Deep Ellum: The Neighborhood that Refuses to Die

May 15, 2011 by · 3 Comments 

By Fernando Valdes

Barry Annino, president of The Deep Ellum Foundation, moved to Deep Ellum during its heydays in the 1990s. Annino saw Deep Ellum thrive. He remembers having a Deep Ellum MasterCard, starting the Deep Ellum Film Festival and driving through a graffiti covered tunnel to enter the neighborhood.

Today, none of those things exist.

Deep Ellum was once one of the most vibrant entertainment districts in Texas, known for its rich history, live music venues and restaurants. Today, after having survived a major downfall, Deep Ellum is once again transforming into an integral piece of Dallas city life.

During the mid 2000s, Deep Ellum became plagued with crime and saw many tenants go out of business. The decline of Deep Ellum led to the abandonment of the neighborhood. Empty streets and vacant buildings filled the landscape.

Many residents and loyal visitors knew the community had gone through this before and would once again revive itself. Today, community residents and organizations, such as The Deep Ellum Foundation, are working hard to give the streets of Deep Ellum new life.

“It’s booming now and thriving and going on its own,” said Kayce Phy, a Deep Ellum resident for more than 12 years.

The green line of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has helped improve the neighborhood by connecting Deep Ellum to Downtown and other parts of the city. This has alleviated parking issues and brought more visitors to the area.

According to Paula Ramirez, a Deep Ellum resident and a member of the Deep Ellum Enrichment Project (DEEP), the streets are no longer desolate during the day. Ramirez has seen an influx of people walking in the streets and enjoying the neighborhood.

During the past year, many new businesses have sprung up in Deep Ellum. Several iconic restaurants, bars and music venues, such as Trees and Club Dada, have also reopened.

Mike Turley, co-owner of Serious Pizza, is one of many business owners who decided to open their new restaurants in Deep Ellum. After searching around the country for the perfect location, the Orlando native and his business partner, Andrew Phillips, discovered Deep Ellum and immediately knew they had found the perfect location.

According to Turley, the culture of the neighborhood combined with the cheap rent sold them on the neighborhood.

“Deep Ellum has been a great time,” said Turley. “The community is awesome.”

According to Annino, restaurants, bars and music venues are opening in Deep Ellum because the rent is cheap and it is conveniently located close to downtown, Baylor Medical Hospital and a major police department center.

Additionally, Annino said venues will benefit from the plans the City of Dallas has to improve Deep Ellum. The city has proposed making all streets two-way streets, widening all of the sidewalks and adding more benches and trees around the neighborhood. This will allow restaurants and bars to have patios on sidewalks. It will also make streets pedestrian friendly and slow traffic down exponentially.

Although Deep Ellum is well known for its nightlife and restaurants, visitors sometimes overlook another aspect of the neighborhood.

“People are going to realize people actually live here,” said Ramirez. “It’s not just bars. There is a community.”

Members of the community have been putting in the work necessary to revive Deep Ellum and make it a unique and vibrant place to be.

“People talk about Brooklyn, they talk of these neighborhoods, like cities it reminds them of, but they can’t say they have the closeness of their neighbors like they have right here,” said Phy.

The 170-acre community, which houses nearly 2,000 residents, is mostly comprised of people in their 20s and 30s who are looking for an inexpensive, diverse neighborhood near downtown Dallas.

Inside the walls of Deep Ellum, you will find people brimming with creativity. The neighborhood has always been known for its diverse and eclectic artists.

“There’s a lot of talent here,” Annino said. “It’s not a sophisticated talent in that it’s not a rich group; there’s not a lot of money necessarily… but they do what they do special. You can see it in the art, the pillars, the music.”

The residents of Deep Ellum know their neighborhood has a history of ups and downs. During the 1920s, Deep Ellum was known as one of the premier areas for jazz and blues musicians in the South. Several iconic artists, such as Blind Lemmon Jefferson and Bessie Smith, played in clubs all over the neighborhood.

By the time World War II ended, the city had expanded and Deep Ellum had lost many iconic music venues and nightclubs. Slowly, the residents moved out of the neighborhood and Deep Ellum became a warehouse district.

Deep Ellum came roaring back to life in the 1990s, when it became known as Dallas’ liveliest entertainment district. By 1991, the neighborhood had 57 bars and nightclubs. Artists from all over the country started to book performances in the area.

