“Directly across from the Caddo Parish Courthouse and squarely on the 50 yard line of Downtown Shreveport, the four-story building called 516 Soundstage was once an iconic Woolworth’s department store,” writes musician/artist Alan Dyson. Businessman/biker Mark Goff bought 516 Texas St when he read in the newspaper that its fate was to be razed and turned into a parking lot.
“Goff was trying to revitalize the long-closed building; he started the Hayride Diner at the street level and installed corporate offices on the mezzanine and second floor levels. For a time, he had an apartment on the third floor where he also worked on custom Harley Davidson motorcycles,” Alan recalled.
The Texas St building, says Dyson, was “Solidly built, but suffering from an antiquated air conditioning system, leaky plumbing, and a flooding basement; the place was a maintenance nightmare – but could still polish up pretty nice.”
“Mark suggested I start a music venue in the unused half of the street level of the downtown building. I sort of agreed, but really, there seemed to be no single person really in charge. Michael Barker, Bobby Black, Blue Martin, and Mark Goff were all floating in and out, each adding something to the intangible thing that 516 Soundstage became.”
Dyson wanted to create an art and jazz center to draw a mature audience. He did not prevail. “We did manage one real art show, hosted a couple Minicine events, and an “Arts in the Edge” SRAC event that featured a fashion show of bizarre organic couture incorporating catfish and red meat. It was not long, however, until the all-ages concert venue featuring very young, very loud bands became the staple of the venue.
Glitterblack, Junior, Crackfight, Built for Speed, and Zack the Rookie were typical bands, but we also had some more established regional acts like The American Tragedy and The Gourds. We even had the one and only Victoria Williams play the venue with members of the Jayhawks.”
From 1997 to 2012 the venerable 516 Soundstage was Shreveport’s premier all-ages music and art center. Most nights it looked like a nefarious center for black-clad teens. Between the punk and metal shows there continued a broad assortment of events, such as belly dancing, fashion shows, jazz and poetry events, songwriters’ nights under Dan Garner, and blues benefits.
Remembers Goff, now ill and unable to re-start the venue, “The best part was [it] being all ages, and the shows we had. From family friendly burlesque, Christian rock, the NXNW awards shows, and punk rock. So, so many record releases by the Bluebirds, Bowling for Soup. On and on.”
Dyson notes, “The foam party held in the vacant lot just east of the building. We ran 200 AMPs from inside the building to power the foam machine and the bands…it’s a miracle no one was electrocuted.”
Maintenance was an ongoing headache: “Squeegie-ing the basement after every major rain. Cleaning the floor of that sickening sticky mix of soda, red bull, and cigarette ash after every concert. Dealing with the angry parent whose kid got clobbered in the mosh pit.
Fixing the freight elevator that landed at a weird level in the alley shared with Municipal Plaza.” Dyson believes that “The city couldn’t stand Mark. The DDA – couldn’t stand Mark.”
The Hayride Diner’s baked potato and cheese fries became downtown must-haves.
“The audience was typically full of angst-filled youths learning to smoke,” says Dyson, “hyping up on Red Bull, flailing in the mosh pit, figuring out [which] next piercing might irritate their parents the most, all paying upwards of $20.00 a head to enter and see anywhere from three to five bands blow it out at brain bleeding decibel levels.”
“We judged no one,” says Goff with pride.
Tragedy struck Goff in 2007. “My daughter managed the diner from 2000 to 2007 when she tragically passed in a car accident. Bobby Black took over the bar and management with Susan. I did not go back into the place for almost two years. Too many memories.”
“Blue Martin, Bobby Black, and Michael DeArmond were among the notable managers,” says Goff.
“In a law office upstairs was Jim Bodenheimer, a photographer, and the motorcycle shop. Jackie Brock was the long-standing booking agent. Musician Michael Reed Barker was in on the creation. It was truly one of the greatest things I ever did in Shreveport. We were all about the people. The artists, the life.”
Frustrations? “Just everyday little stuff. People being late, or showing up early. Nothing real bad. Oh, the air conditioner breaking down. That was always the worst thing.”
Did it lose a ton of money? Goff admits “The building ate hundred dollar bills and the electrical system was terrible, but we broke even.”
Disagreeing with many of his customers, Goff says, “City and police were not bad. I and many others had a blast.”
