By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The only time I wear a suit is to attend a wedding or funeral. I suppose, then, my arrival at the Chapter 11 bankruptcy hearing on Wednesday, December 28, didn't bode well for the Entertainment Collaborative, the then-owners of Trees; the federal court has a dress code, and there I was in my pinstripes.
2709 Elm St.
Dallas, TX 75226-1425
Region: Downtown & Deep Ellum
Let's just say that I didn't see anybody ready to throw a garter.
On that day, EC lawyer John Leslie read the following statement: "The debtor has reached an agreement to suspend operation of Trees as of 3 p.m. on January 2nd. " The hearing had been requested by Trees building landlord Belmor Corp. because the EC hadn't paid rent on the space in 60 days, giving the landlord legal right under bankruptcy proceedings to reclaim the property.
After that statement, Belmor Corp. demanded it receive the property immediately, alleging that the EC was subleasing its parking lot next door without paying any sublease revenue to the landlord. But Leslie's request for a few days to bring orderly closure to the venue won out, and U.S. District Judge Harlin DeWayne Hale ruled for the lease at 2709 Elm St. to be suspended on January 2.
The result was a three-night stand of concerts--Friday's local hip-hop showcase resulted in the most packed Final Friday crowd in recent memory (see Set List, page 55), and perhaps local rap-rock un-legends Pimpadelic packed 'em in on Saturday, too, though I certainly couldn't tell ya.
But it was Sunday's show that had the most meaning, named, oddly, "Save the Trees." Talk about a mixed meaning, though--the lineup, which was only confirmed days before the show, didn't feature a single local legend who defined Trees during its 15-year run. Nobody from the Toadies, Rev. Horton Heat, Baboon or even Slow freaking Roosevelt showed up to pour libations or say final words.
Instead, those words were left to bands like Frolic, Overseen, Fallen From the Nest and Lame. "It is so fucking cool to see you here at Trees on New Year's," Overseen lead singer J.R. said, and really, that's as deep as the "tributes" got between sets. Shirtless lead singers barked that this was the "last fucking show" and made cursory mentions of the venue's history, though at least they paid kudos to the staff on hand.
These band members were barely alive for much of Trees' existence, and their dominance at the show was the equivalent of a month-long work acquaintance giving a eulogy at a funeral. And a work acquaintance with bad taste in music, to boot. In all fairness, I'm glad Trees didn't take the abrupt, "here one day, gone the next" approach of neighbor Club Dada, but this closing concert reached a level of suck that would make even Curtain Club's worst schedules blush. From synchronized headbanging to boring copycat takes on Limp Bizkit, early '90s Anthrax and Linkin Park, the butt-rock circus repeatedly jabbed its poop-stained knives into Trees' dwindling heart.
Concertgoers acted like they were surprised about the closure--"Deep Ellum is slowly but surely falling apart" and "Who saw this coming?"--but really, people finally have a symbol to attach to a long-standing problem.
"I can't think of a city this size that would let its entertainment district die like this," former EC talent buyer Russell Turns said on Sunday, and everything I've reported on in Deep Ellum's past few months agrees with that. Not enough cops. Not enough safe, adequate and cheap parking--in particular, a whole row of parking spots at Malcolm X Boulevard and Elm Street was turned into a no-parking zone last year for no good reason. In addition to those years-old problems, the city will begin paving over the Deep Ellum tunnel in the spring too.
Could the city have kept the Elm Street clubs lit up? Maybe--and we'll have more on Deep Ellum, its future and the blame game soon. But bad schedules, bad parking and bad attendance don't matter now. Trees' doors are closed. I walked in on Monday as locksmiths were changing the locks. There, Entertainment Collaborative CEO Whit Meyers told me that the final Trees crowd treated the bartenders very well, and he stated that most Trees employees would find work at the other EC properties (Gypsy Tea Room, Green Room, Jeroboam) soon.
I looked around as EC employees were rounding up the final pieces of equipment. The upstairs backstage had been cleared out--no more worn-down couch. A few things had been left in the front office--a hoodie, some paperwork from the night before. And on the front door's whiteboard, a phrase was left behind: "Goodnight sweet moon, goodnight forever."
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