Wednesday, April 12, 2006

DoubleWide Ships Out




Just when it seemed like the wave of Deep Ellum/Dallas scene obituaries (including those coming from this site) was finally dying down and people were moving on , DoubleWide had to go and close its doors, forcing local music writers to yet again come up with a batch of well written statements about the death of Deep Ellum, local music, and the neighborhood. But I refuse to bore you with that shit, because I think most of what can be said has already been said. I also think that Doublewide's closing, while certainly not a good thing, doesn't really change that much. Yes, it means one less place to see decent music in the downtown area, and yes it happened to be one of the best small venues in town, but its closing also doesn't happen to have much of an impact in an area where there isn't much happening to begin with.

DoubleWide seems to have been one of the most beloved bars in Dallas, especially amongst the crowd that generally takes an interest in the kind of music we cover on this blog. On a personal level, I had some great times at DoubleWide, saw some pretty good shows (the Undoing/Strange Boys show earlier this year being the best I can remember), and really enjoyed the atmosphere of the place most of the time. It was great to have separate bars; one for music and one for hanging out, along with a courtyard in the middle to serve as a break from the two. It was large enough to see a lot of people you knew at once and avoid those that you didn't want to see. The sound in the performance room was also quite good, and the space was big enough to host a decent sized local show but small enough to remain intimate. All in all, many good times were had by a lot of people at DoubleWide, and that is something we should all remember.

But lets also remember some other things about the place. For starters, it was a theme bar. And we all know, or should know, that theme bars are lame. And although Doublewide was far less guilty than others of taking their theme to obnoxious levels, it also created what sometimes ended up being a Texas Post Modern altcountry kitschy macho tattoo dude vibe that, like it or not, could get pretty annoying. Paying three bucks or whatever for a can of PBR, by the way, didn't help make the joke any funnier.

And another thing: how many great shows did Doublewide actually host? I don't have a number for you, but there were a lot of weekends that I remember Friday night's line up being some bullshit rockabilly band and three local ass rock outfits that I had never heard of and didn't care to hear, followed by a Saturday Night Roller Derby party featuring the Feds or some shitty pop punk band that probably would have been annoying beyond words if I had actually ever been dumb enough to go to a Roller Derby event. What I am trying to say is that while Doublewide had all the makings for a great bar, and often was one, there were many nights in which it hosted bad music for boring crowds. And that certainly didn't help things in my mind.

Well, now its gone. And although the reasons aren't entirely clear, a few things are. For starters, it seems that it is becoming less and less economically feasible to keep a decent concert venue/bar open in the Deep Ellum/ Downtown area. You can blame crime, a lack of good bands, a lack of good fans, outrageous parking prices and shady Deep Ellum club clientele, but whatever the cause, the results are the same: right now, for whatever reasons you want to cite, business is not good in Deep Ellum and downtown Dallas. But instead of trying to figure out how we can "save" Deep Ellum (please, dear Christ, not another festival), it seems time to start looking elsewhere, perhaps to places with cheaper rent, or maybe to a different model of doing things all together. I would be all for a revived Deep Ellum , but I just don't see any really cool bars opening up in the neighborhood any time soon, and I'm not planning on holding my breath.

Greenville might also have some potential to take some of the slack, but I'm not holding my breath there either. It seems like a lot of club owners over there are perfectly happy with the SMU clientele, the Friday night suburban millionaires, and the other groups of assorted idiots that you see at the Taco Cabana on Saturday night. One of the few places that seems to have good shit going on, The Cavern, has terrible sound problems right now, and each time I go there I want to go back less and less. Its a great space in a great location, and whoever does the booking there obviously has better taste than 99% of those that book other Dallas clubs/bars, but until they get that sound fixed, I don't see how it will work. And it might even be a tad too small for some of the national touring acts that could come through.

Of course, most of the shows that I actually care about seem to take place in Denton these days anyway, and the closing of another venue in Dallas will probably just shift even more action to our friends up north. But since I live in Dallas, I would like to focus on my town for a moment. Here are three possibilities for the future of Dallas music venues that I see:

1. Bars that Already Exist in Deep Ellum/ Lower Greenville will pick up the slack and get interesting again at some point: Places like Darkside Lounge and several bars on Greenville could in fact start hosting good live music more often (darkside already has good shows from time to time), but only if it can be demonstrated to club owners that it will be profitable for them to host the kind of bands that people who read this blog want to see. I don't know if that is possible, but it might be... although I doubt it will happen in Deep Ellum.

