When iconic dive bar and live music venue Double Wide opened its doors at the convergence of Fair Park and Deep Ellum over a decade ago, the model trailer home, a paragon of irony, quickly became a favored hangout. Its success prompted owner Kim Finch's decision to expand the franchise, as she branched out to join Lower Greenville's interminable deluge of newcomers. As Double Wide prepares for its 11th anniversary party next week, its equally popular little sister, Single Wide, anticipates its third birthday this week with a three-day celebration that's been dubbed the 333 Party.
As Deep Ellum bottomed out sometime in the early 2000s, becoming a barren ghost town in comparison to its heyday, Greenville flaunted its nightlife's fertility, persevering through the seemingly endless construction that saw its streets and sidewalks torn up (a reality now familiar to Deep Ellum as well).
Nowadays, as Deep Ellum reclaims its Gatsby sparkle of benign hedonism, once again boasting a nightly slew of concerts as well as a growing army of new venues, Lower Greenville thrives as well. While similar, the area's character can be assessed as belonging somewhere between the punk-rock Deep Ellum crowds and Uptown's gentrification. From the classic Granada Theater, which brings in coveted music acts, to the Crown and Harp pub, the preferred destination for free dance nights and experimental music, Lower -and Lowest- Greenville smartly offers a place for each of Dallas' (stereo)typical barflies.
That's why, as manager Kris Tucker explains it, Finch brought the same "relaxed fun" to Single Wide. "It's just a place where I want to hang out, even when I'm not working, and that's rare". The spin-off bar perfectly emulates its predecessor's bit of overt satire. That includes grandma curtains, wood-paneled walls, excessive use of taxidermy and drinks such as "Yoohoo Yeehaww," which uses Yoohoo as a mixer. At Single Wide, the vibe is at once an homage and a parody that celebrates Texas for not taking itself too seriously.
DJ Chowda, whose real name is David Berkowitz, runs the massively popular karaoke on Sundays, and is a deep-voiced guy who's in fact perfectly friendly. A former accountant, he jokes about his name (it's the same as the famed "Son of Sam" serial killer) and it makes sense he found a new profession requiring him to change it. Chowda has doubled the sales for Sundays since he took over the event almost two years ago.
Concerned with creating a memorable experience for non-singing visitors, his unusual approach includes rounds of trivia, as well as games that make participants sing unknown songs. Opposed to "Boring 'My Heart will go on' singers who think that karaoke is American Idol", Chowda lets the group, not the individual, dictate the vibe. He calls himself a "parental figure," one "whose duty is to rescue people from themselves."
"It's more of a musical revue than karaoke," Chowda explains. "If you're awful, I will bury you in music. But the best performers are usually the worst singers because they give more to the performance". With a karaoke library of over 300,000 songs, DJ Chowda is hard to stump, and will oblige to requests from old country to death-metal, or even Kermit the Frog.
Contemplating the sorts of crowds that the Single Wide attracts in relation to the neighborhood's makeup, Chowda adds, "Greenville became more artist-centric and less frat-centric after [the street's] facelift. The people at karaoke are artists and musicians. This is not your mom and dad's karaoke; it's not censored, and it's not for the weak of heart".
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Dallas has many cool venues, but none seems to attract the scenesters more strongly than Single Wide. "I don't think we changed the neighborhood, but the neighborhood evolved by itself and we're in the mix," says bartender Taylor Rae. "It's really good that we're able to be a part of the gentrification and the change. We're so busy with the block being so popular with Truck Yard and Blind Butcher, which has brought in a lot of traffic".
It's a formula that's not only worked for Single Wide, but also managed to appeal to the faithful who frequent its older sibling as well. As Tucker says, "Double Wide and Single Wide have a loyal following that goes back and forth from one bar to another. I see the same people at both places."
In honor of the Single Wide's third birthday, this weekend's 333 parties play off the theme of triplification: They go for three days (Friday through Sunday) and will feature a $3 deal on domestics and well drinks. There will be plenty of trashy fun on display as well, thanks to Saturday's Photo Bomb party (which will include an artist creating velvet painting cutouts, such as naked ladies with Afros) and Sunday's Daisy Duke Party, which is pretty self-explanatory.
Double Wide's suitably tasteless slogan is the "Home of the drinks that hit harder than Dad." To its credit, Single Wide has brought every bit of that same irreverent attitude and humor to Lower Greenville.