims they were at, but really weren’t because they either hadn’t heard of the band yet, or were still reeling from the previous day’s terrorist attacks (it was the intentionally offensive grindcore band Anal Cunt who played the Green Door on 9/11). Also, Taking Back Sunday seemed to play there every month, and a little band called All-American Rejects got their start on that stage.
There weren’t many local bands from OKC who really took off in that era, especially at AAR’s levels, but there were plenty that are memorable. Gravity Propulsion System played just about any noise rock or avant-garde show at the Green Door. The scene was thick with punk bands then, so there was a good chance you’d see The Roustabouts, Twenty Minutes To Vegas, and Third Grade Scuffle. Discovering prog-post-punk titans Traindodge at the Green Door was a big moment for me.
It wasn’t all good memories for everyone, though. The club had a reputation for rough bouncers who would throw down first and ask questions later. I was never personally involved in anything like that, but I remember talking to a lot of people who had issues with the way that they or their friends were treated at shows there.
In 2003, Reggy took the club to a bigger, more central venue in a Bricktown that was still struggling to find its identity. The Green Door continued to stay open until 2006, despite low turnout for the venue size. While I still attended a lot of fun shows there, something was missing with the vibe. It was too big and open and the room sounded awful (and still doesn’t sound great in its current life as ACM). The intimacy of the space and the seedy building was what helped make the original location on Western (which soon turned into the Conservatory, which is a story for another day) really work.
What were your fondest memories of The Green Door? Share them in the comments!