Goff concentrates on the art: “The band I Wrestled a Bear was created there. We also held events for Victoria Williams. Daniel Garner also hosted songwriters night for years. We held the first charity event for Chimp Haven.” 516 won recognition for its wildly successful benefit for Katrina victims.
“We closed in April 2012 when I got sepsis and went into the hospital until January 2013.”
Looking back, Goff, now an amputee, says tearfully, “I would love to reopen.”
Editor’s Note: Below are stories collected from previous patrons and musicians who walked the halls of 516 SoundStage. It’s a long trip down memory lane, but here goes:
Becky Jones – “The first time I went was for April’s Love Affair’s last show. I was barely 14. From that point on I was there almost every Friday and Saturday, even when there wasn’t a show. The connections I made at 516made me who I am. When I started going, I had no friends, and through the music I made so many friends. It was where the people who didn’t fit in to societies idea of normal were the normal ones for once.”
Bre Garcia – “I was the bar manager & bartender there from 2002-2005. I booked a lot of the bands that came through during the all ages time, and Blue Martin booked a ton too. I started the poetry night, pushed for karaoke with Ronster, open mic night, and even organized the recording of our open mic artists for an acoustic CD. Mark took a lot of lip back in the day, but ultimately, he did a good thing for this community.”
“It was literally a factory of musical talent. I watched high schoolers come in for open mic night and discover their voices, watched their talents grow. I’ll never forget one girl, who came in every week and barely said a word. Then one night she finally got up to sing and play her guitar and just blew us all away. She was Brittney Maddox.”
Bruce Flett – “Bluebirds had their CD Release Party for “Highway 80 East” there in 2003. Mark treated us well, it was a success. Mark also flew Dan Garner, Wayne Anderson and me to N. Little Rock for Dale Hawkins’ funeral.”
Robin Beach – “Gary Thomas Watson, Elliott Vaughnand I managed to pull off a killer Katrina benefit within 2 weeks of the hurricane. Lots of love in that old building.”
“The Out Law Benefit. For John Compton’s hundreds of downtown parking tickets. He donated all the money to The Shrines Hospital. Over 6,000 dollars.”
“After Dale Hawkins memorial at Robinson Theater. We invited anyone that wanted to come over and play. What an awesome event. Standing room only. I ran sound for many legendary artist that day. From Joe Osborn, to Maggie Warwick.”
Gary Krepak – “I attended an organizational meeting in 1999 or 2000 with Alan Dyson, Blue Lee-martin,Michael Reed Barker and Mark Goff to outline plans for a re-launch that resulted in the venue we remember. I made one of my cigar box guitars there one night. Not sure if any bar anywhere had a electric guitar built from scratch in it and played on the same night. I went on to make 82 such guitars. I also ran FOH sound with a full DJ rig located at the sound board and performed a set during one showcase. Played a LOT of showcases there. Spent a lot of nights at the bar, had a rehearsal space there for a bit, etc… It was like a second home to many of us. I also remember attending a rave party upstairs there in the late 90’s hosted by John H Lomax before the Soundstage was ever really a thing yet.”
Bobby Black – “It was, as is said, a huge amalgam of efforts by many. Memories are precious because it was just before cell phones and instant video. Before pictures were as easy as a flick of the wrist. Websites and people. As for my part, it was long hours, damage control and piercing guitars. People coming, rocking out and destroying things, and then doing it, well, again. Some unbelievable times and music happened there, and boy did the cops and textiles hate us.”
Josh W Drane – “OMG, the Hayride Diner cheese fries were to die for! I could absolutely hate the band playing but I found the will to tune it out over those fries! That and bands like Southcore and The American Tragedy were great and always had a blast hanging out at that place and blowing off steam from school. If only the local police weren’t spending half the night harassing smokers that couldn’t smoke indoors anymore; the asshole owner of the parking spot next to soundstage wasn’t such a massive prick and the meter maid wasn’t such an asshole that needed to be sodomized with a nail-covered bat and giving maximum fine tickets to even the people just dropping kids off there.
Angel Albring – “This was the first place my then girlfriend and I were able to really be ourselves and not be judged for being bisexual. Great group of open minded people! Years later, I went to see a show there the week I found out I was pregnant with my first child and still felt the same love from people I didn’t even know congratulating me on my pregnancy.”