But once again, crime, zoning restrictions and the rise of other entertainment districts led to the decline of Deep Ellum.

History seems to be repeating itself. Residents and enthusiasts say Deep Ellum has a bright future.

“The city is making a lot of changes,” said Phy. “I think it would be hard to tear apart the love that this community has for the actual history and for what we all together see as the future.”

Get Your Caffeine Fix With A Side Of Local Art

May 5, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Elizabeth Erickson

Coffee shops across Dallas seem to be adopting an eclectic atmosphere and drawing on local artists to create an environment that encourages community and inspires customers to grab another cup of joe.

Alan Geddie is the owner of the local Dunn Bros. Coffee in Addison. He says that having live music most nights of the week from local musicians and a hearty rotation of local artists’ work for sale decorating the walls sets a tone.

“I think it creates an ambiance for the customers and I think it’s a good thing for the artists so they can expose their wares on the walls. We just think it’s a nice touch,” said Geddie.

Geddie thinks it’s the experience that his customers walk away with that keeps them coming back for more coffee at Dunn Bros.

“I don’t think they come here, ‘Oh, there’s great artwork’ or ‘there’s great music.’ They come because of the coffee for one, but then for the experience,” said Geddie.

Working on a laptop at the high wooden table in the back corner of Dunn Bros. is Al Doyne, a frequent customer at the shop, who says he sometimes comes as many as three times each week. Doyne, said he enjoys Dunn Bros. because it is a peaceful atmosphere and there is less of a hum from people chatting than there is at Starbucks. He points out that the clientele of this shop is more professional and the whole atmosphere has a real serenity to it. But what Doyne really enjoys is the artistic expression present at Dunn Bros.

“I like the art. It’s different. He [Geddie] changes it a lot. You get the chance to see different types of art that you don’t even know is out there,” said Doyne.

MoKAH in Deep Ellum also saves a place for artists and musicians. It is owned and operated by a church, known as ‘Life in Deep Ellum.’

Jonathan Cortina, a Radio, Television, Film major at the University of North Texas worked at MoKAH for two years and emphasized the benefits that music brings to the MoKAH coffee bar.

“We’re trying to promote the community as a whole. Artists and local bands are going to definitely come in and support the whole venue,” said Cortina.

He adds that it isn’t just local bands that come and jam or local artists who put their work on the walls, but mainstream bands come to the venue to play and art shows, exhibits and wine tastings are held as well.

Jeremy Gaston is a local hip-hop artist who goes by the stage name Matta Fact who has performed at MoKAH and another local shop, Saxby’s.

“I think the beauty of being able to perform in coffee shops, even with acoustic set-ups, is transcending genres. You’re able to hear folk, pop, hip-hop, and it gives you a broader audience to be able to showcase your work to,” said Gaston.

Gaston says that the main motivation for many local artists performing in local shops is the exposure they gain.

“If you look at hip-hop and rap, they’re making mix-tapes. They hand it out wherever they can to get people to notice. It’s kind of their [local artist’s] mix-tape experience to get in these coffee shops and get exposure and play consistently.”

The support-the-local-artist concept is being adopted at a brand new establishment, The Collective, which is currently open in Carrollton but will have its official grand opening in late May.

Owner Andy O’Donnell sees The Collective as a place that can bring creatives together around common interests beyond just coffee.

“I wanted to integrate all of the other things that I like which are also art into one location: live art, painting, discussions, philosophy, activism, live musicians, fire dancing. The only kinds of art that I don’t take are duplicated art. It’s got to be all original and live and real,” said O’Donnell.

A large portion of The Collective is devoted to O’Donnell’s primary art form, tattooing. But with paintings scattering the walls and an opportunity for local musicians to perform music, it affords the tattoo parlor portion of the shop a greater opportunity to thrive because it increases the amount of traffic overall.

O’Donnell says that his primary motivation for giving artists the chance to experiment in The Collective’s space, is the opportunity to grow the way that he did. He says that learning to tattoo was an uphill battle because it’s a “closed industry,” where less is taught to prevent people from getting better. He feels that if he creates a place for people to have an outlet to experiment and learn their creative practices, it will benefit everyone.

“If everyone just works together, the world will be a better place. I’m trying to just gather talents to let them work and use each other to become stronger,” said O’Donnell.

