I first stumbled upon River Road Icehouse in early spring 2001. The former dive bar known as The Oasis had been purchased by Ken Jenkines and Amigo Mel. Their goal was to convert the place into a top-notch live music venue and river outfitting post. We were just college kids out for a Hill Country joyride to see where our buddy Doug Moreland was now living. We spotted Doug’s F250 parked out back next to a camper. We saw Bubba Daniels meandering around doing Bubba Daniels type things. Fresh sawdust smell permeated the spring breeze and we were immediately greeted at the front door by Ken and his perma-grin that matched his sweet white mullet.
We weren’t there five minutes before he offered us jobs and a beer. I can say this now without getting any of us in trouble, but we weren’t of age, and he didn’t care. We were the first three employees of River Road Icehouse. Bouncers, barbacks, trash collectors, construction hands. Whatever needed to be done, we did. The first few summers at River Road were special. Some of the best shows and musical memories I have took place at 1791 Hueco Springs Loop Rd. I still hope to do an oral history article or book about The Compound and its infamous place in modern Texas Music lore. That’s another story for another time.
But, as the years have worn on, the old girl has lost some of her shine. Whitewater Amphitheater took away the big shows and the consistent quality of River Road’s ambiance and booking lineups took a hit. Enter Nick Sisoian, proprietor of Billy’s Ice and music lover realizing the great potential at hand. Nick bought RRIH from Ken and has taken to giving the place a fresh set of eyes and ideas.
Remodeled portions and a new stage setting are sure to upgrade the vibe. The outside stage is being moved from facing the bar to facing the grassy hill. A renewed focus on quality booking over quantity will also help. He’s even invited a ragtag group of guys that run a Texas Music community website to bring their annual party/pilgrimage/reunion back to River Road Icehouse this July.
Come see the new River Road with us this summer. Help indoctrinate the new RRIH in the way only the best Texas Music fans on the planet can. At Greenfest on July 27.