One of the oldest folk/original music venues in continuous operation in the United States, Anderson Fair Retail Restaurant and Blue Squirrel Theater has been hosting the troubadours of the genre since the 1960’s.
Originally instituted as a whimsically named coffee house/café where poetry was read over coffee, and wine and spaghetti was served to the literati, “AFair”, as it is fondly called by the regulars, became a local icon of the counter culture during the late sixties and early seventies, replete with tie dyed couture, block party concerts, and liberal hits of whatever “turned you on” at the time …. and what turned on many folks of that era was music.
Original music to be precise. An evening of songs likely never before heard … performed by the individual responsible for their nativity in a face to face confrontation with a discerning and attentive audience … a situation where the performer either hones his skills and perfects his chops as a songwriter to the satisfaction of all concerned, or regresses to that proverbial ‘day job’ with which the rest of us have to contend. To a very large extent the crucible of what was to become known and popularized in the 1980’s as the “Texas singer/songwriter” is right there on the AFair stage, a mere fourteen inches above the famous red brick floor.
Anderson Fair sits at the confluence of Grant Street, West Drew and Welch in the historic “Montrose” area of Houston, just a short half block east of Montrose Boulevard. The building, a still evolving manifestation of varying degrees of carpentry skill by patrons and benefactors down through the years, structurally reflects the cultural and artistic diversity of Houston since the turn of the 20th century. Many of its timbers, doors, frames, window glass and fixtures came from a mid 19th century structure in downtown Houston, and the aptly named “music room”, floored with the red brick of song fame, was once a court yard between the three story structure on the north side of the property and a single story building on the south that dates back to the 1890’s. Legend has it that this southernmost structure was once the law and real estate office of a brother of one of Texas’ governors, and that it stood at the ‘end of the line’ for the Grant Street streetcars. That part of the building has since housed such diverse enterprises as a grocery, a washateria, a headshop, a photography studio and a recording studio.
In this age of fast food music, synthesized to a bland sameness and lip synched perfection, the tradition of the troubadour and his modern incarnation, the singer/songwriter, is safely harbored within the walls of Anderson Fair. This sense of tradition may well be one of the reasons why many a seasoned musician who has played larger stages and in front of stadium sized audiences will freely admit to a unique case of nerves just prior to taking the stage at AFair.