The Chopping Block

Unfortunately, Dallas music was better known for its losses than its gains this year. A few great bands faltered in 2005--Day of the Double Agent's decline was public and ugly. Denton's Skin Trade fell victim to an unexpected hiatus only a month after their first-ever write-up in the Dallas Observer. And Chomsky, Observer cover darlings in 2001, came out of hiatus for one April show before its concert calendar--and Web site--pretty much vanished.

Deep Ellum, meanwhile, struggled to rev its wheels and rebuild its status as Dallas' best source of local music. The year started with the Curtain Club filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (Across the Bar, January 20) and concluded with the Entertainment Collective, owners of Gypsy Tea Room and Trees, doing the same (And Another Thing, October 27). Still, the former's bankruptcy filing has left the Curtain largely untouched, at least from a music fan's perspective, as shows have proceeded in the room as normal, and the same goes for shows at EC venues.

Well, up until last week, anyway.

On Thursday, December 15, a local promoter (who requested to not be identified) was contacted by a representative from Charles Attal Presents, the Austin-based company that books the Gypsy Tea Room and Trees. According to the CAP employee, Trees was closing its doors to the public on January 2, which meant that all concerts booked at Trees after that date needed to be moved immediately, including shows that said promoter was booking. Shortly after I got this tip, two more local promoters told me the same story with the same date: January 2.

True? Well, this week's Trees advertisement on page 71 confirms the story about the shows, as all but one concert from January 6 onward is smothered with a logo: "Moved to Gypsy Tea Room," "Moved to Ridglea Theater," "Moved to Granada Theater." posted these same cancellations over the weekend, though as of press time, a few concerts remain booked for Trees on the Web site, including January's "Friday the 13th Metal Massacre."

All of this jibed with rumors I've heard lately--that Chapter 11 was forcing the company to adjust, as financial decisions were now controlled largely by banks, not by the EC itself. Longtime employees like talent buyer Russell Turns were being let go. The company might have to sell--or close--any of its businesses, including the legendary, history-filled Trees.

But when I sought official word from the EC, their response was adamant: Trees is not closing. Not yet.

"I don't have a final word on whether it is going to sell, whether we're going to remain open or whether it might wind down," EC President Brandt Wood says. "We have certainly considered all those options and have always tried our hardest to keep it going."

Wood then emphasized that he and the EC were still working on Trees deals with "potential buyers with strong interest." Strangely, each of the three times he brought this up, he followed the optimistic statement with the notion that a deal "could be killed by negative press."

I asked, then, why Trees would pay for an advertisement full of moved concerts that looks largely pessimistic--and doesn't even include concerts that have yet to be moved. After all, anything I might say in my column isn't half as damning as an official ad for Trees hinting at the worst.

"We're not going to let the bands and the fans walk up and see a sign on the door," Wood says. "That's the only reason we've made adjustments, so that there's not any surprise."

Can't really have it both ways, then.

So will Trees still be open as of January 3? Though Wood hints at the EC possibly retaining control, his repeated assertions that bad press could kill a deal imply that another party buying the venue is the only way to save the building at Elm and Crowdus.

In my opinion, staying silent about Trees only damns the building into closure. It's a good, large room with solid sound and a lot of sight lines. Only a few months ago, hometown teen stars the Rocket Summer sold the place out, so it's not like the space is dead at all. Oh, and if nobody swoops in and saves Trees by next week, do you know what the space's final concert might be? As of right now, the last show booked before January 2 is a New Year's Eve concert with Pimpadelic. I really hope Dallas' legendary crap-rap-rockers don't put a bullet in Trees' head.

But at least there's reason to be optimistic no matter how this turns out. If Trees shuts down, venues like the Granada Theater, Gypsy Tea Room and Curtain Club will have one less space spreading out an already-thin rock audience. If Trees is bought out, some new competition can finally make waves in the Gypsy-dominated rock scene in Deep Ellum.

And either way, local music is looking amazing in '06. New releases by Baptist Generals, Midlake, Pleasant Grove, Tah-Dahs, Centro-matic and Baboon are enough to get a musical elitist drooling for weeks, while Dallas' hip-hop scene could--and should--finally explode. If 2005 was about losses, 2006 might finally be a time to gain.

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sam Machkovech

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