Clint Barlow, the owner of Trees in Deep Ellum, had a simple reason for reopening the iconic Dallas music venue nearly a decade ago: He wanted to.
"I'm just a musician, I've played there before," Barlow says. "It was a bummer when it closed. It seemed like there was a need for a cool room."
Barlow could have opened the club under a different name — and, in fact, a different owner attempted to rebrand the space as Fat Daddy's Live! — but that's not his style. Revamping Trees, which closed in 2005 after its parent company filed for bankruptcy, was as much about preserving the venue's legacy as it was about reviving Deep Ellum to its former status as live music capital of North Texas. Eight years later, Trees remains one of Dallas' best and busiest venues, hosting local, regional and national artists from nearly every genre of music, as well as burlesque shows, festivals and more.
Trees is celebrating what it's calling a 9th anniversary -- because math is hard, y'all; it's actually its 8th -- on July 15 with a homegrown bill featuring choral rock group the Polyphonic Spree, rock band Sealion and hip-hop group Cure for Paranoia. Before the event, we spoke with Barlow about some of his most memorable moments thus far.
Flashback to Trees' first night back open: 'We almost didn't make it'
On August 14, 2009, hard-rock band Slow Roosevelt was slated to help Trees make its redebut in Deep Ellum after a renovation and sound system upgrade — but the venue had yet to receive its final permitting. Many factors held up construction, Barlow says, and the morning of its (re)opening weekend, it looked like concerts would have to be rescheduled. But with less an hour to doors, Trees got the final signoff.
"We almost didn't make it," Barlow says. "It was so rewarding when we got open, and seeing everybody smiling and coming for the first time."
That feeling doesn't get old, he says.
"It's fun to see people that used to come to the club a lot before and then when they come back for the first time ... they go, 'This is great!'"
One of the best things about owning a venue? Meeting your heroes, the owner says
Over the years, Barlow has met several musicians he looked up to as a kid, including Ace Frehley of KISS and Carmine Appice, who played drums for Rod Stewart. Some performers are shockingly different in person versus on stage, Barlow says. Rapper Mickey Avalon, for example, is a classic car buff. Whenever he is in town, you might find him and Barlow at a local car show.
That time The 1975 put the pedal to the metal ... in the parking lot
It's a brag-worthy story: As Barlow tells it, pop band The 1975 played with the Neighbourhood at Trees in 2013. After the show, he and the group's members piled into his wife's '55 Chevy and did burnouts in Deep Ellum. (Burnouts cause a dramatic cloud of smoke as the driver spins the wheels -- like in an action film.)
"Great memory," Barlow says.
Which are loudest bands to have ever played Trees?
Trees is locally known for having a great sound system, but a couple of bands have pushed it to the limit. In 2010, Atari Teenage Riot come through, seemingly intent on blowing off the roof (attendees eardrums, too). Barlow called the show "blistering" and "unbelievable."
In 2012, dubstep DJ 12th Planet may have taken the crown for loudest Trees concert when he brought 16 subwoofers to add to the venue's already stacked system. "That was ridiculous," Barlow says.
3 acts that surprised Barlow (in a good way)
One of the benefits of having a venue as intimate as Trees, which holds about 650 people, is that surprising talent comes through the door.
Three bands that delighted Barlow?
Deftones, which played in 2010. Barlow's surprise comes primarily from the fact the band considered a room that small. (For context, Deftones headlined Starplex Pavilion this summer.) The show was a last-minute release party for Diamond Eyes and was one of Barlow's favorite shows of all time.
Charlie Puth, who performed in 2016. "That guy is very talented," Barlow says.
Starset, which played in 2017, was "shockingly good," Barlow says. "They were in spacesuits and had this whole kind of futuristic theme to the band. Like 30 Seconds to Mars, but a push toward a literal sense."
Music lovers can expect more of the same from Trees in the coming years, Barlow says, though he keeps the cards close to his chest when it comes to who might play the venue in the future.
"I have a superstition about that," Barlow says. "I don't even tell my wife."
Why worry? Trees reputation speaks for itself.
Raise a glass on Saturday, July 15 when Trees celebrates its anniversary with performances from the Polyphonic Spree, Sealion and Cure for Paranoia. The party starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $9.