Situated a bit northeast of the Historic District, Deep Ellum thrives on the culturally progressive and artfully driven. Since the early 1900's Deep Ellum was a hotspot for blues and jazz. Musicians including Robert Johnson, "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, Bessie Smith, Lightning Hopkins, and more came through to spend days on end jamming in the streets and in the slew of clubs and restaurants around the town.
Charles K. Wolfe, in his book, The Life and Legend of Leadbelly, quoted a newspaper report from 1937 that said Deep Ellum was "the one spot in the city that needs no daylight savings time because there is no bedtime, and working hours have no limits. The only place recorded on earth where business, religion, hoodooism and gambling and stealing go on without friction."
To the lot, that doesn't exactly sound like Deep Ellum was the place to stop on your family vacation, and it very well may not have been. Especially when people like Bonnie and Clyde and "Pretty Boy" Floyd came to the area; not so much to hide out, but more so, to enjoy their earnings.
But what is it that deems somewhere good or safe. Low crime rate? The high prices of residential living and commercial space? A certain caliber of people?
It would seem these are staple parameters that must be met in order for a location to be considered worth the trouble to maintain by any given city.
Since those early Deep Ellum days of jazz and blues, things have changed an awful lot, but the spirit has remained the same. In the 60's and 70's the area was rather industrious, filled with warehouses and cheap loft spaces. This attracted artists and musicians alike - those that wanted desperately to be freed from the throws of a common life in the heart of Dallas.
By the time the 80's rolled in, Deep Ellum had started to make a name for itself as a punk haven. Local bands like the Toadies, Tripping Daisy, and the Butthole Surfers all wrote their own ticket starting out in Deep Ellum. This lead way for national acts like the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, and Bad Brains to come through and play at the renowned clubs, Studio D and the Theatre Gallery.
Today, Deep Ellum has reinstated their annual Deep Ellum Arts Festival. Though it happened a week ago for 2011, be sure to keep an eye out for next years. You can see the best of visual and musical artists all together as a community - people for each other with the same cause - to spread art.
There are very few spots like Deep Ellum left in America, but the importance of them is more prevalent than ever. The artistic community, whether admittedly or not, has the same thing in mind - an escape from the dragging norm of life. Not because it's cool, or some generational rebellion, but because it's necessary. Because the very fabric of what it means to be alive is found in the soul, found in art. Deep Ellum has said to the world, 'We make our own way, pave our own roads. We don't care what you think.'
Get down to Deep Ellum if you haven't already. The music is blasting out the Door and through the Trees. Go to club Dada to rock out, check out some world class electro at the Lizard Lounge, or find some delicious eats at the famous All Good Cafe. You can view the vibrant street art and murals all over the neighborhood or visit the crafty shops and antique stores strewn throughout. Whatever your soul-palate desires, Deep Ellum has something for you. Just don't swing by if you have four right angles.