By Little Walter

(March/April 2013/vol. 6 – Issue 2)

The Triple Crown
206 N. Edward Gary St., San Marcos, TX 78666
512-396-2236 /

The first thing that strikes you when you walk into San Marcos’ Triple Crown, even if it’s your maiden visit, is an overwhelming sense of deja vu. There’s an atmosphere to the place the initiates a familiarity with anyone who has ever stepped into a dive bar or a honky-tonk. Between the smoke, the pool table, and the row of regulars sitting at the bar — it all just clicks: “Oh yeah,” you think, “I’ve been here before.”

Photo by Richard Skanse

Photo by Richard Skanse

And chances are, you’ll be back. At the Triple Crown, the drinks are cheap and so is the pool, so when you get to making friends here (which happens more often than not), buying rounds never puts anybody under the table. But the Triple Crown is a whole lot more than just a great local watering hole: Most famously, it’s all about the music that goes down here — just about nonstop.

On Oct. 10, 2010, the then almost 14-year-old Triple Crown celebrated 5,000 consecutive nights of live music. And thatmeans Christmas, Thanksgiving, whatever the hell: the Triple Crown’s stage is always prepped, always stocked, always booming, and you can never know what to expect. As Eric Shaw, the Crown’s booking manager, puts it, “San Marcos needed a venue that had lots of different types of music, and that’s why I book a little bit of everything — because there’s a little bit of everything in San Marcos.”

At the Triple Crown you’re likely to find up-and-coming DJs, metal-head berserkers, bluegrass jamborees, opium-bin cellists, honky-tonkers, singer-songwriters, entire hip-hop crews, you name it, and all with packed crowds in front of them, and never with a cover charge over $8. Hell, back in the day, Blue October was playing at the club’s weekly open mics, Grupo Fantasma started out playing on weekdays, and you can still see Scott H. Biram swapping stories on a Friday night after touring the damn Autobahn. At Triple Crown the only niche is noise.

Before the noise, the Triple Crown’s location used to house a local massage parlor called the Tokyo Tan (the sign from which is still held up proudly inside the TC’s doors), where locals say you could stop in and get a good old rub-n-tug for $20 bucks. That is, if you could find parking. Since then, that old lot has become no less filled — no matter what time of day it is, as the Triple Crown is open every day except Sunday from 8 a.m. until 2 a.m. On Sunday, regulars looking to nurse their hangovers from the night before have to wait until noon for the doors to open. Whatever the hour, though, you’re bound to find a bar full of patrons, from local musicians to folks just looking for a place that feels like home.

Before Superfly’s Lone Star Music Emporium opened last October up the street and around the corner from the Triple Crown, myself and a few other current Superfly’s employees worked at the old record store that used to be in the same space: Sundance. When Sundance founder Bobby Barnard told us in early 2012 that he would be closing the shop after 35 years, our spirits were withered to fumes. With our hearts as broken as they were, it was all left to instinct to carry what was left of us somewhere that we could be, if at all possible, comfortable. That was one of many times I’ve vented, argued, or laughed fully inside the Triple Crown’s walls.

I’ll always remember the night our whole crew gathered at the Triple Crown just before we had to close Sundance’s doors for good. Scott H. Biram sat on that stage wielding a tempest, hollering the most haunted and danceable blues in Texas since Lightnin’ passed. And that’s the way the Triple Crown always treats you: It’s there for you when you need it, ready to set your elbows on the table so your face can hit your palm, or to yank your ankles and neck into a primal frenzy. The Triple Crown will cure what ails you, and it’s a damn fine place to celebrate when you feel like doing that, too. It’s the whole sound of Texas wrapped in the laid-back waters of San Marcos. And whatever we locals go there for, it must be similar to why the tourists do, too — whether for a throw back of Big Bark and a raucous time, or just for a place to belong.