2. New Bars or Pre existing bars in other parts of Dallas will pick up the slack: I don't really know about bars in other parts of town, or where new bars could be built or rented and renovated for cheap, but it seems that there must be places in Dallas where rent will be low enough and the location will be central enough to make it work. What about the drag around Columbia, or the Expo park area, or Oak Cliff, or places farther east of Fair Park? Rent has to be cheap in those spots, and if people are willing to go just a tad out of their way into neighborhoods that aren't very pretty, this might work too.

3. DIY/Non Profit/ Co-OP Venues: If the economics aren't working for Dallas club owners, why not change the economics and drop the club owners? If profits can't be made off hosting good music in bars, then are profits really necessary? A good DIY place like Sanctuary Studios is hard to come by, but there are so many little spots all over Dallas with vacant buildings that are probably cheap to rent, it just seems incredible that there isn't already one or two or three functioning DIY spots in a city this big. And another thing: a couple months ago, we posted an article about a new Co-op bar in Austin. What is wrong with that idea? If one or two hundred people could get together and throw in 100 dollars or so per person to rent and possibly fix up some bar or space and get things started as a co-op not for profit music venue for a certain period of time, who is to say it wouldn't work? I'm sure people have tried this and will say that it hasn't or won't ever work, but it just doesn't seem like anyone would have much to lose, other than 100 bucks and some free time. If a lack of profits is what is closing down bars and clubs around here, something like a Co-op could provide a remedy (and no, this isn't my attempt to start a We Shot JR co-op, its just an idea that I hope someone will try.)

None of these ideas are thought out in any detail, and they weren't written to cheer people up or anything warm and fuzzy like that, because frankly they are just baseless ideas that might have no ground in reality at all. I'm just sick to death of talking about how much Deep Ellum sucks, and I frankly don't give a shit about that neighborhood anyway. What I care about is having fun while I'm here, and I'm not having it in downtown Dallas. Maybe there are other places to go, or other methods to use to get something going in this town, but I simply refuse to sit around on here and cry about some bar or group of bars closing down. Its just boring.

40 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

stonedranger,

i'm i the only one is actually a little excited about the diminishing venues in dallas right now?

i've been in this area my whole life. i can remember when i was a little kid in the early 80's. i have an older brother who got to be a part of the pioneer days of deep ellum. he was there when the theater gallery and prophet bar first opened their doors, leading to the unrefuted "salad days" of deep ellum (from approx 1985 - 1995).

now is the first time since before those days that dallas has had so few options for small live music venues. it's taken dallas since then to "hit bottom", which seems to be what's happening right now. sometimes, just as in life, hitting bottom is what it takes before a turn for the better can occur.

right now at city hall, little laura miller is trying to revitalize deep ellum, and she actually has some good ideas. her two main concerns are creating free parking for dallas night life patrons and getting rid of the after hours establishments in deep ellum, which is who city hall blames for much of the late night violence which has been taking place in the last couple of years. say what you will about laura miller, but i think she's on to something here.....

beyond deep ellum the issue of small venue dessimation has been getting talked about more and more for the last couple of years (at least with the people i've been drinking beers with)

with the void that exists now, i'm excited to see who steps up and implements a refined plan to bring better music and a better club to town.

the doublewide closing creates opportunities here and should be an appealing prospect to potential investors.

something will happen and it very well could be the best thing this town has seen in over a decade. that's worth getting at least a little excited about..

but then again, this is dallas...


signed,

-the optimist

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry i'm half-asleep right now.. my first paragraph above should have started out with "am i the only one" instead of "i'm i the only one"

getting coffee now...

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree, what laura miller is doing COULD be beneficial.

but I also see issues with how the clubs are running their business as well. They arent trying to cultivate the art of music. they seems to be only concerned with numbers. yes, that will ensure sales, but only for a short time. it will not create a long lasting scene. If I had the cash, I would create clubs that are more into the art of music. This would of course be joint ventures. no monopolies. then, use these venues to actually GET BEHIND the bands and promote them. It is NOT just about numbers. Its called greed. It started happening in deep ellum around the time that curtain club opened. Shortly after, the Orbit Room closed its doors, and then numerous clubs since then. Deep Ellum used to feel like an arts district, now it feels like a money district. The arts need to be promoted. It takes time, blood, sweat and tears (cliche!) but in the end, instead of an easy way to money, we could get deep ellum back to where it used to be. The money will caome later.

