all photos by Nick Simonite
Yesterday, we were thrilled to announce the grand re-opening of Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and the new Highball karaoke bar, just in time for Fantastic Fest! And today we thought we'd take a closer look at the seven new private karaoke rooms at the Highball, designed by FF institution and BAD bud Zack Carlson and Laura Fleischauer of Space Warp Design. Because they are magnificent, eye-boggling and brain-sloshing works of art, and everyone needs to see them.
Each karaoke room is state-of-the-art and features voice synthesizers, expansive song lists and the Highball's signature cocktail bottle service. But they also feature a hell of a lot of style and originality, thanks to Carlson and Fleishauer (who are married, by the way, so imagine how cool their house must be).
I talked to Zack about their inspiration and how they narrowed down way too many ideas to only seven incredible rooms. "Laura and I were very excited -- and admittedly a little surprised -- to be handed the entire Highball karaoke room design project. We only had a few months to sketch out and create seven rooms, plus the new giant 3D monster face in the Alamo hallway. It was daunting, but ambition won out over logic and we jumped in headfirst."
"The first step was to figure out what the hell the rooms were actually going to be. The Highball had reached out months earlier to ask customers what themes they'd like to see in the new rooms. The most commonly requested theme was The Black Lodge from Twin Peaks, and we had a space that was perfect for it. Tim League also had a specific theme in mind, but for the sake of his potential future political career, I won't mention what that was."
This is Carlson and Fleishauer. They are super fun.
"Next, we made a long list of rooms that WE were excited to make! We let our brains unravel all over the place, and ended up with tons of ideas, many of which were apparently architecturally impossible. Whoops! We ran the top fifteen or so by Tim and he picked what he thought would be the most fun. He didn't know about the two-headed taxidermied goat at that point, but I definitely don't think he's upset about it.
Speaking of which, sourcing items like a mutant goat isn't as easy as you might think. A huge challenge on the project was getting many of these items made. We were verrrry fortunate to come across many good-natured fabricators and handymen who were amused enough by the project to dive in with us."
"For example, when you look through the window of the Midnight Manor room, there's a full scale forced perspective miniature cemetery bathed in eerie moonlight. We were able to get this constructed by a great local artist named Kit Casati, then the background painted by another one (Nick Derington), and the room's decaying windows and wall were made by a local Halloween home haunting hobbyist named Rob Kovach. It was a collaboration between people who just want the world to be less boring, and those are obviously the best type of people in the world."
"Other happy memories along the way include carrying a 300-pound log up the stairs, creating the illusion of a massive circus tent, and dotting every single phosphorescent star into the walls and ceiling of The Fifth Dimension, one at a time. There are over 7000 stars in there, most of which were done by Laura."
"The entire project was a ton of work and a monumental learning experience. We're very grateful for everyone's help and support, as well as to Tim for allowing us to blowtorch a pentagram into the floor of his business."
So above you've seen the Black Lodge, the Freak Room (those two are my faves, though it's REALLY hard to choose favorites among these), the Midnight Manor, the Fifth Dimension and The Inferno, which I think we can all agree is just a fancy way of saying the Satan Room. Behold below the remaining two karaoke rooms at the Highball: Joysticks and Truly Outrageous.
So speak up: can you choose a favorite? Do you have a different song choice planned for each room? Some Julee Cruise for the Black Lodge, obviously, and maybe the Ramones' "Pinhead" for the Freak Room. Clearly you'll want to wail some Holograms or Misfits in Truly Outrageous, and Mayhem in The Inferno, but what for Joysticks? For some reason They Might Be Giants comes to mind. I need back-up for The Fifth Dimension and Midnight Manor. Help me out in the comments.
And if you want to book some rock time in any of the above rooms (of course you do!), this is where you do that. And those of you headed to FF should warm up your pipes - I imagine we're all going to be spending a LOT of time here during Fantastic Fest.