No matter who you are, I love you still.
Will you cancel my papers and lock the door?
I ain't gonna be round no more
Will I make it through the summer?
Breaking ties with the old and new--
Losing one just gains another;
there is nothing I can do".
Dallas qualifies as a music town. It's almost always had its own indigenous sounds, it draws a great deal of band traffic from other Texas areas, such as "hip" Austin and "we better get the heck to Dallas" Lubbock. It's the sort of place where one can hear great blues or great jazz or great indie bands any weekend. Dallas audiences tend to be quite receptive to new and different things from other cities and shores, as well. It's almost an ideal concert town--unlike Los Angeles, indie things don't often sell out; unlike lots of cities, indie and obscure bands hit here often enough to enjoy.
But this week the news brought word of the end of a great Story of the West. The Bronco Bowl is closing. Some people think that the Bronco Bowl was merely a curious amalgam of a bowling alley and a concert hall. But it was more--the Bronco Bowl was Dallas' own bit of fun rock history.
I saw a lot of great concerts at the Bronco Bowl. It seated a few thousand folks, comfortably,and concerts there were never a drag.
The Bowl still attracts big names even yet, but its days are numbered. You see, the Bronco Bowl entered Chapter 11 for the second time early this year. The newspaper reports that it's now going to be converted to a Home Depot.
They had incredible shows at the bowl. I used to go early, to bowl at the bowling alley, and then take in the show. I remember looking down several lanes away one night, to see the folks from REM and 10,000 Maniacs, also bowling before their show. As I recall, Stipe and Buck were both credible bowlers, but Natalie was much more of a beginner. Unlike my friend Jeff, who once jawboned the bodyguard incessantly at the club Tango to beg him to tell ZZ Top, seated in sequestered bearded splendor, that Jeff really liked "La Grange", I'm not much of an approach-the-celebrity kinda guy. Even in later years, I've kept that unwillingness to interrupt folks jut because they're famous. It's probably just as well, too. About the only time I can remember making contact with excrutiatingly minor (comic writer) celebrity for an on-line forum I moderated, that metaphoric hand I extended got scorched just like the hand in the box in that Dune book. One does not need to be very famous to have an ego the size of Van Nuys, California.
But I digress. I can think of so many great shows I saw at the Bronco Bowl. REM's Reckoning and Fables of the Reconstruction tours, numerous 10,000 Maniacs shows, Echo & the Bunnymen, twice (once the opener was the unannounced and unheard of Billy Bragg, singing "New England" to an audience completely unsure of what to make of him). Guadalcanal Diary, the dBs, a host of great and now largely forgotten bands. The Bronco Bowl was such a comfortable place, with an indoor archery range handy to the concert hall, and
the 1980s shows all held in a haze of pure clove cigarettes. I'm not a smoker, never have been, but I have fond memories of the smell of those clove cigarettes.
In my area, a lot of time is spent on an "arts hall" project. The local communities are adding their various economic resources in hopes of building an "arts district". This district, when completed, will host the sort of "high cultural" events which go with concert halls devoted to events which few but the "elite" attend. But in all likelihood, it'll never host anything as cool or culture-enriching as any given Saturday night at the Bronco Bowl.
I love classical music--don't get me wrong. But the Bronco Bowl had a following in its day, an audience for great and grand events.
I don't mind at all that popular arts places need to make a profit, or they may be gone. But I do mind that in my county a world of people would love to see a good rock show, but there's simply no place that puts them on; only a few people would love to see a symphony, and yet some tens of millions of dollars will be spent to build one.
I don't think I'll try to explain the Bronco Bowl, because so many places in so many cities are the Bronco Bowl. Indeed, in our area, the "slack" has long been picked up by the Gypsy Tea Room, among other venues. But when I was a twentysomething, people lamented the Hot Klub, an early punk hangout, and the Liberty Hall, where an unknown Bruce Springsteen, back when he seemed "new" in his retro glory, used to wow them. I see the handwriting on the wall now, ,and instead of "mene, mene..." it says "your Bronco Bowl is lost--your childhood just ended".
Residents of Oak Cliff, where the Bronco Bowl is located, said to the newspaper that they were excited to have a "big box" hardware retailer, long overdue in an area that is always undergoing renewal without ever getting quite renewed. But I'm going to miss the Bronco Bowl! I'm going to miss my childhood. I guess I'm going to listen to CDs, and think back on being 25 and having bands' pulsing sounds pummel me across the concert seats in the bowling alley.
I think that times change and things pass. I'm passing, too, less slowly than I might sometimes wish. But at the Bronco Bowl I shared with thousands of others some eternal moments. I remember bouncing up and down in my seat, almost pogo-esque, when Michael Stipe shouted "Jefferson, I think we're lost!". I remember being awash in psychedelic denseness when Ian McCulloch sang "Rescue", "Villiers Terrace" and "The Cutter". I remember Natalie complaining endlessly about the clove cigarettes, finding pitch with a finger in one ear by the monitor, and yet still blowing the audience away singing "Hey Jack Kerouac". I remember having a thirst for music quenched, with minimum hassle and maximum informality. Now I have a hard time staying up late on a Friday night after a hard work day. Perhaps I'm as done as the Bronco Bowl. But I don't think so--the Home Depot for my soul is not anyplace near being constructed. But I'm going to miss the Bronco Bowl, yes I will. It's one more "cancelled" stamp on the visa of my departed youth. I saw my first show there almost 18 years ago.
I barely feel 18 some days.