SHIFT Magazine: Deep Ellum Outdoor Market: One Small Step for Deep Ellum, One Giant Leap for Dallas

April 28, 2011 by · 1 Comment 


By Danielle Barrios

What makes Paris, London, Los Angeles, and New York City authentic, thriving cities? They have grand parks with gathering areas. They have cultured art scenes. And with the help of government funding, these urban dreams become a reality.

In Dallas, not a year goes by without yet another multimillion-dollar project. The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge project expected to be finished in October of 2011 will cost roughly $93 million, says the structural engineers. The 5.2-acre deck plaza onto of the Woodall Rodgers highway is a $110 million public and private project with costs split by the city, state, and federal government, according to And lastly, the Trinity River Project which is expected to cost another $93 million dollars to construct.

But with billions of dollars being put into these community improvements, do these structures and the taxpayer dollars they consume make Dallas any more like the lively neighborhoods at the center of these other cities’ pulse? Obviously, throwing money at public projects will rarely produce a genuine urban community.

Brandon Castillo traveled around the world and saw one thing all of these great cities had in common: markets. Nine months ago, Castillo’s wheels started turning about a new kind of market here in Dallas. What was his creation? The Deep Ellum Outdoor Market.

(Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine)

Castillo based the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market on two of his favorite markets: El Rastro in Madrid and the Brooklyn Flea in New York City. El Rastro has up to 3500 vendors every Sunday with tens of thousands of people who gather to shop for tools, movies, clothes, antiques, pets, comic books and everything in between.

Customers arrive at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market prepared for a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. (Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine).

Launched in June 2010, the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market is located in the parking lot behind Café Brazil at the corner of Elm Street and Macolm X Boulevard, the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market transforms an ordinary parking space into an extraordinary eclectic collection of items, vendors, food and music.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Deep Ellum, casual pedestrians walk up to the market as Melissa Ashton stands behind a table displaying a collection of handmade, up-cycled, found objects that have been made into jewelry, accessories, headpieces, and home décor. She smiles behind her large lensed sunglasses as curious customers pick through her one of a kind products.

One day Ashton was at Half Priced Books when a woman stopped her and begged to know where she had purchased her feather earrings and necklace. Ashton blushed and admitted her pieces were actually from a collection of found and broken antique objects she created her own pieces out of. “’Well, I’ll take them!’” Ashton recalls the woman saying. Ever since Ashton has been a local vendor at Make Studio & Boutique in the Bishop Arts District, an active team member of the design website Etsy, and a vendor every third Saturday at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market.

“When you first pull up to the market, you hear live music playing,” says Christy Yip, who is creator Brandon Castillo’s assistant and in charge of “vendor relations.” Underneath the covered parking lot, vendors are selling an extensive compilation of items. From vintage books to one-of-a kind jewelry, printed tees, cowboy boots, fine art and used records, the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market is vintage lover’s paradise.

At the market, Castillo says, “every single vendor is an entrepreneur.” The wide range of vendors at the DEOM are all experts, producers, and the salesmen and saleswomen of their own diverse craft. The DEOM has “everything from clothes to books to ray guns,” says Castillo.

And Castillo’s vendors are as enthusiastic and lively as Deep Ellum’s neighborhood. Allison Drake, who is “the shirt girl,” makes every one of her pieces herself. “I sell everything myself, set up my booth myself, run all the websites–everything,” says an enthusiastic Drake, who intended her work as a vendor to be a side job. But now, six months later, she has decided being a vendor was “way more fun.”

Drake sells clothing with screen-printed witty sayings. “I’ve had more than one couple come tell me they can’t wait to have children so their babies can wear my onesies,” says Drake. “I even had one woman turn to her husband and ask him if they could start trying to have a baby after she oohed and ahed over the ‘sweet baby bird’ layettes.”

Yip, Castillo’s assistant, says the only complaint customers have had about the DEOM is the lack of alcohol served at the market. However, on the other side of the street the DEOM houses a food truck with delicious and authentic Texas barbeque for the shopper who needs to take a breather. “We hand out neighborhood maps to everyone who attends the market. Then they know where else they can go in Deep Ellum,” says Yip, who encourages customers to stroll the Deep Ellum streets for small dive bars, music venues, and local businesses.

