A Love Letter to Gypsy Tea Room, Despite its Flaws

Categories: The Overserved

gypsy-tea-room.jpg
Flickr user crowt59.

Editor: This year, we're celebrating the 25th Dallas Observer Music Awards. Our coverage will include recollections from last quarter century of North Texas music. Here, our nightlife columnist remembers the Deep Ellum venue that won nearly every DOMA it was nominated for.

Nostalgia is not my favorite color, but looking back at 25 years of music history in Dallas forces my hand. In that blurry fuzz of memory; nothing really changes, nothing ever stays the same.

Fifteen years ago, I got my first car. That was the tipping point that turned me into a full-scale concert kid and Deep Ellum apologist.

So many of our favorite formative rooms have closed their doors since then. We've lost the Bronco Bowl, the first place I used fake identification and felt that invincible confidence that only comes from getting away with it. Gone is Deep Ellum Live, where some girlfriends and I once spent an entire Fuel concert maintaining a British accent for reasons that seemed very urgent at the time and now completely escape me. The doors have closed at Club Clearview, a venue I snuck into the backdoor of more times than I ever walked through the front. Do not underestimate the kindness of burly door men who let children dream they run the town. But perhaps the biggest heartbreaker is that the doors have closed at the Gypsy Tea Room.

There was something about a night when you were headed to the Tea Room. It was the unofficial cathedral of Deep Ellum, I'd dress up a little more. I'd arrive a little early. I didn't pull any shit with the door guy. I respected it.

I can't pinpoint the difference, exactly. In the fuzz of memory I tell myself the sound was better. The bookings were better. The lighting must have been better, if I was dressing up for concerts. I remember thinking that the music playing between bands was always so great. I remember lying about my age to a person called Christopher. I remember seeing The Roots for the first time. I remember hearing Erykah Badu singing the hook on "You Got Me." I remember seeing The Strokes.

I remember sneaking into the VIP area in the center, surrounded by the main bar. I would sit on the ledge of the platform. I would slowly turn inward to the seating area. I would push all way to the corner where I could see clearly over the crowd right to the stage, where I could make eye contact with whoever was at the microphone.

This felt like such an act of rebellion then and those images remain fixed in my mind, even after all these years. Every first concert brought a new musician in the third dimension, bathed in blue light and standing on rugs. Frequently, they were so close I could touch them and so loud I'd have headaches for hours the next day. I didn't have words for so many parts of my life in those days and, like so many of my peers, I depended on those musicians. I depended on those memories. I had those encores.

"So what was your last show at the Gypsy Tea Room?" was the question I kept asking people this week.

"Nada Surf."

"Supergrass."

"The Darkness, I think."

"DJ Shadow. It was my first and last show at Gypsy."

No one had to search too hard for the memory.

"The Fall. It was my first review for We Shot JR. Spring of 2006," says Chris Mosley, former We Shot JR writer and current D Magazine contributor.

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19 comments
getrichindallas
getrichindallas

I didn't see the show but loved that Justin Timberlake performed a surprise/last minute/whatever gig there. And my last show in the big room was The Yeah Yeah Yeahs with then DO editor Jonanna Widner and Quintron and Miss Pussycat in the small room. Good stuff. 

djdruemitchell
djdruemitchell

shhhhhhhhhhh,...don't tell anyone, the building that GTR was in,...still has great shows. Just saw Frightened Rabbit there like a month ago,.

norma.dickey5
norma.dickey5

I miss Gypsy Tea Room as well.  I miss the family I worked with there for so many years.  I miss seeing all those great acts up close and personal. (Beck, Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, Al Green (private event), Cheap Trick (private event), Smithereens and on and on.  (sigh.....) One day maybe the city will be lucky enough to get GTR back.

janikphoto
janikphoto

I shot so many shows there, it would be hard to count. I was at the very last show, too. Plain White T's... Fav shows were Old 97's, Tripping Daisy, Polyphonic Spree, Supergrass, Superdrag, Built To Spill, The Roots, Yeah Yeah Yeah's, My Morning Jacket, and on and on...

