The coOompound, one of Dallas’ most influential DIY house show venues, is shutting its doors this August. A lone settlement on the frontier of Dallas’ DIY scene, it established a new precedent for the breadth attainable by a DIY venue — both in genre and in volume of attendees — and launched the careers of several local musical and visual arts acts.
“[The coOompound] started because we used to throw parties for small group of our friends, and pretty much every party was gravitating towards more and more people ending in the studio jamming together,” says Evan Gordon, the founder, impresario, and full-time resident of the coOompound. “I’d been playing music for a really long time and never really knew how to go about getting a show, so I decided to say, ‘Fuck it, let’s make this next party a show.’”
Gordon says he expected “maybe 30 of my friends, but it turned out nearly 100 people came. I was very unprepared for that.” Many of the bands who played that very first show would become staples of the later events presented at the coOompound.
At the coOompound, almost anything was fair game. The best way to go into a coOompound show was blind. The house’s low roof and gated courtyard entryway seemed to give the building miraculous sound-deadening properties, ensuring the performances were secret until one was inside. In the inner sanctum, an attendee was as likely to encounter Hello! Scenic Dreams’ amplified collage of screams and grunts as to discover the Field Guide’s eminently listenable brand of psych pop, or Blue the Misfit’s spacey raps – the only common denominator being a supportive audience and, often, a trippy video projection.
Because the coOompound appeared from nothing and almost without precedent, there were no preconceived notions about what a DIY house show should be. And because it started with some friends hanging out, it was never restricted to being a mere concert venue – it was a community hub for hundreds of creative people in Dallas.
Supporting the local scene always came first. Touring bands were booked because they supported the local acts, not vice versa. “It’s cool whenever I can say, ‘wow I bought Milo to my house,’” says Gordon. “But then there’s the very unique and incredible reality that there’s a very large community of people that are willing to give up their time and energy to participate in this space I’ve created.”
The coOompound's roots can be traced to a band called Art for Motels. That band was originally the project of two of the coOompound’s core members, Terence Shipp (Hello! Scenic Dreams) and Joshua Luttrull. According to Gardner, who played in the band, it was at a Motels rehearsal that Gordon first revealed to him his blueprint for the coOompound. Within two months, the group hosted the first coOmpound show. "It really just happened out of nowhere,” he says.
The artist Jason Dann, a friend of Gardner’s and occasional visitor to the coOompound, describes Art for Motels' practice space in Plano as a kind of microcosmic version of what was to come. “The room was a small space, mostly with all the instruments set up, but they had lights and flags put up on the wall — beer cans on the floor, carpet they had brought in, it almost reminded me more of a clubhouse than an actual practice space — they had spent so much time going there and hanging out late into the night.”
The community that has mushroomed around coOompound have no time to mourn. They seem too busy planning what comes next. Gordon, especially, is confident that coOompound is Hydra-headed. “[I’ll keep putting on shows] wherever I move, and that’ll probably be easy to figure out because I’ll just keep the same Facebook page I currently have for the coOompound," he says. "I've been booking a little bit at Spinster Records, and the Home Dome is another place I’ve booked a show … I’m branching out.”
Chase Gardner, who collaborates with Adriana Valls under the name Cut Shutters and performed frequently at the coOompound, is not worried either. Ever since their first show at coOompound, “we get booked every single month.” Cut Shutters was recently signed to Art for Motels, a label run by many members of that original coOompound circle of friends. Basically the coOompound’s in-house label, Art for Motels will forge ahead.
The supernova life cycle of a venue like coOompound is what makes the experiences there so special. “If we had shows 3 nights a week ... the crowd would be less dense when we do have shows," Gordon says. "And I think that’s part of what makes it so enjoyable, that everyone is so excited for it because it doesn’t happen every day.”