By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
For a while, it looked as though the death of the Dark Room -- the Green Room's performance space -- would mean the death of The Enablers. After all, the band had been more of a fixture there than the stage, playing every Wednesday for three years. They liked it that way, playing the same place at the same time every week, thinking it fit in with what they were trying to do -- which was to stay involved in music, keeping their hands in it for as long as they could. Being a member of The Enablers wasn't about good gigs or anything like that. It was about playing, nothing more.
And it still is, for the most part. The band -- Neal Caldwell on keyboards and vocals, bassist Bart Chaney, and drummer Chris Dirkx, along with semi-permanent members Mark Griffin on trumpet, percussionist Davis Bickston, and guitarists Phil Bush and Mark Gowan -- is made up of veterans, musicians that formed the foundation upon which Deep Ellum is built. They'd come of age in the late-'70s and early-'80s punk and new-wave scene: Caldwell played with N.C.M. and ran VVV Records, Chaney was a member of Feet First, and Dirkx and his brothers were the core of The Telefones, which also occasionally featured Griffin. They'd been in Deep Ellum since it was a handful of clubs and a few more patrons. The closing of the Dark Room threatened to change that.
The Enablers took a series of residencies after leaving the Dark Room, moving from Club Dada to 8.0 to Borders Books and Music, before finally ending up at Muddy Waters. But they haven't played there in a while. In fact, when the band performs at XPO Lounge on December 18, it will be the first real Enablers gig since September. And, according to the band, it will just be the first in a series. That is, at least, if they can find a new home.
"I guess we're just looking for a new place to play," Caldwell says. "We always like to find a club where we can have one night a week, and just stay there for a really long time. That's what we were doing at Muddy Waters. We were there for about 10 months. It's just time to find a new home, basically." Caldwell wouldn't mind if XPO Lounge became the band's new base of operations, but he admits, "I don't think that they book like that. That's probably the hang-up. I'd like to play there on a regular basis, but I don't know if that's what they're into."
"We're always kind of open to a standing gig, because that works best with what we're doing," Chaney agrees. "But we don't have anything lined up yet."
But more important than the location of the band's new home is the fact that, at long last, its first CD is finally available. Together since 1993, the group has recorded two albums. But their first self-titled record existed only as a poor-sounding cassette, and the second didn't exist at all, except for the copies the members of the group made from the master tapes. Now, both half-instrumental, half-vocal discs (the second, recorded a year ago, is titled Ciao, Nini) can be purchased on CD for the first time, at least at Enablers gigs. Where those will be remains up in the air, but Caldwell insists that he isn't ready to call it quits just yet.
"Our style is real minimal, but it really sounds cool when you get a lot of people doing the same thing, playing the same way," he says. "We definitely are available." He laughs. "Without sounding desperate, you know, but it's true. I guess I don't get out enough to find a place, but pretty soon, we'll have to."