Column: Festival revitalizes Deep Ellum

Column: Festival revitalizes Deep Ellum

Column: Festival revitalizes Deep Ellum
October 22
10:38 2013

Hasan Waheedi / Intern Writer

The historic Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas reignited its musical roots with this weekend’s second annual Index Fest.

Six thousand indie music fans gravitated to the sounds of more than 60 bands performing at two outdoor stages and numerous venues on the streets of Deep Ellum.

It’s no secret the area is a shadow of its former self, with only a few events like the Deep Ellum Arts Festival in the spring being considered notable contributions to the music scene. However, Index Fest sparked a ray of hope to Dallasites this weekend.

“It’s showing people that Deep Ellum is coming back,” attendee Diane Hallmon said. “It will help the area recover its essence, which is music.”

Known to be a hotbed for jazz and blues musicians such as the “Father of the Texas Blues” Blind Lemon Jefferson in the 1920s, the music scene in Deep Ellum would go on and flourish for the next 30 years. The golden era of the ‘80s and ‘90s brought the dance and punk scene to prominence, which earned the area the recognition as Dallas’ most prominent “entertainment district.”

Run-down buildings, notions of crime and zoning restrictions caused a decline in the music scene in the past decade or so. Some of the venues where artists performed at Index Fest such as Trees and Club Dada still stand, but now it’s indie artists who are resurrecting the Dallas music scene.

Hip-hop artist P.O.S from Minneapolis performs Saturday evening on the Red Hook stage during the Index Music Festival in Deep Ellum in downtown Dallas. Photo by David Halloran / Contributing Photographer

Hip-hop artist P.O.S from Minneapolis performs Saturday evening on the Red Hook stage during the Index Music Festival in Deep Ellum in downtown Dallas. Photo by David Halloran / Contributing Photographer

“I never played a festival in Texas that wasn’t South by [Southwest], but this was way better,” underground hip-hop artist P.O.S said. “SXSW is like a whole mess because it’s like blocks and blocks of everybody working in the industry.  This is more like a concert and it’s great.”

Saturday headliner and mash-up expert Girl Talk surprised everyone in the audience by bringing 75 audience members on stage during his set. He shared his thoughts on the festival after playing to the largest crowd of the night.

“This is like a walk in the park,” Girl Talk said. “Some festivals are so big that it’s fun but a real headache to get around and get through the stage. I particularly always love festivals where there are not some mega stars and where all the bands can show their stuff.”

Although many of the performers were national acts like whistling master Andrew Bird, all-girl band Warpaint and post-hardcore New Yorkers Glassjaw, there was a comprehensive amount of local bands. Frontman of Denton-based band Chambers, Judson Valdez, discussed the difference between playing in Denton and Dallas.

“I always say the difference between Denton and Dallas is that in Dallas when they like the music, they clap, yell and scream like everybody else,” Judson said. “[But] in Denton if they like your music, they’re still standing there at the end of the set but I respect that.”

Los Angeles based indie rock band War Paint’s lead singer Emily Kokal performs on the Goose Island stage on Saturday during the Index music festival in Deep Ellum. Photo by David Halloran / Contributing Photographer

Los Angeles based indie rock band War Paint’s lead singer Emily Kokal performs on the Goose Island stage on Saturday during the Index music festival in Deep Ellum. Photo by David Halloran / Contributing Photographer

The influence of the festival also extended beyond state lines. Elizabeth Prashasouk flew in from Colorado to see Warpaint.

“I wasn’t planning on coming down to Dallas until my friend told me about the event,” Prashasouk said. “For a music festival, we usually talk about going to Austin for ACL and SXSW but never for Dallas. The festival sounded fun so I was like OK let’s do it.”

Deep Ellum is not what it used to be, but the future looks promising. In a few years, people in North Texas can expect to see their favorite bands without having to drive hours south to Austin.

As long as the Deep Ellum community continues to support music festivals, the area can maintain its reputation as a center to independent artists and entertainers.

Digital mashup artist Girl Talk from Pittsburgh performs Saturday night on the Goose Island stage at Index Music Festival in Deep Ellum in downtown Dallas. Feature photo by David Halloran / Contributing Photographer

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