It’s truly an end of an era when the final remnant of one of Iowa’s most legendary music venues is dismissed, seemingly another victim of today’s economy and Iowa City’s fickle local support.
Doug Roberson was given the pink slip from his gig at The Picador on Thursday, marking the end of over twenty years at the venue, most when it was known as Gabe’s Oasis. A full account is given at Corridor Buzz, with Roberson giving his take on the event with brutal honesty and without a hint of bitterness.
It’s fairly typical of him to speak his mind like that; I’ve heard him talk about previous bandmates in unfavorable fashion, lay into current members if he felt they were wasting precious time in expensive recording studios, and toss a stern word or two at anyone he felt wasn’t giving their best. It’s probably because he’s had his hand stuck in so many different areas of the business that he doesn’t suffer fools lightly. He’s been there, he knows what the job demands, and all that he asks that you put the whining aside and just do what you’re asked.
One constant has remained over the years: Doug Roberson looks pretty much the same as he did twenty years ago. I remember once admiring his sense of Rat Pack style and asked him about his attire. I learned that looking like a million bucks only cost him ten; everything on his body that night was gleaned from second-hand stores. I swear his wardrobe could have been nothing but designer fashions.
His complexion retains this certain youthful exuberance to the point where he’s always looked like this handsome thirty-something, even when he was in his twenties. Because of this, he’s suited his share of ladies, including one that I used to date.
I didn’t feel bad, that’s just Doug.
If The Picador thinks they’ll be able to find someone who can manage that place better, I’ll be hard pressed to know whom. These are different times, but not in the sense where someone Roberson’s age should be used as the reason why The Picador isn’t drawing the crowds like it used to. The reason…and I believe anyone around the area would tell you…is because Iowa City no longer has the type of local talent that will draw crowds like they do when a national act is coming through town. Back in the day, you had local talent that would draw crowds just as large, and no young blood is going to change that within the Picador. That change has to come from the musical talent themselves.
As symbolic as Doug’s firing is, the real test will be how long the club itself can withstand this recession without him. It’s been through them before, but something leads me to believe that there’s some financial backers at the club that are desperately trying to get their investments back. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it sounds as though some of these dealings are causing local talent to go a book their shows through other venues, perhaps because they’re getting a better deal.
I don’t know anything about the back-end dealings, I only know that the place was getting some good shows as of late and that Doug was the only recognizable face there for me. After my obligatory beer, I’d follow it up with straight soda paying for the first one while Doug would pour the next ones without charging. It was a brief gesture of goodwill of my loyalty, perhaps, one in which I’m hard pressed to return the favor somehow.
So thanks Doug. Thank you for those free refills, booking all those great bands, and getting up on the stage yourself and performing some excellent music. More than anything, thanks for being there…that reliable constant that made me feel how we’re all young at heart for rock and roll no matter how old we may have looked to that collegiate clientele.
The picture of Doug holding a bottle of Blatz was taken without permission from his MySpace page.