On any given night, the North Door might be the spot for “Breaking Bad” fans to watch a new episode of the AMC show live, for music fans to catch acts both obscure and more well-known or for fans of a geeky subject to present it at the monthly Nerd Nite.
Partly in charge of this diverse programming for the East Fifth Street venue is Butch Webster, who became the North Door’s talent coordinator in the spring.
“I’d love to have more country music. Folk music from New Orleans. More comedy. We actually just booked (stand-up comedian) Jen Kirkman for Sept. 14,” Webster said. “The cool thing about North Door is that it’s OK to have an aerial show one night, a reggae show another night and then a lecture show after that.”
The aerial show he referred to was a ’90s-themed performance by Sky Candy, an aerial group in town that practices the precarious art of balancing on long cloths suspended from the ceiling. They work out of a building on Calles Street that houses Mettle, restaurant giant Bridget Dunlap’s latest project, and Hops & Grain, a brewery that’s become popular for Thursday and Friday happy hour pints.
Despite the range of events North Door hosts, Webster’s particular focus has always been music. He’s a drummer for the funk band Reaganometry, performs solo as Sampler & Son and tries to catch his friends’ shows — at least he did before landing the full-time gig with North Door — so he knows what it’s like to be on stage and in the audience at venues like East Seventh Street’s Red 7 and Red River Street’s Club Deville.
An Austin native, he said he and his friends used to spend nights performing and hanging out at local entertainment districts like Sixth Street and Red River but that “with age” they migrated east. Now, whenever he has some free time on his hands, he’ll relax at spots like the Yellow Jacket Social Club on East Fifth Street (several blocks down from the North Door), Gourmands Neighborhood Pub on Webberville Road or the Volstead Lounge on East Sixth Street.
“I’m also good friends with Randall Stockton, who owns Shangri-La and Rio Rita,” Webster said. “That part of town (around East Sixth Street) was really dangerous once, but then he opened up those places and people gravitated toward them.”
But as often as Webster is in East Austin, he doesn’t actually live there. He lives near the Thunderbird Coffee on West Koenig Lane, which he said once used to be considered the edge of town but is now a bustling area.
Like Austin, the North Door has done a lot of growing up lately. One of its most recent changes is a revamped sound system that Webster isn’t afraid to say is pretty tremendous. Because who doesn’t want to hear Walter White of “Breaking Bad” as though he’s breathing down your neck?
Do as the locals do!
Each week we’ll bring you recommendations from notable Austinites on what you’ve just got to check out — from insider tips on where to catch the best live music to where to find the best Tex-Mex. To recommend someone to feature, email Arianna Auber at firstname.lastname@example.org.