And now the wait is over. After months of anticipation, this morning The Bomb Factory revealed the plans for its grand reopening party to be held this spring. Leading the way: Perhaps Dallas' greatest living musical treasure, Erykah Badu, will play the historic Deep Ellum venue on Thursday, March 26. Two days later, she'll be followed by sentimental favorites the Toadies.
"Obviously she's badass," says Bomb Factory owner Clint Barlow of Badu. "We wanted to have somebody that was a Dallas native and somebody that was big." Having the Toadies play that Saturday falls into line with that same logic. "There's going to be a lot of nostalgia with the actual venue, and what better way to open a Dallas venue than with a Dallas artist?"
The Bomb Factory, which stands on the corner of Canton and Crowdus and was once an actual munitions plant, hasn't hosted a concert in 20 years. When Barlow, who also owns Trees with his wife Whitney, purchased the property and first announced plans to reopen it back in November 2013, the building had been partially converted into office spaces. He set about gutting the entire place and rebuilding it from the ground up.
"We took everything down to the walls and floor, so everything else over there is brand new," Barlow says of the reconstruction. "We kept it the same construction here that was left last and just kind of redid it." When he and Whitney took over Trees five years ago, it was another reopening for a then-closed venue. But this has been a much bigger undertaking: "It's completely different," says Barlow. "As far as cost is concerned, it's a lot more," he adds with a laugh.
The reconfigured space will have a capacity of 4,300 people, almost 1,000 more than what the Barlows had originally anticipated when they began planning. The stage will be on the east end of the building, with a mezzanine level wrapping around three-quarters of the room and bars in the back. There will be some unique amenities for the artists as well, including four dressing rooms, a gym and even a laundromat.
"When you're on tour, there's a lot of things you wish you had or had access to," explains Barlow, himself a former touring musician. "Even if you have the ability to do a load of laundry, that's an awesome feeling. No venue I'm aware, or certainly that I ever played at, had a laundromat in it so we thought that would be cool to add."
Earlier this week, The Bomb Factory announced that one of its first shows will be an appearance from Jesus and Mary Chain, which is being promoted by AEG. It's a good indicator of the new versatility in booking that Barlow's team will now have.
"We'll be able to facilitate anything from 100 to 4,300 between the two venues, so when we make out here [at Trees] we can move it over there," Barlow explains. But don't expect them to start pulling in arena-sized shows, either: "Bomb Factory's half the size of Verizon. Just to open the doors over there is pretty expensive, I would think. So it makes sense for [AEG] to do some shows with us because I don't think Jesus and Mary Chain would sell 8,000 tickets."
Bringing in crowds like that so close to the heart of Deep Ellum could potentially have quite a big impact on the neighborhood. If all goes to plan, it might wind up making parking a little easier, as a new, six-story parking ramp is slated to be built alongside The Bomb Factory in an empty lot along Commerce St.
For Barlow, though, this new project is more a matter of good business sense, and a passion for music, than it is a product of nostalgia.
"I only went to a handful of shows there to be honest with you," he says of The Bomb Factory's original run. "I think the bands themselves created the fun and memories rather than the venue." In stark contrast to the state-of-the-art amenities planned for the revived venue, the old Bomb Factory was legendary almost in spite of itself. "They didn't have A/C, it was always jam-packed and it was horribly hot. I don't remember thinking, 'Oh this is an awesome place,' but it was an awesome time."
As The Bomb Factory begins its comeback, it's safe to assume it'll have both sides of that equation covered this time around. The building, which finally has a roof, should speak for itself. And on opening night, Badu should have no trouble taking care of the rest.
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Here's the full list of shows that have been announced for The Bomb Factory. Tickets available at thebombfactory.com:
March 26 -- Erykah Badu March 28 -- The Toadies April 4 -- The Pin Show April 17 -- Sixx:A.M. May 3 -- Ministry May 5 -- Nightwish May 7 -- The Jesus and Mary Chain May 22 -- Purity Ring
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