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

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Sure, there were remnant businesses like the old icehouse (where key scenes in "Bottle Rocket" were filmed); Adair's Saloon, Vern's restaurant and Sons of Hermann Hall; a few art galleries here and there; and a place that sold wholesale butcher supplies. For the most part, Deep Ellum seemed to exist under the cultural radar.

In fact, most of downtown Dallas was totally dark after the white-collar crowd fled back to the 'burbs every night.

Hobbs settled on an empty 14,000 square foot warehouse at 2808 Commerce. The landlord, (the late Don Blanton) handed over a set of keys and wished him luck. The next day Russ began hauling in leftover building materials from recent contracting jobs, and he hired a buddy nicknamed "Billy Manana" to hook up the plumbing. The shower was essentially a garden hose hanging from a support beam in the ceiling. There was no hot water heater in the building at the time.

Without blueprints or any real architectural design experience to speak of, Hobbs began to build what looked like an indoor tree house. Everything was constructed out of raw plywood, concrete or drywall. He salvaged an old boat from the back of a failed Mexican seafood restaurant; he then split the hull lengthwise down the middle, and turned the boat into a beer dispensary station. Directly above "El Barco" was the dark loft space where Hobbs slept naked on a dirty futon every night. He didn't need sheets or blankets because it was hot as fuck inside that building.

Next, he snagged the makeshift stage that the Dead Kennedys had used during the protest outside the GOP convention and dragged it into the back of the building. Intuition, luck, and reckless abandon were colliding to make something out of nothing at 2808 Commerce Street.

He named the place Theatre Gallery.

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Jeff Liles