Rather, I want to point out that I went to Deep Ellum a few times this weekend, saw some good concerts and got out without being stabbed, harassed or even all that inconvenienced. Not that Deep Ellum is perfect--traffic sucks after 1:30 a.m., and the Clearview/Liquid/Curtain complex is the pus-ridden, scabby knife wound of local music--but Gypsy Tea Room, Club Dada and the Darkside Lounge are kicking a lot more ass than you might think (and ending shows early enough so patrons can leave well before closing time).
It'd be nice if the C/L/C complex followed suit and stopped booking so many spare 102.1-loving bands: System Overload, Chasing February, Far From Rooted...I can keep going if you want (but you don't). In years past, you could expect some quality shows to balance out the generic, lackluster lineups--hey, everybody's got their own tastes--but the schedules have dropped off so badly that there's no point in wandering into one of the triad clubs on a given night and hoping for a pleasant surprise. Another news flash: Crime doesn't kill Deep Ellum...Club Clearview does.
Don't blame C/L/C's failings on a lack of bands to choose from--I need two hands to count well-booked venues in the Dallas area, and with great new DIY venues popping up in the wake of Sanctuary Studios, I need some toes too. Fort Worth's Metrognome Collective had a fine weekend, hosting the Theater Fire's well-attended hometown CD release show on Friday and Olympia, Washington's stellar Nudity on Sunday--not a bad coup for such a young concert venue (head there on Sunday to see Fort Worth's best new Mission of Burma lovers, Tame...Tame and Quiet).
This weekend, add another new room to the pot--Secret Headquarters, a catch-all DIY/office space opening in Art Prostitute's old Denton location at 210 E. Hickory St. But the musicians who are running the building, Scott Porter (Record Hop), Cody Robinson (Medicine Window) and Rob Black (Birth to Burial), aren't being unrealistic or idealistic about SHQ. "We're not trying to save the world," Porter says. "We're not trying to save Denton, save the music scene, make anybody famous."
SHQ's concerts--once a week on Saturdays, 8 p.m.-10 p.m., $3, BYOB--will run alongside the building's general office space (TXMF Records will be run from the building, for example) and a small, Texas-focused music and book shop. "That's the beauty of it--we all have day jobs, so our success doesn't hinge on these shows, not on people buying records," Porter says. "We don't want to hang our hopes on people spending money because nobody's got any fucking money." Well put. But while the rest of the space's vision is still somewhat in the air (Porter talks about hosting local co-op food sales, acting as a "go-to space" for the community and even throwing a few Halo 2 tournaments), the concert part is solid. The calendar's booked months in advance already, and this Saturday's opening is particularly solid thanks to Denton must-sees the Angelus, Shiny Around the Edges and Fra Pandolf.
Porter also insists that his venue's a starting point for concert-hoppers, which is good, because this Saturday's opening ends early enough for visitors to waddle to Hailey's for Mwanza Dover's Lost Generation Summer Concert Series, which debuts with performances by Daron Beck's splendidly bizarre Great Tyrant along with Pegasus Now, the Laptop Deathmatch Squad and many more.
Expansion's good--it means the quality bands keep finding gigs somehow, someway--but on weeks like this, I can't help but be nostalgic about Dallas' old, semi-centralized days. That's because my good friend Robert Wilonsky has worked like a crazy man on his Dallas Music Matters series. It's an Unfair Park exclusive--log onto dallasobserver.com/blogs every day this week for MP3s of some of the most important music rooted in downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum, from Blind Lemon Jefferson to Teenage Symphony. Load the tracks on your iPod, wander through Deep Ellum and imagine that timeless music being written and performed blocks away from the C/L/C complex. Hard to believe, but it happened. Fortunately, it still does.