Christy Yip welcomes new customers to the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market with a smile. (Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine)

Another vendor, Nancy Friedman, started selling at the DEOM last August when she saw an article about the market. “I loved the aura. It reminded me of the best flea markets in Los Angeles,” says Friedman, who is a 25-year veteran of the flea market business and now a regular vendor at the DEOM. Friedman sells a wide variety of accessories for women.

“I am a one-woman operation,” says Friedman who admits that the economy has influenced her work in the flea-market world. Friedman was one of the original vendors at the Venice Beach Abbot-Kinney Street Fair in Los Angeles, California. “The Dallas Outdoor Market has all the charm and funkiness of Abbot Kinney,” but in Texas, says Friedman.

“My newest items are my ‘boob tubes,’” says Friedman as she picks up the yellow “boob tube” out of an assortment of many different colors. Friedman explains that these are mini camis that can be worn instead of full-body layers of clothes. These bra-tops are a cooler, layering alternative especially for the unbearably hot Dallas summers.
All of Friedman’s products are useful for women and reasonably priced. “I am very sensitive about the economy so I design with reasonable pricing in mind,” says Friedman as she sells yet another one of her “boob tubes” to a prospective customer.

Around the corner from Friedman’s display is yet another vendor. “I make beaded jewelry– bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rosaries, and more,” says Jennifer Julian, the founder of One Star Designs. Each piece Julian makes is unique. “I have a mix of ‘normal’ jewelry and ‘freaky’ stuff as well,” says Julian, who mentions that her husband and “right-hand man,” Justin, always says she has “everything from bones to butterflies.”

The Deep Ellum neighborhood continues to prove itself as the perfect place for an outdoor market. (Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine)

“One minute a mom and dad are buying a cute little ‘memory wire’ bracelet for their young daughter and the next minute a woman with green hair walks up to buy a necklace with a bat pendant,” says Julian. “It’s a great mix of clientele.” One Star Designs has customers ranging from age 4 to 80 according to Julian. “All of our customers at the market have been awesome.”

Julian is beaming as yet another satisfied customer walks away from her display with a One Star Design at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market. (Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine)

One customer, Hilary Whiteside, 23, has been a veteran of outdoor markets since she attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “It’s such a great place to meet cool people doing cool things,” says Whiteside, who adds, “with these kind of markets, it’s just not about the money.” Whiteside says her favorite part of an outdoor market like the DEOM is that every visitor can buy a one-of-a-kind-item. “Looking through Missing Link Records is like going back in time,” says Whiteside. As Whiteside jumbles through the cases of records, she says, “People just don’t own stuff like this anymore.”

As Whiteside continues to browse, DEOM vendor Richard Quintana sits with a pleasant smile by his boxes of vintage and prized LPs in the middle of the covered parking lot. Quintana is the mastermind behind Missing Link Records. Two years ago, Quintana welcomed a much-needed breather from his work as a sub-contractor at Texas Instruments. One day, he came across a record store going out of business in Indiana. “I felt that we didn’t have enough record stores in the area so I made a deal to buy it in hope of opening a store in Richardson,” says Quintana. Now, as owner of Missing Link Records, Quintana travels to look at collections, moves all newly bought merchandise, unloads and stocks the records inside a warehouse, sorts the product when possible, and loads the records to travel to markets like the DEOM.

“Missing Link Records is different because I don’t bring hand-made items to sell,” says Quintana. “These are vinyl records,” he says, pointing to his boxes full of hundreds of vinyls as interested customers flip through. Quintana admits that you can find records nowadays at local record stores. “But we bring clean, budget-priced records to suit every taste,” he says. And that’s why his records are different from the rest found in stores.

Outdoor flea markets like the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market have appeared in the U.S. for several decades. The most prominent of these kinds of markets is the farmers market. Statistics from the Department of Agriculture show that from 1994 to 2000, the number of outdoor markets in the United States grew by 63 percent. And it has continued to grow over the past 10 years.

Ten years ago, the neighborhood of Deep Ellum may have questioned the presence of an outdoor flea-like market. But today, with these growing numbers, Dallas will have to plan for many other vendor-type markets to come.
Caleb Massey, yet another vendor at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market, heard about the market from his aunt and fellow vendor Melanie, and figured he should give the venue a try. When Massey was 19, he started a career designing props for the Dallas Children’s Theater. Now, a few years later, he, his wife Cat, sister Kineta, brother Forrest, and buddy Joel all contribute to ‘Red Ranger Ray Guns.’