Amanda Roe – Mindless self indulgence played there almost 11 years ago when Voodoo Fest was cancelled during the hurricane. Definitely realized at that moment Shreveport is a great city to experience music that compares to BR or NOLA.”
Rubee Stew – “I was raised in a sheltered Southern Baptist home where I didn’t go out at night, and wasn’t allowed to listen to non Christian rock music, and was pretty much not allowed to date. So I didn’t get to experience 516 until I was over 21 and nearly out of college in 2002.
But when I finally did, it was amazing. I met so many of my current friends in the music scene there. It was a melting pot of everything: it was punk rock, it was grunge, it was metal, it was Ronster Monster Karaoke, it was everything I had wanted in an all ages venue, complete with greasy burgers and alcohol.
It was also the place where I swore to no longer willingly drink Jägermeister. I’m sorry to whoever had to clean up the bathroom that night. Ghosts and shadow people running rampant. Goth kids could hang out without fear of harassment. Metal kids could bang their heads. It was a world of music, mayhem, and mystery for people of all ages.”
Spencer Teekell – “It’s important to remember that the parking lot was more often the more popular place. There were always kids hanging out on that corner, most of whom wouldn’t pay the cover and go see the show. It was just a place for misfits and outcasts (and popular kids who felt like slumming it) to hang out, get drunk, get harassed by the cops, and often engage in arguments about god with the missionaries who came to save the souls of the poor goth kids.”
Bobby Black – “Man…years, dates, numbers…I can,only put educated guesses together…there was so much work, phone calls, all day all,night day in and out.”
Jackie Brock – Wasn’t Bobby there 2001ish also? I remember playing a show on the side walk around then when Bobby, a golf cart, and the front window got into an altercation? Haha.”
Matt Hazelton – “Dirtfoot practiced upstairs at 516 for 3 or 4 years. That place and Mark Goff were always great to us!”
Greg Williams – “Planet and Planet Unity Orchestra had myself Alan Dyson Scotty griffin Gordon Nurse Lane Bayliss and at times dirty red and the occasional sax player, oh and almost forgot last but certainly not least Michael Reed Barker.”
Noma Fowler-Sandlin – “I remember when Matt Crowson and Carter Sutton put together the Katrina fundraiser there. Billy Vidrine rocked the house.”
Josh Ellis – “Oh my gosh! I have so many memories of that place. From a kid from a small town about 45 minutes away, I was there just about every weekend. I was one of the kids who hung out outside. I broke my ankle behind there skateboarding and then went back inside to see one of the bands, I booked a couple of bands there, I met so many of my girlfriends and even lost my virginity in the parking lot. I had my drum set stolen from there (which totally sucks), and so many other memories there!”
Mary Bluhm – “Had a band back in high school and we played our first show there. Good times. Also, had the privilege of seeing Mewithoutyou there back in the day.”
Judy Williams – “Going with Roxann Johnson to see Rebecca Nesbitt (now Prosino) belly dance with Port Belly Project.”
Ron Huitt – “I was there through so many “management” changes, and wore so many hats. Ah, the memories, the stolen and destroyed equipment, “misplaced” CDs, “misplaced” money, catching kids having sex in the basement, the “ghosts”, the fantastic bands, the nights of wonder, the days of preparation, the daze of preparation, bands calling me at 4 in the morning wanting a show with 10 other bands on the bill, Mike Got Spiked, Marc Rizzo, Izzy Cox, the Tattoo Convention, the local bands with the hearts and souls of rock-n- roll legends.”
Spencer Teekell – “Before and after the .357’s ban from the place was really the height of that punk scene. Sunday Mass Murder, The Skanks, Nomadic Addicts, Ono Ninjas, Zack the Rookie, Unfair, and more.”
Jessica Miller – “The first time I went to Sound Stage I was a wee babe in the 7th grade and I had NO business being there. I can’t quite remember all the bands playing except for Built for Speed because all of my friends and I got bass drum heads for everyone in all the bands to sign just to commemorate our “coming out” into this very adult music scene. We were obviously kids, but we loved the music and everyone was really respectful and nice to us. I really just think it was because people got excited at seeing kids really get into this genre and to be interested in more underground local type social scenes. Also I talked with Jonathan(lead singer of BuiltForSpeed) for like 15 minutes about how he could totally be my brothers doppelgänger. Despite its faults, I loved that place.”