Just my opinion.

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i totally agree that the closing of the orbit room marked the end of the best era for deep ellum.

hopefully a club can open that will look after the best interest of the artists and find a way to be finacially viable so that it doesn't have to shut down in 6 months to a year.

it can be done. i've seen it happen in just about every other large US city..

9:12 AM  
Blogger pimplomat said...

"Paying three bucks or whatever for a can of PBR..."

Was this something that happened a long time ago? I've never been charged more than a $1 for a PBR at the Double Wide. It was one of the great selling points of the place: cheap beer.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe the whole notion of a centralized district where bands can play will no longer work in our society.

in the old days, the majority of clubs who offered live music were located within a few blocks of each other. usually because no one else wanted to step foot in those neighborhoods, local and national acts would have these neighborhoods to themselves and it was cool, until...

over time, other assholes around the city would start saying, "hey, i want a piece of that action!" and there was nothing we could do to stop them from moving in and ruining everything.

now, when you go to NY, Chicago or LA, it seems the best venues can be found a little off the beaten path, tucked away in some historic neighborhood or borough and spread out location wise across the city. even houston is starting to follow that model and maybe that's where dallas is heading too...

it's not a bad thing, just different than how things have been here for the last couple of decades.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are right, the clubs do not need to be centrally located together. however, that DOES create competition for better acts. I remember the days of looking at who else was playing in deep ellum the same night you were playing, and thinking, "oh no, we're competing against them?"

What I cant figure out, was that the downfall? was it the competition? Was that what started clubs trying to get numbers instead of art?

Or did peoples interests change?

10:09 AM  
Anonymous merren said...

I'm with anonymous number one on being optimistic. It is when things are in "ruin" that there is only one direction to go- UP. Your "scene" is like your HOME. If you neglect your home and let it go to the dogs- then you don't want to live there and no one wants to come visit you. You can keep running to new places but if you haven't learned to be attentive to your space then the same thing will happen there as well. Things are ripe for new ideas right now. No one is thinking of great ideas when things are going good. They're just content to let it cruise. Now we have a challenge. We either take it or keep runing like cockroaches to the outskirts hoping for some crumbs.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wish i could say i was more sad about the DW closing. truth is, i went there more times just to drink than i did to see music.

there are still plenty of watering hole options in our city.

the majority of the bands who played DW, honestly, sucked. they were usually along the lines of the kansas city faggots or golden falcons.

they did have the occasional good show, but for the most part, it was just a club house for it's owners and employees, who, though they were nice people, didn't know squat about music.

let's not mourn over this too long.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

true that, double true!

for the last several months they would only have shows on friday and saturday night anyways. it didn't matter what good band might be available for a show sunday through thursday. the DW wouldn't book it.

they would whine about how expensive it was to open their showroom: "we gotta pay the sound guy, the door girl, wahh!"

if you're a bunch-a lazy ass drunks, don't insult us with starting a rock venue. it actually takes a little work to make it happen.

oh, and for god's sake, would the next venue that open's please stay on top of your TAXES!! they're real and you have to pay them!!!

10:57 AM  
Blogger sebastian said...

I liked that rabid stuffed badger thing near the front door of the bar. I called him "Curly" in my mind. I'll miss Curly.

11:00 AM  
Blogger outside ears said...

man, just when some really good new bands were starting to emerge in this area too....

so, i've never been to the darkside lounge. is their stage and PA better than the cavern?

11:08 AM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

I think both might be slightly better... but not much.

11:11 AM  
Blogger outside ears said...

maybe the doublewide could rent their PA to the darkside lounge until they reopen in the future...

11:14 AM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

exactly, anon #1. I feel the same way, and that is why I didn't feel like spending much time dwelling on the closing. Dallas has probably hit rock bottom from a live music standpoint, and the only place to go is up.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

I'm with Pimplomat, dude - i've spent many a night at the DW, and the best thing about the place is the $1 PBR ... are you sure we're talking about the same trailer-themed kitsch bar?

12:38 PM  
Blogger outside ears said...

yes, stonedranger,

it appears instead of dwelling on the closing, people are eager for the future and your blog is a great place to hash out what improvements could be made to our litlle town.

you're doing a good thing here and i respect you for it!

-anon #1 (aka chickenback) i just registered here.....