Crafted out of toy-store guns and other industrial material, Massey’s ray guns looks space invader left them behind. About a year ago, Massey realized people wanted to buy the ray guns Massey had originally been making as a hobby. Now, at the DEOM, Massey says, “I don’t have many left by the end of the day.”

Massey’s vendor display is unlike any other at the DEOM. “I make sure there are things for the kiddos to do,” says Massey as one eager customer shoots the robot with Nerf ray gun and another destroys the chalk Martians with the water guns at Massey’s display table.

“I take toy guns and make them look like ray guns from the ‘50’s,” says Massey, who uses everything from lamps, clocks, staplers, figurines, or anything else he says “I feel like raygunning.” But Massey’s favorite items are his one-of-a-kind assemblage guns he builds entirely out of found objects.

Massey and his entourage of friends and family who all contribute at the DEOM have been pleasantly surprised by how much people enjoy the product. Massey says his “favorite reaction was when someone walked by and did a double take then said ‘Ooo! Ray Guns!” Massey has seen one kid and repeat customer who started making his own ray guns.

“We offer products you can’t find anywhere else,” says Castillo, “products made by our neighbors.” And Ashton of Indie Thrift can attest to the success of the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market. “I have already had a ton of repeat customers from past Deep Ellum Outdoor Market Saturdays come back and greet me,” says Ashton. “One young lady came up to my booth smiling so big and then she asked, ‘Is this Indie Thrift? I saw you online!”’ Ashton was equally as elated. “She knew my label before she even met me,” says Ashton. “It isn’t often that someone recognizes a handmade artist, so I feel like that was a big accomplishment.” And without the DEOM, Ashton and all of the vendors know much of their success would not have been possible. Revenue and numbers aside, the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market has brought members of the community in direct communication with one another and that’s something that can hardly be said about North Park Center.

Castillo remains hopeful that one day Dallas will become a real city, thanks at least in part to his creation. “Real cities have markets. Cities like Chicago or New York are real cities and we intend to make Dallas a real city.”

The Demeter Project Redefines the Workplace

March 11, 2011 by · Comments Off 


By Meredith Crawford

On a recent Sunday afternoon at It’s a Grind Coffee House in Deep Ellum, quiet customers sit comfortably with their newspapers and laptops. However, this place is a little different than the many other coffee spots dotting the Dallas landscape.

“I like that it’s not Starbucks,” said Laura Negus, a librarian at the Baylor College of Dentistry and a frequent It’s a Grind customer.

The It’s a Grind franchise in Dallas is owned by the Demeter Project. The company says it is redefining the workplace by placing a higher value on service jobs by paying their employees more. Cannon Flowers’, chief executive officer of the Demeter Project, said his initial objective when starting this project in 2007 was to address underpaid jobs.

“People in the service industry are taken advantage of,” Flowers said.

In addition to paying their employees a higher salary, the Demeter Project sees importance in hiring people other corporations would typically turn away. Flowers said that people in the service industry often do not get a second chance.

Veronica Sterling, one of the baristas at It’s a Grind, found out about the job opening when she was staying at the Grace House. Grace Unlimited is a transitional, residential environment for women recently released from prison. According to Sterling, getting this job was by the grace of God.

“Before, I couldn’t make ends meet,” Sterling said.

According to city statistics, of the 2.4 million people who live in Dallas County, between 17 and 23 percent are living below the poverty level. With minimum wage at $7.25, Flowers said that for those in poverty, there is a huge difference between what they are making and what it costs to live.

Veronica Sterling, It's A Grind employee (Photo By Meredith Crawford/Beyond the Bubble)

The Demeter Project was founded in Dallas and remains a local establishment. It receives its funding through investments and revenue.

The Demeter Project is also own Chill Bubble Tea located on Inwood Road. They primarily serve a drink called boba tea, a combination of fruits or teas poured over tapioca pearls. Through this location, the Demeter Project hopes to continue making a positive change in the community.

“We want to make places where the community can come together,” Flowers said.

Flowers said that he would hire anyone regardless of their background, as long as they’ve never harmed another human being. He said that there are exceptions to this rule, but violence is completely against the company’s philosophy and the symbol that inspired its name; Demeter, a goddess in Greek mythology.

