High Noon Saloon owner Cathy Dethmers has worked hard to give the place a personality all its own, one that lures some of the country's most sought-after musicians while serving as a home base for local performers. Five years ago this May 5, the nightclub rose from the ashes of Dethmers' O'Cayz Corral, a favorite downtown watering hole and concert spot in its own right, after it burned irreparably on New Year's Day 2001.
"After opening, it became obvious that running High Noon would be a much bigger and more time-consuming challenge than running O'Cayz," she says. "It's more than twice the size, and I really wanted to open the venue up to accommodate a more varied slate of community events."
Though the beginnings were a bit rocky, the venue now hosts two - sometimes three - events per day. While Dethmers credits her staff for making the venue work, much of its staying power also stems from its visitors, both those who come to take in shows and those who perform there. It's the kind of place that breeds stories, not to mention successful bands.
Brad Van of local punk-metal band Droids Attack remembers being one of the first people to play the High Noon's stage. "The positive energy was through the roof, the place was packed all night long, and people were grinning ear to ear," he recalls. "I celebrated by being the first idiot to smash a guitar on their shiny new stage."
Since then, the band has polished its act at the venue, returning time and time again to preview its South By Southwest sets, play after parties for the Mad Rollin' Dolls and open for homegrown legends such as Killdozer.
Of course, rock isn't the only style the High Noon excels at. Local hip-hop crew dumate names the High Noon as one of its favorite venues because it combines style and substance, supporting artists from every walk of life - especially those who haven't made it big.
"The place has a great sound, and they treat their artists with mad respect," says Laduma Nguyuza, one of the group's emcees. "The whole package is five-star."
And fans took note this February when the High Noon was the first venue to hold a hip-hop show shortly after violence marred a hip-hop show at the neighboring Brink Louge. The High Noon show - a performance by P.O.S. and members of the Minneapolis hip-hop group Doomtree - was met with enthusiasm and went off without a hitch. Lo and behold, commotion about the fight at the Brink began to die down.
While some High Noon shows may have a pacifying effect, the atmosphere is anything but sedate on most nights. Dethmers says two of her favorite concerts there have been some of the most rowdy.
"One favorite was Monotonix," she recalls. "Their whole band basically crowd surfs with their instruments to various weird spots in the club, playing the whole time. They really made use of High Noon's unique space in a way I've definitely never seen before."
The Melvins' 2008 gig at the venue may take the cake, though. "They had a double drummer attack that was just deafening," she says. "I love to see bands push our sound system to the limit."
Somewhat quieter folk and alt-country acts have found a niche there, too, as evidenced by last Friday's performances by Marissa Nadler and the Handsome Family, plus numerous mellow appearances by the likes of Jentri Colello and Josh Harty.
Meanwhile, the High Noon's helped numerous indie projects spread their wings, from the burlesque life-drawing classes of Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School to the music of groups like Pale Young Gentlemen and Crane Your Swan Neck.
While Pale Young Gentlemen's Matt Reisenauer remembers falling in love with the venue's stage, his High Noon memories have more to do with what he's witnessed there, not what he's performed.
"One of my fondest involves watching Elliott Kozel of Sleeping in the Aviary strip down to his birthday suit for the Oh, This Old Thing? CD-release show in 2007," he says.
What's taken perhaps the most time to cultivate is a culture that promotes the mingling of many different types of fans. They not only share the space but appreciate one another's tastes - a tall order in a town some complain is full of fickle students, fussy hipsters and folks hypnotized by a particular genre.
Dethmers cites the High Noon's two Hank Williams III shows as a great source of subcultural glue in this respect: "It was awesome to see a wide mix of people - country fans, metal fans, hipsters and people who've traveled from rural areas - all have a great time sharing a music experience."
High Noon Saloon Fifth Anniversary Party
With Crystal Antlers, His Mischief, Wicked Hemlocks
Tuesday, May 5, 6 pm