12:39 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

I actually meant to say two bucks... because that is how much I thought it was. Guess I was wrong. But I stand by my statement about rockabilly dumbasses. My apologies to people that, um, like cheap beer?

12:50 PM  
Anonymous kerm said...

about darkside's sound: we played there a couple of weeks ago. the stage is larger and actually centered to the audience instead of packed in the corner of the basement like the cavern.

the problem with the darkside lounge is going to be the competence of the sound guy which i think could be lacking. i've dealt with this person at haileys before and he was basically X'd from ever doing sound there again. maybe he's gotten better over the past couple of years? all i know is when we played at darkside, the only instruments miked were the kick and snare (MAYBE the snare). I checked out the PA rig and it can definitely produce a great sounding show if rewired correctly (monitors were wired strangely, mains could be in a much better placement) and controlled by someone who knows what they're doing.

I'm also a bit concerend about the booking. I've noticed that it takes someone willing to grab the reins and do some really cool things to get people out (ala the cavern). I've got the guys number if anyone wants to call the guy.

off to lunch!...

1:17 PM  
Blogger sebastian said...

I noticed the same thing about the Darkside set-up. I actually voted that place worst venue here but upon further consideration I realize the place is just fine, the system may just need some tweaking...agreed.

1:59 PM  
Blogger streisand said...

double wide was a great club.good sound guy, good booking(chelsea actually got back to you in a timely manner), Cheap beer. Thats exactly what makes a great music club!! Darkside has actually built a stage now and the sound seems to be getting better. Booking for the darkside??? Maybe they can get chelsea.

The co-op seems like an interesting idea for dallas though.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Dirty Cha Cha said...

Just like everything else, it's hard to make everybody happy when you're a booking agent. My job was to book good shows that people would show up for. Obviously I couldn't book only bands that I personally liked although I did like a lot of them. And the shows I booked didn't really start happening until mid-December because the previous booking agent's shows where kept. I had worked hard on the next few months and I'm still sick to my stomach that I had to cancel all those shows suddenly Monday night.

The reason we stopped doing Thursday shows is because they were not successful. A lot of good bands didn't want to play on Thursdays because they knew they could play on a Friday or Saturday. And there just weren't enough people coming out. I thought I could turn this around when I took over booking in the beginning, but I failed.

And I did try to respond to everyone, but I failed there sometimes too. I have a day job, manage a band, and have a radio show and sometimes I couldn't get to everyone. Having only 6 slots available a week to book made it hard and I had make hard decisions and try to get in as many good bands that would draw that I could. If I booked a band that wasn't good or didn't draw, I'm the one that had the heat for it.

I'm not mad about anything anyone said, but just wanted to tell you where I was coming from in case it helps.

I did LOVE my job there and I'm super devastated that it's over suddenly. But more than that, Double-Wide was one of my favorite venues/bars long before I started working there.

And even thougn I think Darkside is an OK venue and I've referred a lot of bands there, apparently they weren't interested in what we had booked that they might want over the next few months. So I doubt they're interested in employing me. And clearly they already have someone booking there.

We'll see what happens. Thanks to all the Double-Wide supporters!

p.s. PBR was in fact $1.

3:23 PM  
Blogger wakka-wakka said...

Someone needs to start booking good shows at Muddy Waters. I think it's been so shitty for so long that people forget that it has a decent, mid-sized venue layout, good stage height, and parking. I don't remember what the sound was like, but you can always buy good sound.

4:06 PM  
Blogger wakka-wakka said...

I mean "small venue" layout.

4:08 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

I've never been there, and I'm not even sure where it is.

4:15 PM  
Blogger outside ears said...

i don't think anyone (at least, anyone who knows anything) holds you responsible for the doublewide's failure.

you are a patron saint of the dallas music community and we are all greatful for your contributions and support over the years.

best of luck in future endeavors and don't give up!

4:32 PM  
Blogger outside ears said...

cha cha,

i don't think anyone (at least, anyone who knows anything) holds you responsible for the doublewide's failure.

you are a patron saint of the dallas music community and we are all greatful for your contributions and support over the years.

best of luck in future endeavors and don't give up!

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

chelsea rules!!!

4:44 PM  
Blogger wakka-wakka said...

