The bar and music venue formerly known as The Underpass, tucked under I-30 in Expo Park, is getting a remake. Now under new ownership, it's set to reopen this fall as The Dirty 30, for the namesake highway above it.
It’s the brain-child of long-time bassist for the rock band Urizen, Rustin Luther, who is also the owner of Fort Worth concert venue Tomcats West. The full opening, including musical acts, is slated for January.
Luther has been in the music scene for more than 10 years as a concert promoter and talent buyer. For this new venture, he teamed up with his girlfriend with whom he shares five children, Jennifer Talbot, owner of Home Plate Sports Bar. Their other partner is Luther’s long-time friend, Cameron Taylor, who’s in the rock band Secret of Boris.
“It's always been my goal to open a venue in Dallas proper just to have a place here with our solid production,” says Luther. “We're known for good production, good sound, treating the bands well. We're not flashy, we're not big and badass. We focus on just making sure the bands and the people who come out are having a good time.”
Luther, ever energetic and buoyant, calls himself a “stubborn asshole.” His high energy level makes it easy to forget that he’s battling inoperable terminal brain cancer. He’s been undergoing treatment since finding out his diagnosis in April.
A Dallas native, Luther is nostalgic about the heyday of the music scene in Dallas. Deep Ellum was bursting at the seams then; the streets would have to be shut down because of the crowds. Luther had dreamed of opening a bar on this side of town, having been in Fort Worth with Tomcats for nearly six years.
When he found out in July that the owner of The Underpass was closing up shop, he jumped at the chance to move in. And plans for The Dirty 30 are full speed ahead. They’re doing a soft opening in September while they work on upgrading the sound system and stage.
“This venue would have happened if I had my diagnosis or not,” Luther says.
His health problems started with vision problems, a panic attack while on tour, and repeated trips to the ER turned out to be caused by a tumor growing inside his brain stem. He’s been battling the tumor with consistent rounds of chemotherapy that leave him tired and weak at times, which makes it all the more amazing that he’s spearheading a new project with his partners.
“I do not discredit this diagnosis at all. I do my medications, I go to my doctor's appointments, I live my life day-to-day, but I'm also not going to let this diagnosis hinder me, my children, my significant other,” says Luther.
Luther says he appreciates the outpouring of support from the music community. A GoFundMe account started by his band mate has raised over $20,000 to help offset his medical bills, but he wishes that his health situation wasn’t at the forefront of people’s minds.
“I would like everyone to forget. We've had so much support, it was just generally amazing. I cried every day, I couldn't believe the support from friends and family and strangers for that matter, but I'm not going to say I wouldn't give it all back and then some for everything to go back to normal,” says Luther. “It's very easy for somebody to pull on the sympathy strings – like, ‘Oh, I'm dying of cancer.’ It’s not what I’m into.”
Luther doesn’t know how much time he has left. It’s something that can change on a rapid basis, but he knows he wants to be around to see his grandkids grow up and be the “cool” grandpa. In the meantime he’s working with his doctors to extend his life and continue with his plans.
“If I end up leaving this earth a little bit sooner than what I feel I should, I don't want anybody to say, ‘Oh he could have done so much more,’ or feel like I could have done so much more, but I was too busy pissing and moaning and whining about a diagnosis,” says Luther. “We’re trying to make it a place you want to go have a drink at. It’s going to be all genres [of music] — everyone is welcome to play. We've got a cool patio out there and the bar itself is pretty cool. We wanted a good bar, we want a good vibe.”