Puxxle
Puxxle

Supergrass, My Morning Jacket, Badly Drawn Boy, Gomez, GBV with Spoon opening. Great shows there.

JustSaying
JustSaying

The last show that I saw at the Gypsy was Mastodon. The thing that I liked about the club was that you could sit out in the car with your friends and drink if you didn't want to pay bar prices during the opening acts. There were places to park where you could see the back door so you knew when the crew started taking gear out that the next band was up. We just always had to remember to find a dumpster for all those empty cans.

I only saw like 2 or 3 shows there. Seems like roughly 75% of the shows I went to were at Deep Ellum Live. Is that building anything these days?

Rick
Rick

I actually got to play a gig at the Gypsy a few weeks before it closed. My band was supposed to play the Galaxy (the 2nd version, on Commerce) about a month before that, but they closed up without warning the night of the gig, so the promoter had us opening on that last Gypsy bill he booked as a consolation.  As cool as it was to play there, it really sucked because the news was already out (if not official) that the place was soon-to-close. It goes without saying that the bartenders, soundguy, doorguy, everybody was pretty downtrodden for a Friday night show. Fittingly, it was sorta like playing at a funeral.

The last times I was there as a patron were to see a Wolfmother/Silversun Pickups/Dead Meadow show, and a Ben Kweller show.

txmuzik
txmuzik

Now, just IMAGINE if you saw EVERY show at the Gypsy Tea Room, then you'd know that the LAST show there was Plain White T's. Ho-Hum. Too bad it wasn't the NEXT TO LAST show there, none other than Sean Lennon. yes, that LENNON. re MMJ, they sold out two nights a row in the ballroom in the final weeks of the club.

i_like_rock_shows
i_like_rock_shows

Saw My Morning Jacket on the small side before Jim James cut his hair.  They blew that place up, but then Jim came out with just an acoustic guitar and played the more beautiful and quietest version of "Bermuda Highway" I have heard.  You could have heard a pin drop during that encore, and Jim knew he had that room by the balls.


The first Polyphonic Spree show with Bright Eyes, Built To Spill and the aforementioned Strokes show (on their first tour when they were still on drugs and amazing) are a few highlights.

darrylrs
darrylrs

best show at gypsy  was gang of four reunion. yo la tengo played on the floor and were amazing. ryan adams was a wimpy little bitch, but his songs were incredible. saw te old 97s there too many times. flogging molly signed CDs for my then 10 year old son. lots of good memories of that place.

RockersvsMods
RockersvsMods

The last show I saw there was the Circle Jerks in the small side, man the walls seemed like they were bowing at the seams. But the Orbit Room was the deal for me. 68 Comeback, 5,6,7,8's, Boss Hog, SCOTS... good times with some sketchy fucking people.

The skinhead dude worked the door for the Tea Room, but I think it was his night off. He was probably just relaxing with some Alternative Country and got suddenly pissed off at the world... as skins are wont to do.


P1Gunter
P1Gunter

It was a great venue no doubt. It's really amazing how Ellum has changed in the last 15 years, let alone 25.

I still have great memories of Orbit Room and Galaxy Club doing all-ages afternoon punk shows. Of Trees actually opening the garage door. Of the long walk down Elm to the old Door when they had a decent band. I remember back when Curtain booked stuff besides shitty metal bands. There are a lot of memories for a lot of people on those streets and in those clubs.

Jamal4
Jamal4

My last two (not counting DOMA Showcase) were Ice Cube in May 2006 and Incubus the following January.  Both were so effing awesome.

UptownNever
UptownNever

@JustSaying cue old man voice "In my day the clubs had no Air Conditioning or Fans, just one roll up door for a sliver of breeze, And we liked it that way"

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