By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By late afternoon on January 18, the phone calls and e-mails were coming in one after the other. A few people even poked their heads in the door to see what was up. The details changed a little bit each time around, sure, but everyone essentially wanted to know the same thing: What is happening with Trees? Following the usual procedure, the rumors were already running rampant, ranging from reports that the club was simply shutting down because it was losing money to word that not only was Trees going out of business, but plans were already in the works to--what?--convert the space into a dance club. It was clear, after a brief and somewhat cryptic e-mail exchange with one of the club's owners, Brandt Wood (who owns and operates Trees and Gypsy Tea Room, among other things, with his brother, Brady, under The Entertainment Collaborative banner), that something was certainly up with the venue, a fixture in Deep Ellum since 1990. Or was it?
Well, yes and no. The details are still a bit sketchy, but this much is true: Trees will indeed be closing on February 1, but only for a month or so, while the club undergoes yet another face-lift. (You may remember the last one, which resulted in, among other things, a larger stage area.) "We are going to give a full go at bringing all aspects of the club into the 21st century," Brandt Wood says. "What does that mean? More good music, actual user friendliness--I know that is crazy--researching what is going on in other markets, etc."
According to the press release The Entertainment Collaborative sent out on January 19, in the release's own language so as not to start any more rumors, "Improvements will include a significant exterior and interior update that features artwork and artifacts that pay tribute to Trees history. In addition to physical improvements, the newly reopened venue will expand its hours, nights of operation and, most importantly, its calendar. Early 20th century music history is entrenched in Deep Ellum where Trees is located, and Trees, which represents the cutting edge of modern music, will continue to make history by bringing the best music--from local all the way to international--to Dallas first."
So there you have it. But what, exactly, does all of that mean? For starters, don't be surprised if Trees does in fact turn into a dance club, at least on off-nights. For the time being, since Kris McLauchlan and his assistant Michelle Basileo handle most of the booking at Trees and Gypsy Tea Room, it doesn't take too much extrapolation to figure that most of the shows that would have happened at Trees during the shutdown will be moved to Gypsy Tea Room. No word on when the shutdown will happen, though the club should be up and running with its new look sometime before March 21, when Trees welcomes former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus and his new combo, The Jicks.
The point? Don't trust a single word coming out of Deep Ellum until you can confirm it with your own eyes and ears...
Ghostcar will open for Low (see "Bad Reputation," page 91 on all four dates of the Duluth, Minnesota-based trio's swing through Texas, beginning in Houston on January 23, and wrapping up with a show at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios in Denton on January 27. If you happen to attend one of those shows, you can pick up a copy of Ghostcar's first disc, a home recording titled Ghostcar: The Radio Entro For Bionic Ears. The disc features Daniel Huffman, Karl Poetschke, and Cole Wheeler, as well as Jessica Bailiff, who also records under her own name (with the occasional helping hand from Huffman) for Chicago's Kranky Records. Huffman, late of Comet and Sivad, is the common bond between pretty much everything we've mentioned so far; he also turns up on Low's forthcoming Things We Lost in the Fire, set to be released in February on--wait for it--Kranky Records. Lovely...
Since we talk about Centro-matic so often you'd assume they're either kin and/or paying us, you might not have noticed the fact that the band doesn't actually play in Dallas that often, only a handful of times a year. The group will make one of those rare appearances on February 1 at the Gypsy Tea Room, with Lewis, and band manager Bob Andrews promises, should you show up, you will get your money's worth. "Bring a sack lunch," Andrews says. "It's gonna be a long set." Not like we're complaining. Later in the month, Centro-matic will hit the road for a quartet of shows with The Promise Ring, a week or so prior to the release of the Centro-matic/Vermont split CDEP, Vermont + Centro-matic = Opportunity, on Quality Park Records. Vermont is the side project of Promise Ring frontman Davey von Bohlen and drummer Dan Didier. The split should hit stores on February 27, the same day Quality Park will put out Legendary Crystal Chandelier's Beyond Indifference. LCC's Peter Schmidt says the band will celebrate the disc's release with a shindig on February 24, most likely at the Curtain Club (which just celebrated three years in bidness) or Liquid Lounge. Which shouldn't affect anyone's plans, since they are, after all, in the same building. No opening act has been announced, but hey, as long as LCC is playing, and you have a chance to pick up Beyond Indifference a few days early, it shouldn't matter who else is playing. Well, unless it's someone good. Ah, just go...
Eniac will begin recording its debut long-player in the very near future, with Dan Phillips (whom you may know as the guitarist for Slowride and The Mag 7) producing the disc. It won't be the first time Eniac and Phillips' work has appeared on the same disc: Both Slowride and Eniac appeared on I Guess This is Goodbye, the fifth and latest installment of Deep Elm Records' Emo Diaries series, late last year. No word on when to expect the Eniac full-length, but it'd probably be safe to say later this year. Speaking of Deep Elm Records and its Emo Diaries compilations, Lewis' song "Everything's Changed" will show up on the upcoming sixth volume. Still speaking of Deep Elm, the label will release Red Animal War's debut, Breaking in an Angel, in March, at least if we remember what singer-guitarist Justin Wilson told us four bourbon-and-Cokes into an eight-drink night. Close enough. You can ask him yourself on January 25, when Red Animal War and [DARYL] open for Valve at Club Clearview...
Pleasant Grove's Marcus Striplin reports that the band is set to begin recording a new EP with Matt Pence in the next week or two, and that, if all goes to plan, the disc could be in your hands as soon as April, or May at the latest. Stripling also says that Pleasant Grove will return to the studio in October (we assume with Pence once again at the controls) to set its first full-length to tape. You'll have plenty of chances to hear songs from both projects before the band disappears into Pence's studio: Pleasant Grove performs January 25 with Little Grizzly at Dan's Bar, the following night at the Ridglea Theater with Baboon (part of Baboon's big roll-out for the brand-new live joint, A Bum Note and a Bead of Sweat), and February 1 at Curtain Club with Lift to Experience. Don't be surprised if Striplin hugs you at some point...
Questionable Laws Enforced by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, part 479: Curtain Club floor manager Doug McGrath reports that agents from the TABC paid a visit to Deep Ellum recently to stop a few clubs from, uh, wearing T-shirts. Specifically, the TABC was out to halt some clubs from putting the names of their respective venues on the shirts of the security and door staff. Turns out, you can't put your club's name or logo on staff shirts unless you've previously acquired a private security license. The result: The clubs either have to shell out for another license that does little more than give the TABC some extra scratch, or pay to have new T-shirts made. There's another group in America that has a long-standing practice of strong-arming businesses into handing over cash based on arbitrary rules: Some people call it la cosa nostra. Others know it as the Mafia. Some just say "the Mob." Check out a few episodes of The Sopranos and you'll see what we mean...
Other rumored happenings: Chomsky, The Deathray Davies, Kissinger (see "Power Popqpers," on page 98), and Boston's Rocketscience perform January 26 at Trees; Lucy Loves Schroeder, Bluh, and The Limes are at Curtain Club on January 25; Wiring Prank and mercova play at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios on January 25, while Burnt Sienna, Cumulo Nimbus, and Early Lines are there the night before; and Good Records has a full slate of in-store performances scheduled for this week, including Low on January 25 at 6 p.m., Cursive on January 28 at 4 p.m.; and River City High on January 31 at 6 p.m. Flipside will also make an appearance at the store on February 7 at 6 p.m. That is all.