Stonedranger:

Muddy Waters is on Greenville, south of Ross (close to Flying Saucer, or for those of you old enough to remember--Flip's). So it's not quite "in the shit." Plus, it has pretty decent parking, from what I remember. Right now they mostly book white blues/jam bands (and occassionally Andrew Jr Boy Jones). But, from what I've heard, the place is struggling, so maybe they're up to
the change.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Cameron MacPhie said...

True I agree with Anonymous,

I personally grew up through the Deep Ellum crap, it was great for maybe about 2 years. The rest just became this on-going nightmare.. Their is a part of me that still loves Deep Smellum and part that just can't stand it. I have played every venue down in Ellum. So what? The clubs pay crappy and I hate getting lined up with some butt rock band. So yes I agree it could turn the tables for Dallas once and for all....

It kind of reminded me of the time I visited my brother in Florida, Tampa... A vast ghost town of a night life that once was. I think it's time for everyone to come up with a new plan... Save you money and open more DIY clubs.. It doesn't cost much to pay rent if you join forces.. And a beer and wine license is next to nothing...

Anyways...

I hope this will inspire a new breed of club owners...


Later

CJMacPhie

5:20 PM  
Blogger tania said...

i am excited about a couple of places right now

club dada
+'s
i visited club dada last night
and the place looks great,
clean
the backyard and stages appear well kept and spacious

the sound is impeccable,
the room was built for music

the drinks are pricey
but if they could get a handle on drink specials,
we might just have something

i ran into and spoke with a landowner/businessman down in deep
to get his take on the current state
of Deep Ellum

he said that parking is being addressed by the city
and that the crime level is not as bad as the press would like us to think
and that there is a drive to keep peopole from coming back and being a part of deep ellum
because big business is trying to pass re zoning laws in order to get higher structures erected.


-'s
on one hand, i believe that,
but after having my car broken into apx 4 years ago right in front of gypsy tea room, and as a woman who has walked those streets in the past with out a qualm, i am hesitant to say that the area is currently a safe environment.

also, i was approached by the marauding panhandlers at least twice
in the span of a few hours, and there were more of them out there on bikes, and criss crossing the street.

suede
+'s
i wandered in with some friends on valentines day
and was really nice, the sound was great
the stage was big, the drink prices were not to be beat
1 drafts of some crappy beer, but a little tabasco hides the cheapness of it :)
-'s
parking
safety?
i feel safer there than in deep ellum, but there have been reports of people getting beat up there by gangs
so
i guess travel in packs...

other venues underused at the moment
the barley house

5:35 PM  
Blogger sebastian said...

I would pay 50 dollars to see a group like Lightning Bolt or High On Fire or Orthrelm play the Barley House. I really would.

7:16 PM  
Anonymous djtigerbee said...

I'm hoping for a good turnout at Dada this Saturday. If this goes well I will be doing more stuff there and will need bands. The guys who run it are super nice and very open to ideas and want a different crop of bands in there. They're musicians as well so they know how a band likes to be treated. Im hoping for good things if people stop acting like the boogie man is lurking down there. :)

7:38 PM  
Anonymous djtigerbee said...

or however you spell boogie man, boogeyman, bogey man ??? Need tequila.

7:48 PM  
Anonymous me me and me said...

That Muddy Waters talk actually sounds pretty good. A friend of mine worked there years ago and it is a nice open place, but the bands always sucks. Considering how long they've been there and that they probably are stuggling then they might take up slack.

Haven't been into Dada yet, but the problem with Dada and Darkside is that they are in Deep Ellum. Last time I was there I parked at a meter and came back with a $50 parking ticket on top of having to wade through a sea of little Gs.

As far as DIY goes, Avenue Arts.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Carlin said...

I just heard from Chelsea a little bit ago that Double Wide is back open. I have a show scheduled there, so she wanted to see if I had rescheduled yet. Nope, so the show is on (Tah Dahs, The Arm, Rubber Robot) at Double Wide on 5/12. Sure more details are to come...I don't have them.

8:25 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

what?

9:12 PM  
Blogger pimplomat said...

Yeah, I saw a bunch of cars parked at the Double Wide. Not sure if it's open or people were in there having a meeting. The tornado on top was spinning, though!

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So we all blew our wad for nothing?

The PBR Neon Sign is lit somewhere in the distance trailer-park.. Hoo-raaa

But the fact is PBR is nasty/ And Fucking Lone-star is not a bloody import! Shee'sh

For some reason that beer gives me the Shits and I don't mean Shlitz!

Well good luck to DoubleWide for round 2.. Yea?

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

photo blog

5:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home