For Four Nights, Three Links Celebrated Its Third Anniversary.
For anyone who cares about local, original live music, and usually the rock kind, but especially the punk rock kind, it’s hard to imagine a time in recent history when Three Links wasn’t an anchor of the 21st century Deep Ellum resurgence.
Seems like we’ve always been able to step out the signature garage door and throw a rock — figuratively, of course — across the street at the Barlow family’s reincarnation of Trees, which will celebrate its own 6th birthday this August. Likewise the late-afternoon and late-night regulars at 2704 Elm have been able to watch the Josh Florence-era Club Dada finally transition into being a venue, instead of the local bar it had been trying and failing to be for about a decade.
But like most things that have taken root, it’s easy to forget that it was never inevitable. Plenty of bars never make it past one year, let alone the three years that Three Links marked this weekend by hosting 14 bands over four nights.
Let’s not forget that La Grange — the predecessor to Three Links that we can thank for many of the “bones” of the space — called it quits after three years of valiant effort and seemingly bottomless investment. Running a bar is hard, and running a live music venue can be even harder — especially when you’re starting from scratch.
But the figurative ashes and literal hurt feelings that accompanied the demise of La Grange also fertilized some good things. The original vision of the venue as a small showcase space had clearly resonated with fans and musicians. And La Grange was responsible for bringing Trees/Gypsy Tea Room veteran Scott Beggs back full-time to the business as GM as it attempted its final pivot to keep the doors open. And it was Beggs who partnered with tattoo rockstar Oliver Peck and promoter Kris Youmans to immediately start the new venue in its stead. These three brothers of the Waxahachie Oddfellows Lodge 80 were able to mine the spirit and iconography for the name and spirit of the place.
It was during that re-branding in the last months of La Grange that the space saw a flourishing of diversity in the bookings, too. Beggs has deep connections with punk bands from around the country — it was his authoritative opinion people looked to when the laughably-named Punk Society, that Hot-Topic-themed bottle-service disco opened down the street. Meanwhile Youmans had been bringing a premium selection of indie bands, large and small, to venues throughout the area for nearly a decade.
The seamless transition between La Grange and Three Links was actually far from it, made all the more complicated because it also involved Fuzzy’s Taco Shop moving into the sister-space next-door. All the business stuff — leases, assets, licenses, inspections, etc. — had to be handled. And while the infrastructure was in place, some of it decorative, plenty of work still had to be done to replace equipment and decor that had departed with the old business. For several months, the space hung in stasis while familiar faces worked on it.
But those familiar faces are one reason it’s hard to believe that it’s only been three years since Three Links opened. The staff that’s worked at Links has been familiar to the neighborhood for years. Bartenders used to work at July Alley and Allgood Café. Managers and door staff have included a regular rotation of local rockers. Technical staff have moved through, bouncing among gigs at The Double Wide, House of Blues, Trees and The Bomb Factory. And now, three years in, even the new faces are starting to look just as familiar.
Another reason that the place seems such a mainstay is the talent. Beggs & Co. have managed to build a pretty good recipe of local and national talent, big and small. And while it has a well-earned reputation as a punk venue, stroll by the garage door several nights a week and you’re just as likely to see a banjo or a DJ on stage as you are neon green liberty spikes.
The four nights of the celebration this past weekend were characteristic of this recipe. On Thursday night, standout performances from dance-pop artist Dezi 5 and hip-hop artist -topic bookended a dreamy set by Zhora. Friday night’s mosh pit grew to a fever pitch over the course of sets by Bullet Machine, The Lash Outs, monkeysphere and The Queers. Saturday night felt like a VIP invitation to the world’s best Almost Famous-themed party opened by Dallas’ Rise & Shine, Nashville’s Blackfoot Gypsies, Nashville-based DFW expats Somebody’s Darling and anchored by local favorites The Roomsounds, who were appropriately celebrating the release of their latest LP, Elm Street, how appropriate. Finally, Sunday night’s room filled up to see the exceptional local psychobillies From Parts Unknown and local horror-rock faves Just Another Monster open for ex-Misfit singer Michale Graves.
Throughout the long weekend, the sound was nearly flawless, the ever-improving stage lights were getting dialed-in, the bar staff was cheerfully competent and there were a lot of happy faces.
And, pretty much the whole time, Beggs stood at the back of the bar and facetiously lamented the tininess of Three Links’ version of “rock ‘n’ roll alley,” the elongated sweet-spot behind the bar at ’90s-era Trees, where tens and twenties of musicians, Deep Ellum regulars and club staff congregated to engage in conversation and collegiality, to do a little business and, yes, to probably see and be seen.
“It’ll do,” he said with a wry smile. “For now.”