Page 2 of 8
From May 1995 to September 1996, the Daily Grind at 39th Street and Main, a tiny coffeehouse that funneled its frequent overflow crowds into a brick patio behind the stage, hosted concerts. It boosted the city's then-thriving ska scene (the Gadjits gigged there often) and drew big-time acts like Everclear and No Doubt. It also booked almost any unproven area act that asked. The Grind eventually succumbed to police attention (following an overcrowded Descendents show and a fiery incident involving the band Arson) and sniping from neighboring business owners (the Grand Emporium's Roger Naber, among others, said the Grind created parking and loitering problems).
When that mainstay ground to a halt, the all-ages scene stopped dead in its tracks. A few teens and musicians made the trek to Johnson County's Gee Coffee, an all-ages option that had adopted a gloomy warehouse in Olathe as its third home. (Block and Co., which had managed the Four Colonies Shopping Center at 79th Street and Quivira Road in Lenexa, booted original Gee owner Cal Morris from that space in 1995 because of complaints from people who lived in nearby subdivisions. Morris' response resounded with disenfranchised young music fans. "They don't want teenagers hanging out anywhere," he told The Kansas City Star.) The drive to Olathe, though, was daunting.
Lazlo Toth, now 22, attended his first punk show at the Daily Grind in 1995. A high school sophomore who lived north of the river, he eschewed the Gee commute but typically didn't hear about many other happenings. When he did come across an intriguing concert, though, he'd go -- regardless of unusual circumstances. One Christmas, a flier directed Toth to the long-empty Silo electronics store at 36th Street and Main, where he then followed a trail of three-chord riffs down a dark alley to find the Sex Offenders braving the subzero windchill.
Tyler Galloway, now 30, moved from Springfield, Missouri, to Kansas City in 1995 and played at the Daily Grind with his hardcore outfit Brine later that year. He recalls houses near the Kansas City Art Institute (where he'd later teach) that became surrogate clubs, hosting manic acts such as Coalesce and Turmoil.
Then, in 1999, Abe Haddad, of the Haddad Restaurant Group, helped move punk rock out of living rooms and back onto a stage at what would become El Torreon. He bought the old Cowtown Ballroom, on 31st Street and Gillham Road, for storage. Inside the cavernous building, it felt like a dank garage in some passages and a ruined castle in others. A part-time musician (he plays bass with the Shotgun Idols), Haddad then learned of the building's history, which included Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa concerts. He decided to start welcoming bands back into its storied rooms. One of his first steps was to rent out practice spaces; the recently formed Sister Mary Rotten Crotch snatched one up immediately.
Saunders, the onetime Outhouse booker, stopped by the space one day to visit his wife, Sister Mary guitarist Alison Saunders. There, Saunders met Haddad as the owner was clearing junk out of what would become the venue's main performance space. Saunders started helping with the renovation process, and he soon agreed to begin booking bands. He hauled in the Outhouse's sound equipment, which would serve as El Torreon's sonic foundation. In November 1999, Sister Mary Rotten Crotch, mi6, Steadfast and Revolvers filled out the first-ever El Torreon bill.