The Prophet Bar 30th Anniversary
With Soul Asylum, Meat Puppets and Form of Truth
The Prophet Bar, Dallas
Saturday, October 24, 2015
As 2015 nears its end, the days of a venue like The Prophet Bar — one that started all the way back in 1985 — sometimes feel numbered. Sure, we've seen the rebirth of The Bomb Factory this year, and more and more of those empty, old Deep Ellum storefronts have come to life with new businesses. But there's always another high-rise on the horizon, another high-end retail space looming over an old-school club. So it was perhaps inevitable that The Prophet Bar's 30th anniversary celebrations over the weekend looked backward, rather than forward to a murky-at-best future.
Attendees at Prophet Bar’s 30th anniversary show on Saturday weren't just enjoying themselves, they were celebrating the raw history of the iconic Deep Ellum venue. While the crowd mostly consisted of older scenesters, there were also some young faces, surprising at a time when rock ’n' roll as a whole seems to live in the shadows of pop's mainstream giants. If you're into weird metaphysical stuff, you might say the souls of Dallas' music scene rallied together to announce, “We’re still here.” Regardless, it was a decent celebration.
The venue formally known as the Gypsy Tea Room (once called “the cathedral of Deep Ellum”) has been a firm root in the local music family tree throughout Deep Ellum's ups and downs. Within its old brick walls, dingy bathrooms and worn floors, many legends from every strand of modern music made their mark, and many more fans spent some of their best nights.
I remember being underage and sitting right outside the main stage with friends during a Rancid show in 2005, when it was still The Gypsy. We weren’t old enough to get in (we weren’t able to afford it, either), but I recall leaving satisfied anyway, because I had been able to hear the band play some of my favorite Operation Ivy songs, even if they were muffled behind a vibrating wall. At the time, most people were saying Deep Ellum was dying, and I felt like I’d missed the rock ’n' roll train by about 20 years. Luckily, I eventually did catch some great shows there and the place became my gateway into the local music network. Most of us have our own version of that story.
The festivities were spread across two nights. The highlight Friday, the first night, was a set by a band with close ties to The Prophet Bar's early days, Ten Hands. On Saturday night, as the ballroom began filling up with nostalgic Dallas scenesters, locals Form of Truth performed their brand of scrappy, honest rock. Their music teetered between catchy and melodic and outright abrasive, but in a charming way. Frontman Ryan Snipes' self-deprecating commentary was especially cartoonish. “This is where we’d say that at least our mom likes us,” he said. “But thanks for being our surrogate fans!”
Eighties college-rock titans the Meat Puppets came up next. Their instruments rumbled with louder-than-usual dissonance, a throwback to their punk roots that complemented the mixed bag of their folk/rock/country style. They played a load of their classics, songs like “Up on the Sun,” “Plateau” and “Lake of Fire.” Cris Kirkwood hopped up and down shamelessly with his bass in hand as his stoic, Johnny Cash-esque brother, Curt, rambled on.
In between songs, they pumped up the crowd with mischievous quips about juice boxes and genres. “Y’all like country?” they asked the crowd, who responded with a series of loud woos and yeas. “Well, I like rock. Just kidding. It all sounds the same to me.”
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The band continued to rip leads up and down the stage until they gave a final rumble and extinguished the music for Soul Asylum, who offered the crowd a mellower, cleaner sound that brought back memories of the ripped jeans, long hair and cut-sleeved T-shirts in their hazy '90s music videos. Frontman Dave Pirner made outdated jokes about technology in between sets and gave a shout out to seahorses.
For a band that’s older than the venue, they genuinely sounded like they hadn’t aged a bit. (Pirner being the only remaining original member might help to keep things fresh, but hey.) After an encore, Pirner blew a kiss to the audience and it was a wrap.