Arts & Culture

Review: Erykah Badu at the Bomb Factory

Erykah Badu performs at the Bomb Factory’s grand opening.
Erykah Badu performs at the Bomb Factory’s grand opening. Special to DFW.com

Take it from someone who spends a lot of time at music venues — literal lines around the block are a rarity.

But there it stood Thursday night, a great mass of humanity, reaching from the double doors at the Bomb Factory’s entrance, clear around the block and very nearly back to the Bomb Factory’s box office windows, just beside the aforementioned doors.

It was a mightily impressive thing to behold, and for someone who didn’t live in North Texas during Deep Ellum’s initial, early ‘90s heyday, a taste of what it must’ve been like when everything was firing on all cylinders.

A resurrection 18 months in the making, the Bomb Factory’s grand opening Thursday was a moment for the local music scene to celebrate another milestone, along with considering what it means that there are now nearly a dozen active music venues scattered across Deep Ellum.

The neighborhood perennially on the verge of a comeback seemed several steps closer Thursday.

The celebratory mood was helped along by the fact that, apart from a few slight hiccups here and there, the Bomb Factory’s maiden voyage — a sold-out show, with 4,300 people piled into the vast, pitch-dark space — went off without a hitch. (Parking is, for the time being, an unavoidable hassle. A garage is being constructed, but for now, the designated parking for Bomb Factory is a couple blocks away, near Trees.)

The venue evokes owners Clint and Whitney Barlow’s other venture, Trees, crosspollinated with some DNA of the Kessler Theater.

There’s the attention to detail found at both establishments — for instance, the handful of TVs at the Bomb Factory are discreetly tucked away, so as not to disrupt the line of sight to the stage — along with the sort of immersive darkness Trees is known for, as well as the bombastic but nuanced sound system.

The sightlines are impressive downstairs, with no support beams blocking a view of the stage, while upstairs, it’s a little tougher to find a good spot, unless you’ve arrived early and staked out a spot near the railing.

For whatever reason, I felt like the sound was more crisp and clean upstairs than down, but as I moved between the various corners of the room, both upstairs and downstairs, there really wasn’t a dead spot in the entire place.

In the coming weeks, the few shortcomings — for instance: it’s really, really, really dark in the back of the room and in the stairwells; a few strategically placed lights will help alleviate the slips and stumbles I saw Thursday — will undoubtedly be addressed, and the Bomb Factory will take its place as a welcome new spot in the North Texas venue rotation.

A pair of local musicians christened the Bomb Factory Thursday, with the pride of Dallas, Erykah Badu, performing an expansive, two-hour set that found her reminscing about her own, younger days in Deep Ellum.

“My home is my favorite place to be,” she told the cheering crowd. “This [Dallas] is where I lay my head.”

Backed by her long-time collaborators the Cannabinoids, Badu didn’t stop and start so much as slide and shift, her set list a liquid, organic thing, with songs bleeding into and informing one another. (It was difficult to tell if her intermittent video backdrop was malfunctioning — it seemed as if only half the screen was being used — or the presentation was deliberate.)

The Healer, Window Seat, Me, 20 Feet Tall, Love of My Life and Back in the Day were among the tracks aired out, as Badu held sway in the spotlight.

Clad in an enormous purple hat, she slowly shed her layers over the course of the evening, revealing a hometown heroine reveling in the moment.

Sarah Jaffe held her own during an hour-long opening set heavy on guest appearances.

Jaffe, bedeviled by sound issues throughout, pulled from her most recent LP, Don’t Disconnect, and brought out Symbolyc One (S1) to perform a couple Dividends tracks from the pair’s as-yet-unreleased collaboration. Jaffe also invited Sam Lao and Taylor Rea for a runthrough of the trio’s single Vision.

“This is a game-changer for Dallas,” Jaffe observed. “It’s gonna be a wonderful night.”

And it was — the past flowing into the present and onward, toward the future.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713

Twitter: @prestonjones

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