Russell Patrick – “Luke Ren and I playing our first show together at soundstage with Task at Hand and him licking my cheek in the middle of my bass solo. One of the many that come to mind.”
Tiffany Thompson – “My favorite memory of all time from soundstage was Laura, Gary and I rolling through the parking lot to the mission impossible theme song. We would go in occasionally but we would mostly hang out outside. I met a few people who have commented previously like Josh W Drane and Shane Meshell. I still speak to a lot of theme today. They became family.”
Justin Peterson – “Amazing memories from those years. I don’t think in my time of running security I threw a single person out, lol. I let y’all have ur fun and ur “fights.” U shook it off, shook hands and made up and did what y’all did.”
Samantha Clements – ”Family and friends, the bands, the music videos, the building. Oh, that building and its history and the memories we all have, the life, the parties, the music. Will never lose those times those memories. Thank you, Mark, for allowing so many the opportunity to enjoy themselves and make memories. Thank you to all who have supported and worked for love!”
Ashley Stuteville – “516 soundstage is where I finally came outta my shell. Although I was arguably too young to be hanging out in those back alleys (13-14 at the time), I met a lot of chill people and heard some great music. I’ll never forget how it felt moshing in the pits there, getting a concussion every other weekend, and the smell of stagnant cigarette smoke. Soundstage has a special place in my heart for sure.”
Daniel Goodwill – “The first Flappy Jak Kids show was a Victoria Williams benefit at 516 in ’02, maybe. We played many other nights up there after that. I was age 13, I think!”
Mallori Brandon – “We, the .357s, were banned from Soundstage, but only after a pretty long run of packing the place out weekend after weekend with punk bands from all over the country, helping bring about a new wave of punk and thrash in the early 2000s. Grateful for the time I spent there with my band mates and brothers. — with Adam Davis and Spencer Teekell.”
Stevey Hensley – “I remember all punk bands got banned once for graffiti in the bathroom. Well, I was among those banned. It seemed like they would find any reason to not let punk bands play.”
Ron Huitt – “Truly, RMK & 516 SoundStage were the birth of Theatre De L’absurd, in more ways than I can publicly recount. Bad times, good times, I wouldn’t trade the times I spent there for anything. Vive Le 516! Vive Le Harlequin Alley! I raise a glass to what was, what could’ve been, and what yet may come! Cheers!
Deanna Danielle – “When i was in middle school my mom would never let me go to soundstage. So I used to get her to drop me off at the Boardwalk and I would walk across the bridge to get there every weekend. I remember the guy who worked at the door – I think his name was Scotty. He used to let me in for free. He was a cool guy. I’ve met a lot of friends there that i still have currently. lol I also remember when they had to close for a little while to remodel after a punk show. i had no idea what to do with my weekend lol.”
Sheleagh Leigh Williams – “I started going to Soundstage to watch shows my Sophomore year in high school, 2002 timeframe. My friends and I spent almost every weekend there watching the bands, eating cheese fries and drinking Icees, and hanging out having a good time. I started working in the kitchen at the beginning of 2004 after Ashley Nobis recommended me. To this day, it is probably my favorite job and would go back in a heart beat if I could.”
Josh Ellis – “Saw my first burlesque show there – by Bon Temps Burlesque. After that, I fell in love and now I am traveling doing burlesque and variety shows.”
Caitlin Lindsay – “516 soundstage is how I began my journey to creative community involvement. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without that place. It’s also where I met my fiancé,Leigh Rose. He was playing in a band called Where Moon Is back in 2006 and I went to every show. We reunited at the same place 3 years later at a Scared of The Dark show and our future began.”
Jason Campisi – “I played Soundstage about a million times with at least five different acts. Got in fights. Messed shit up. Ate some cheeseburgers. Met some cute anti-establishment chicks. I had full-on food poisoning for my last show there. I was 100% the color green. I still managed to catch Rick Willis’ attention when it was bass solo time, though. It’s one of my proudest accomplishments as a musician. If the crawfish tastes funny, spit it out. Same rule applies to anti-establishment chicks.”
“Is this for a class action lawsuit or something?”