Concert Reviews

Punk Rock's Return to Deep Ellum is Not to Be Stifled

This past Friday, the glowing red canopy at 2617 Commerce St. was illuminated once again for the reopening of the storied Dallas punk club, RBC. Walking through the venue's tunneling entrance vaguely evoked walking through a time machine. It was as though the past seven years RBC has been closed zipped by in an instant, and everything seemed to pick up right where it left off -- fast, hard and loud as hell. The only differences were that this time the bathrooms are clean, the employees wear uniforms, and we're all a little bit older.

In the weeks leading up to this triumphant return, curiosity over the venue's renovation peaked. What would it look like in there? Would it be the same old Red Blood Club, the image fixed in our memories? Would the portrait of the late Jeff Stork (lead singer of mid-2000's local punk fixture Jump Boys) still hang over the stage in his memory? Would it smell better in there? In short -- no, no, and 1,000 times yes.

For the old regulars, RBC's makeover is a little astounding at first sight. There's no more of the grit and grime that used to hang thick in the air -- dare I say, the bar top is even clean enough to eat off of. The bathroom, once avoided at all costs with a walk around the corner to 7-Eleven, now contains luxurious automatic flushing toilets. Gone are the days of self-regulating crowds and corralling female patrons to the stage's loading ramp out of harms way. Depending on how rowdy the set goes, three to four uniformed security guards keep the action close to the front, leaving space behind the club's support beams for less enthusiastic fans to tap toes and bob heads without worrying about taking a surprise elbow to the jaw. Whereas Red Blood Club was the hole in the wall we grew up in, RBC is a punk club for grownups, and that's how management intends to keep it.

While management team Tammy Moss and "Big Mike" Rios were elated to reopen a Dallas music staple this weekend, they were adamant about one thing. They do not want you to call the venue Red Blood Club. The months leading up to reopening have seen plenty of suspicion and hesitation from the city of Dallas. When the property's landlord suggested that management file for permits under the name RBC (an acronym for Rock, Blues and Country) it was because City Council was worried that Rios and Moss were attempting to reintroduce a seedy element of the past to Deep Ellum 2.0. A bit of classic misdirection doesn't seem to be enough, however.

In the last couple of weeks, impassioned pleas to patrons of the city's punk, hardcore and metal scenes have gone up on the RBC Facebook page -- all but begging the scene at large not to bring any trouble to the club's doorstep. It's clear after one show at RBC that our local government's fears are all for naught.

With the exception of a couple of clean-cut looking bros in button flannels getting quickly and efficiently tossed out for swinging on a bouncer, the night ran as smoothly as it possibly could have. The threat of the city looking for a reason to close the club's doors again looms, and no one in the scene wants to be that reason -- so much so, that they're willing to pretend that their history doesn't live within the club's walls. There is something profoundly saddening about that. Dallas City Council would be well inclined to let the punks have their name, their photo of Jeff Stork and their identity back along with their home in Deep Ellum. Nothing could be worse for the city's music and arts scene than forcing it to forget about its roots. After all, a little circle pit never killed anybody.

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Vanessa Quilantan