Tonight, The Bomb Factory sets off its revival after 20 years of stage silence. But before we rush full-speed-ahead into considering its promising future, we decided to turn back one more time to its history to divine what made the place so iconic in its heyday. With that in mind, we learned the true meaning of being ink-stained journalists and dug through hefty tomes of Dallas Observer archives to unearth relics from the venue's prime. Some of it sounded just as great as the rumors have you believe. Others, well, haven't aged so well.
A good portion of the discoveries were eerily reminiscent of the present: The Toadies were playing a New Year's show, Dave Mustaine was recovering from substance abuse and metal was alive and well in Deep Ellum. In fact, in 1995 our forefathers at the Observer were already writing pieces about how Dallasites were tired of a little festival called South by Southwest. The more things change, the more they stay the same, we figure.
Near the end of 1995, there was actually a noticeable decrease in Bomb Factory ads, which in hindsight helps tell its own part of the venue's story. Still, in its final hours the venue booked legendary acts that incited the name-dropping synonymous with the venue's own name: Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, the Ramones, Sonic Youth, Black Sabbath, Megadeth and plenty, plenty more. Here are our findings.
During the same year that this show took place, Sonic Youth headlined Lollapalooza, got a Simpsons feature and... played Deep Ellum? Though it sounds like an impossibility now, The Bomb Factory played home to the paragons of noise-rock at the peak of their mainstream success. Not to mention Fugazi two days later, nearly back to back. We'd say that's a pretty solid weekend.
This might be our favorite. In 1993, alt-rock band Belly was on the upswing and seemed primed for success with two Grammy nominations and a gold record under their belt. Opening for them was some band out of Oxfordshire receiving highly mixed reviews regarding their relevance: a band named Radiohead.
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NME called them a "lily-livered excuse for a rock band," but Rolling Stone suggested they maybe "warranted watching." At the time Radiohead had only released Pablo Honey, and although they were building up a fair bit of buzz it wasn't enough to command a headlining tour. To be utterly fair, no one could've predicted Radiohead's eventual meteoric trajectory, unanimous critical acclaim and enduring longevity from just one album. So we'll cut Wilonsky some slack on this one.
The idea of seeing Megadeth in Deep Ellum still feels entirely alien, regardless of the prevalence of metal in the neighborhood. At this time, the thrash outfit, hair and all, was touring on their sixth album (they're currently on their 14th, God help us), which was intended to be more radio-friendly in hopes of achieving mainstream airplay. They ended up striking the right balance between metal and experimental, and played a series of sold-out shows on their 1995 tour -- The Bomb Factory included.
On the tail end of their 21-year career, the Ramones brought their farewell tour to Dallas for a last hurrah. Unfortunately, like most (all?) farewell tours, it wasn't exactly during the band's glory days. But regardless of their inevitably uninspired later material, the band had a staggering 2,000 performances behind them by the time. What better way to sign off the band and the venue than with this unlikely union?
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Okay, well, maybe this. The Toadies, as they continue to inexplicably do, had their annual New Year's show at the venue as one of the last handful of shows ever booked there. Both the band and The Bomb Factory are now icons of incredible endurance, and to top it off the Toadies are already booked to play at the revitalized version of the venue this Saturday as the follow-up to tonight's grand opening with Erykah Badu.
In fact, Vaden Todd Lewis himself may have inadvertently predicted Trees owners Clint and Whitney Barlow's eventual revival of The Bomb Factory when he sang, "When I'm away, To be in the shade/The oldest trees above my head."
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