Line 'Em Up
I'm not great with numbers, but I know that there was a pretty substantial line outside Club Dada on Friday night to see Black Rebel Motorcycle Club—four wide, actually—and it took up practically a whole city block. And I know that a line like that adds up to a pretty decent number of people—more than 400, I'd say.
More than can fit into Club Dada, that's for sure. More than the amount of tickets the club sold. More than Club Dada's owners found out their club's capacity was when the fire marshal showed up, asking questions about the big line on the street.
I saw that line. In fact, I literally laughed aloud when I saw it—out of shock, really, 'cause I couldn't figure out what else to do—and I wondered how the hell the club was going to handle it.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Regardless of that, though, I thought it was a good thing.
The promoters for the show? Um, not so much. They were worried from the onset about what all the to-do might mean. Would everyone get in? Would the crowd be riled up over having to wait in line? Would people be turned away at the door?
All logical questions. All with uncertain answers, even a week later.
In some regards, it was a huge night for Deep Ellum and for Dada. It's been a long time since the area's seen a crowd show up with that much enthusiasm. And, luckily for Dada, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club had been through this same scenario a few times already this year. Instead of turning everyone away at the door, the band bailed the club out by offering to play two shows—an early one that started at 10:30 p.m. and a later one that began around 12:30 a.m. But there were still some (rightfully so) pissed-off people stuck out in the smoldering heat on Friday night, despite buying their tickets ahead of time. And though every ticket holder who stuck around eventually got inside the club to see the show—the sidewalk crowds left out of the first show were even treated to an impromptu sidewalk performance from BRMC's Robert Levon Been as a peace offering—many simply bolted away angrily.
Were there oversights in the handling of the event? Sure. But between Been's sidewalk set and the fact that people were excited about seeing a show in Deep Ellum the good likely outweighs the bad in the long run.
Why? Because it got people talking. Even if Dada bit off more than it could chew with this show.
Hell, the line alone did that. When Albert Magallon saw it, he immediately called up Glenn Jackson, his co-owner in a soon-to-be open Deep Ellum venue, The Lounge on Elm Street, to excitedly tell him what he saw. "I couldn't believe it," Magallon says.
Jackson, too, was pleased about the news. "I'm glad to see [Club Dada] doing well," he says. "The more the merrier on this block."
See, no matter the outcome of the BRMC show at Dada, the line outside the venue alone meant there was a buzz about Deep Ellum—and that's as good as news gets when you're a couple of guys looking to create some buzz of your own the next block up Elm Street.
On this coming Saturday night, Jackson and Magallon will officially be tossing their hats into the Deep Ellum ring, opening for business with a free show from New Jersey-based lo-fi indie pop-punk act Titus Andronicus, which recently performed at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. And though Jackson and Magallon are technically calling the event a "soft opening"—the grand opening, they say, will be in September—they say they're ready to help revamp Deep Ellum's reputation as a music hotbed.
Last Sunday afternoon, however, the space their club will occupy—the former home of the Darkside Lounge, which closed in late March—looked more like a construction site than anything else. Sawdust covered the floor; extension cords were everywhere; electric wires were still being tampered with; and ladders and trash piles seemingly took up every other space in the room.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Magallon says. "We've gotta bust ass over the next few days."
Countertops still need to be installed; the bar still needs to be erected (assuming the venue's liquor license is approved this week, as the owners anticipate it will be); and the whole place could use a few good sweep-and-mop sessions.
"But it looks like more of a mess than it actually is," Jackson interjects with a smirk.
He has a point. As a space, there was nothing inherently wrong with the Darkside Lounge. Actually, as a space, it's quite nice, boasting three distinct areas: the bar up front, the show space in back (which boasts a freshly built stage; between the current owners coming in and the Darkside's proprietors exiting, a third owner leased the space and tore out the Darkside's stage in hopes of turning the space into a dance club), and the upstairs lounge area (which, later this week, will boast not only some new televisions, but also a couple of Nintendo Wiis for the ADD set). But, aside from cosmetic changes, Magallon and Jackson only have so much they have to do.
Where they really hope to have an effect on the venue, though, is in their booking. With some help from a few friends—John Iskander of Parade of Flesh booking and Michael Briggs of Gutterth Production are lending a hand—Jackson figures the club will be able to draw some interesting local and touring acts to his stage. Add that to the fact that every weeknight will boast a different DJ from around town—already, he's confirmed residencies with local favorites Select and Nature of The Party, among others—and Jackson figures he has a winning formula. Even when the Lounge hosts live bands, the resident DJs will still perform, offering their sounds between band sets, Jackson says.
"That way," Magallon explains, "it will feel more like a party and less like a show."
"It's an angle," Jackson says. "It might not work, but we're hoping it will."
As they walk around their space, Magallon and Jackson, perhaps rightfully, seem more anxious than anything. And though they have no illusions about why they chose to open a club in what seems like a doomed part of town when it comes to live music venues—"Well," Jackson says, "No. 1: It was cheap"—they think they can make a difference within the neighborhood.
"No, Deep Ellum isn't what it was," Jackson says, referring to the area's heyday of the '80s and '90s.
But, in recent years, Deep Ellum hasn't seen lines like the one outside of Dada last weekend either. With their money invested and the Lounge on Elm Street about to open for business, of course Jackson and Magallon might be a little biased. But, to them, that line signaled a potential return to form for the neighborhood.
"Just as long as there's people down here having a good time, that's all we want," Jackson says. "As long as there's a few places for people to go to, it'll almost be like the old days.
"I'm ready to get these doors open and make it happen."
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