The company chose her as a symbol because she recognized the cyclical nature of life as the goddess of fertility, vegetation, and grain. Employees also like that Demeter encouraged humans to grown their own food instead of the violence of hunting.

Sterling appreciates the respect she gets from her managers and said it really makes It’s a Grind a great place for her to work.

“They all make us feel like we’re important,” Sterling said.

The Demeter Project also practices what Flowers referred to as a 360-degree angle of ethics and respect. The philosophy means that not only do they emphasize the importance of respect for employees, but for their employees to carry on that respect to their families and customers, Flowers said.

Before Negus even knew about the Demeter Project’s connection, she noticed that the people were more friendly at It’s a Grind. Along with her appreciation of their high quality coffee, music and atmosphere, she likes that It’s a Grind is committed to the neighborhood.

It's A Grind customer Laura Negus (Photo By Meredith Crawford/Beyond the Bubble)

The Demeter Project has a sense of community responsibility and gives a portion of their profits to care-based agencies in North Texas, said officials. They also encourage their employees to volunteer at local non-profits.
“We don’t just work in the community, we live in the community,” Flowers said.

The Demeter Project’s goal is to improve the community through its efforts in the workplace. Flowers noted that the employment of Sterling is evidence enough that they are going in the right direction.

“In the time that she’s worked for us she’s made great progress on a personal level,” Flowers said. “She is proof that this business model works.”

In addition to finding a job, Sterling said that by working at It’s a Grind she has gained more independence and control in her life.

“Working here is like being at home,” Sterling said.

VIDEO: Women’s Symposium Concludes With Heroine Addiction

March 3, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Briana Darensburg

Heroine Addiction is an all-women's improv comedy group based in Dallas. Put on by SMU's Women's Symposium, the four women performed on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at Hughes-Trigg's Theater. (PHOTO BY GRACE ROBERTS/ SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

The 2011 46th Annual Women’s Symposium, themed, “Happiness Is…” ended with laughs at the improvisational comedy show featuring Heroine Addiction Wednesday night at the Hughes-Trigg Student Theater.

The all-female comedy group entertained the audience with improvisational games, using audience participation to act out scenes on the spot.

SMU freshman Amanda Presmyk decided to attend the show because she is a big fan of improvisational comedy and admires that the group is exclusively women.

“We are crushing the stereotype that women aren’t funny,” said Linsey Hale, a member from Heroine Addiction.

“I think it’s unique and sets us apart; no one else is doing this,” said group member, Christa Haberstock about the advantages of the all-female cast. “We don’t have to leave when we’re dressing in the green room too.”

In 2009, the four-member comedy group formed after they joined the improvisational comedy troupe, “Ad-Libs,” in Deep Ellum.

Although the main purpose of the comedy group is to make people laugh, Heroine Addiction member, Laura Williamson believes that improvisational exercises can be helpful in the corporate world or every day life.

Williamson explained that principles and lessons learned from improvisational exercises can help people become better listeners and appreciate different perspectives.

Heroine Addiction offered an improvisational workshop which consisted of acting games, warm-ups and beginner skills to SMU students at the Women’s Symposium interest session Wednesday afternoon.

For more picture of the Women’s Symposium click here!

Big D Blog: Arts Co-op opens in Deep Ellum

December 11, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Jackson Butt

I met Milo Muniz when he joined Ugly Lion, a local reggae act that I run live sound for.  Since we were both percussionists, we talked some shop about congas and tuning, and I found out that Milo is a free-lance photographer.  He was talking about moving out of Lakewood and getting a place that he could work out of, as well as practice drums without bothering the neighbors. Ugly Lion went on tour, so I wasn’t needed for sound and I didn’t know if he had moved.

He was just looking for a place to live and work with his girlfriend, Letty Gallegos, but he ended up taking on a larger project: the opening of an arts co-op.

Milo Muniz opened the Canton Street Co-op in Deep Ellum five months ago as a way to give emerging artists a place to show their work, whatever that work may be.  Here is an audio slide show of Milo at the Canton Street Co-op.

