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The Double Wide is many things. Ultimately, that's the charm of the space. There's the bar itself, where regulars stop by to hang in the authentically Texas environment with its kitschy, trailer-influenced motif. There's the patio outside—one of the tops in town—with its ample seating (including old toilets lined up against the back wall) and tongue-in-cheek Barry Manilow mural. And then there's the live music venue, a tiny space that holds no more than 75 patrons but has become a home base for both bands from the area looking to develop a local fan base and bigger bands wanting to treat their fans to a special show in the kind of environment they may have been seen in once upon a time.
The Double Wide is all of those things, and when those pieces are added together, it's something much, much more, both for the Dallas music community and for the people who run the place. "It just feels like home," says Kim Finch, who for two-and-a-half years has owned the bar located at the awkward intersection where Main, Commerce and Canton streets merge with First and Exposition avenues. On any given night, the bar is a haven for kindred artistic and musical spirits; nary a night goes by, it seems, when there isn't a show, a DJ performance from a local band, or a special party that welcomes anyone wanting to partake. Because, you see, the Double Wide does feel like home, and not just for people who run the place.
More so than any other venue in town, this is the one in which the patrons seem to feel the most ownership, if only in their own minds. That's why bands like Eleven Hundred Springs, which can fill the Granada Theater, still elect to record their live shows here. It's why bands like the Denton ex-pats in punk outfit The Riverboat Gamblers, who can draw bigger crowds to bigger clubs (and have), still choose to host their shows in this space (the ample climbing spots on the ceiling may help there, though). It's why Austin metal heroes The Sword played the club long after it was playing venues five times the size. It's why bands such as The Bellrays, from Riverside, California, stop in and play the venue and send handwritten thank you notes to the venue weeks later that read, "You guys have a kickass club."
For six years, since operating under original owner Jim Sibert, who envisioned the space as the pilot for an eventual franchise of kitschy, trailer trash-themed establishments, The Double Wide has embodied this certain sect of Dallas subculture—the friendlier, somewhat ironic side. And it's been embraced as such. Chelsea Callahan, who for four years has served as the venue's booking agent ("You could say talent buyer, but that's too snotty for this place"), understands that side of things. Before working at the venue, she saw herself in the same boat: "I was like, 'I really like The Double Wide. I need to find a way to get into all the shows for free!'"
Now that she can, Callahan's made it more affordable for others too. Most shows in the performance room are only $5 to attend—the big ones cost a little bit more, but rarely more than $10. That'll be the cover charge on Sunday night when the Double Wide hosts its sixth anniversary party, cheekily titled "The Devil Went Down to Double Wide" ("There was a six, so I had to make it about the devil," Finch says with a laugh). Beyond that, it just might be the best show in town this week—and that's saying nothing of the mechanical bull that'll grace the Double Wide's parking lot as it has for each of the venue's past anniversary dates. Inside, the joint will play host to tattoo artist Oliver Peck's Ramones-in-drag cover band The Ramonas, as well as sets from local dirge rock favorites True Widow and touring metal acts Early Man and Valient Thorr, the latter of which has become a regular at the Double Wide over the course of various tours and keeps coming back because its members enjoy the space and the people.
"Far as I'm concerned, I'm the luckiest booking agent in town," Callahan says. "I can't believe how many requests we get from bands to play here. And, sometimes, it's like we could try and get bigger shows or whatever, but we don't want to lose our heads."
Specifically, she's talking about money—but she might as well be talking about sanity too. Because, with just a 75-person capacity, it's not like the Double Wide really can host much bigger shows—the crowds won't fit. You'll see what I mean on Sunday night when this show draws Double Wide regulars and then some out of the woodwork.
You'll also see something else: You'll see that the Double Wide is Dallas. Even if it's a Dallas you don't often see celebrated elsewhere.
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