This Thursday night, a long-dormant (and very large) room in Deep Ellum will open back up for business. The Bomb Factory, on Canton and Crowdus just a couple blocks from the heart of the neighborhood, hosts its first show since the '90s with locals Erykah Badu and Sarah Jaffe. Just two days after that, it hosts the Toadies.
With all the buzz, acclaim and anticipation over the last few months, Deep Ellum hasn't seen an opening like this since Trees reopened six years ago. It's a particularly fitting comparison since the people behind Trees' reopening, Clint and Whitney Barlow, are also behind The Bomb Factory's rebirth.
Having a venue of this size in Deep Ellum perfectly fills a gap for bands that are too big for a place like the Granada Theater but too small for a place like the Verizon Theatre. "I think shows of all sizes will fit in this room," says Gavin Mulloy, marketing director for both Trees and The Bomb Factory. "From fashion shows with runways down the middle to getting Dave Grohl to bring his current band in for a night. It's all about how creative you get with spaces. Great ideas usually win."
With a capacity of over 4,000 people, a venue of this size should mean there will be better chances for more touring acts to hit Dallas. "Hopefully bands are gonna hear about this place from other bands and say, 'We [gotta] get down to Dallas and play this room,'" Mulloy says.
He doesn't hide his expectations, either: "I hope this becomes one of the best rooms to play in the world," he says. "Why would you shoot lower?"
Shooting for the top is perhaps the biggest thing that separates the new incarnation of The Bomb Factory from the original. When the Barlows announced many months ago that the venue would reopen, generation gaps were immediately visible on social media. Those in their late 30s to late 40s expressed a lot of memories with seeing bands like Tripping Daisy and Fugazi there, while those in their early- to mid-30s remembered it as the vacant place you stood next to while waiting to get into a show at next-door Deep Ellum Live. For those in their 20s, they were either toddlers or not even born when the original Bomb Factory closed.
Now with a significantly better layout, stage and sound system, Mulloy thinks this new version will bring those generations together. "I have no doubt people that went to the original one will be blown away," he says. "I am on a daily basis. Deep Ellum as a whole is expanding and I love this 'hood. [It's] another tentpole for the neighborhood."
Though with the successful revitalization of other Deep Ellum staples Club Dada and Trees, there is some understandable skepticism. In particular, writer Chris Mosley offered a valid critique of this kind of approach in an article in D Magazine. "We keep revisiting the past, re-creating old venues as though the problem was the venues, not the people playing in them," he wrote.
Nostalgia is a factor with The Bomb Factory to a degree, but not as much as it was with the reopening of Dada or Trees. (Deep Ellum isn't about to become Night of the Living Dead Venues. If Galaxy Club, Club Clearview, the Gypsy Tea Room and/or The Nightmare get the reopening/repolishing treatment and it drove people away from the area, then there's a reason to worry.)
This isn't like CBGB's closing in New York and reopening in Las Vegas. This is re-establishing a building that has been empty for many years, often catching the curious eyes of people walking to and from nearby places like Adair's, St. Pete's, Angry Dog and the Dallas Comedy House. Besides, having another live music venue instead of another high rise apartment complex is a welcome sight in Deep Ellum.
When you come right down to it, this is a lateral business move for the Barlows. When any business closes for good, they don't have a Do Not Resuscitate clause in the paperwork for a future owner or tenant. There's potential with the Bomb Factory, and with a calendar with a diverse amount of acts, from the Toadies to the Atomic Music Festival to Tyler the Creator in the following days and months, it won't be an easily pigeonholed venue. Just like how Trees is.
As great as Trees is now, it's important to remember there was a time when it wasn't. A big trap of nostalgia is that when you forget the ugly parts of the past, any day prior to today seems superior. Trees did host bands like Nirvana and Arcade Fire as they were breaking worldwide, but there was an ongoing negative vibe about the place. The staff seemed to treat everyone in the crowd as a potential threat for fighting or underage drinking. So much so that even a show like Bright Eyes would feel hostile, reeking of intimidation.
Since Trees reopened under the Barlows' ownership, that negative vibe isn't there. Sure, if you start shit and are an asshole to the staff, you'll get thrown out. But that's no different than any other venue in town.
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The average concertgoer wants to see a show that's fairly priced (from the cover charge to drink prices), a good sound system and access to decent and affordable parking. Deep Ellum hasn't had a venue of this size in many years, and you'd have to go to South Side on Lamar or Grand Prairie to see bigger acts, which still have the same parking problems of yesteryear. Already The Bomb Factory is surrounded by plenty of parking options and fair pricing for its upcoming shows.
There are justifiable reasons to be excited about the Bomb Factory's opening. What it will inject into the Deep Ellum area should garner further positive returns, and reasons to go out even more. And those things have nothing to do with nostalgia.
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