Big D Blog: Trees Makes Lots of Noise

December 10, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Jackson Butt

For the last three years, the Granada Theater has been the top mid-size venue in Dallas. It has also been my favorite. However, Trees has been growing on me steadily since its reopening in the summer of last year. I went to the venue before it closed down in 2007, and was not impressed: There was water everywhere, and it smelled like sewage; the staff wasn’t rude, but they weren’t fostering a welcoming vibe; and the sound system was lacking.

The first things I noticed when I returned to trees was that it was clean, and the staff was friendly. And then, the show started and I got to hear the new sound system: amazing. The new owners hired Lee, who used to run sound for Tesla in the 1980’s. Lee brought his own sound system that he likes to show off.

It’s loud, but not loud in the sense that you can’t distinguish all the sounds. Everything is clear from the highest treble to the chest-caving bass. Did I mention that this sound system had teeth jarring, chest-caving bass? The sound that comes from a kick drum is commanding and fills the room like no other venue in Dallas.

Trees has been known for booking harder edged acts in rock and metal, but has been booking plenty of electronic, pop, reggae, and some country. I suggest browsing their show calendar, picking something good, and checking out the sound system. Bring earplugs.

Big D Blog: Bass Science Returns to Dallas at Arnetic

December 9, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Jackson Butt

When DJ/drum duo Bass Science came to town in late July, they had such a good time, they decided to come back.  They Played December 3 at 2826 Arnetic in Deep Ellum with local DJ collective Dub Assembly. 

Consisting of DJ/Producer MattB and drummer Devin Landau, Bass Science has a unique sound in the electronica genre of what Matt calls “glitch-hop.”  Their Friday night show was their first on a string of 12 dates, and it was a good start, with a crowd over 300 for the whole night.

This tour features a new set list, with a few remixes of songs from the last tour that Bass Science rocked until 2:15 a.m.  MattB proved that he is one of the finest DJ’s in the business with his impeccable sounds and commanding stage presence.

Arnetic has only been open for five months, but has been booking nationally touring acts, and become a viable choice for a club-size venue in Dallas.  However, the bar is slimly stocked, with a prickly bar staff.  The light production was great at the show with lasers, fog, and a light that made the floor look like Saturday Night Fever. The sound quality was adequate, but an untraditional speaker arrangement led to a lack of bass that is needed for this type of genre.

Big D Blog: Cowboy Chow in Deep Ellum

December 9, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Jackson Butt

While stumbling around deep ellum dressed as a zombie, I shuffled into a place called Cowboy Chow.  As a promotion for Zombie Walk Dallas, Cowboy Chow was offering a free shot of bacon infused bourbon with any drink purchase.  So, I ordered a round and received an excellent bloody mary with tequila instead of vodka, and my complimentary shot of bacon infused bourbon. 

I don’t have much experience in infused liquors, but from what I know they are usually made with sweet things, like pineapple or orange, not bacon.

The shot looked like someone had poured the leftover bacon grease directly into the bourbon.  The congealed fat had formed hundreds of tiny white spheres that were suspended in the bourbon, so it was little surprise when the shot tasted exactly like bacon and bourbon.  I love bacon, but I think I’ll stick to eating it in solid form.

The food at Cowboy Chow is excellent.  Their specialty is brisket, which is in many of their dishes: tacos, flautas, chili, grilled cheese, and a brisket and mashed potato parfait.  I have returned to Cowboy Chow several times and have thoroughly enjoyed the menu and the service.

Big D Blog: Deep Ellum Update

December 9, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Jackson Butt

It’s nice to see some life out of Deep Ellum since the area’s collapse in 2005-2007.  There are still many empty storefronts and for lease/sale signs, but there are also some new places that I hope can stick around.  The chances of Deep Ellum returning to past glory are slim to none, but that can be a good thing.  It was the overwhelming popularity of the area that led to higher rent, larger dance clubs, and less daytime businesses. 

Besides the re-opening of Trees, there are two new music venues on Elm Street, 2826 Arnetic and La Grange.  Both of these are mid-size clubs that can accommodate around 300 people.  La Grange also has an attached restaurant. Other Restaurants that have opened in the area are the Anvil Pub, Cowboy Chow, and Po-Bill’s Cafe.

Deep Ellum still needs more foot traffic to help out business, but daytime businesses, like restaurants, shops, and galleries, will help with that. I hope that Deep Ellum continues to grow back with the support of legitimate businesses whose interest is in the neighborhood.

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