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.