Theater Gallery, circa 1984 – 1987, was a place ‘burb kids could go right in the deep dark heart of Deep Ellum. From what I recalled you hopped on Elm Street and drove East, until you went under the bridge and things got dark. This was before the resurgence of Deep Ellum in the late 80’s early 90’s when it became hipster cool hangouts with so many clubs and art galleries that you could hop from one to another. In the mid-80’s your all ages live music clubs were very limited. Well it was Deep Ellum, something called Mac’s Minors (everyone please keep club owner Mac away from the minors)…. and well… that was about it. Sure Deep Ellum also had The Prophet Bar & eventually Trees and maybe one other place but those weren’t too “minor-friendly.”
For a great history of Theater Gallery check this Dallas Observer article right about here.
The stage at Theater Gallery came from a Dead Kennedy’s gig outside of the Republican National Convention held in Dallas. I mean how punk is that? Punk AF, that’s how much. And I’m not talking about the Air Force Ma Swinn.
As you can see some big names played at Theater Gallery. We never knew the bands when we went there. You were just as likely to see The Circle Jerks, the Buck Pets, The New Bohemians before Edie & the boys made it big… as you could see ‘burb kids who simply had a band in their garage and as long as they were half-way decent, had some original material: Theater Gallery would let them play.
My experiences there pretty much involved Dusty “The Gooch” Gotcher, CJ Cranz, Henry Kennedy, maybe Jackie G, Donald Hancock… & I can recall traveling in some van on the way there prepping to be punk for the night. Who are we kidding, we were ‘burb kids, most of us posing as punks? There was hair gel and hair spray, there was manufactured ripped jeans with bleach spots on them hanging out a window to dry on the way to a Mavericks’ game, there was changing in the downtown Micky D’s into what we thought was punk garb. In my case, I’m sure there was plenty of paisley and not of the Brad variety, a leather bolo tie, a blue Jean jacket with my Dad’s Air Force insignia, and yes Chuck D’s. There may have even been eyeliner.
So Deep Ellum, or Deep Elm’s history and its ties to music goes way way back. Robert Johnson even came to Dallas, Deep Ellum to record. During the Prohibition it was the place to come to go to speakeasies to get your drink on and listen to music. It’s been through several iterations of vibrancy to all out squalor and dilapidation. I remember it as a dark and exciting place where teens could go and see real world punks with their real world punk hair do’s and facial piercings. It was that kind of place but it was also a place where pretend punk wanna-he’s could hang out and feel equally at home.
Theater Gallery, a club who is no more. Deep Ellum, Dallas. A good thing.