Echoes and Reverberations: At the Theatre Gallery, Capturing Lightning in a Beer Cup

It was the summer of 1984 and the city of Dallas was in the midst of a serious makeover. The Republican National Convention was coming to town and Big D was trying to put a conservative foot forward as the media spotlight fixated on our JFK Bermuda Triangle.

Our local music scene at the time consisted of a half dozen neon rock and roll bars and a handful of tiny punk rock dives: out-of-the-way places like like Studio D, Metamorphosis Concert Hall and Nairobi Room. Classic rock booking agents ignored the bands that played all original material. It was understood that you were expected to cover all of the top radio songs if you ever wanted to land a gig at one of the "wet t-shirt" nightclubs.

In August of that year, a 26-year-old interior design school dropout named Russell Hobbs drove his 25-year-old Mercedes convertible down Commerce Street looking for an empty warehouse space to live in. The irony of this was evident on many levels. Most of the buildings in this warehouse district just east of downtown were dilapidated and empty -- the name "Commerce" (like Riverfront Boulevard today) was false advertising. And Hobbs wasn't your typical Mercedes owner. He was drifting through a veritable ghost town; Deep Ellum had lost touch with its identity. Once a popular entertainment district during the prohibition era, the neighborhood had fallen into an ongoing holding pattern of relative anonymity.

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Jeff Liles