Catching lightning in a bottle: Social Thursdaze at Dope Ellum

A neon sign that says "D.O.P.E. Ellum on air"

Dope Ellum’s soft open has been featuring weekly music and game nights on Commerce Street in Deep Ellum. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Deep Ellum has a new creative hotspot you may have heard about – an intimate space on Commerce Street called Dope Ellum, featuring the Night Rider Coffee lounge and stage.

Last Thursday, KXT got a chance to check out their weekly open jam night known as “Social Thursdaze,” hosted by Jay Indigo. Local musicians and music enthusiasts looking to immerse themselves in a spot with immaculate vibes and talent need to put this event on their calendar.

A group of musicians on and in front of a stage

Social Thursdaze with Jay Indigo run from 8pm to midnight every week at Dope Ellum. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A man smiling holding a trumpet

Jay Indigo is a multi-instrumental music aficionado of the Dallas music scene, as well as a world-traveler and creative photographer (@_jxyxy_ on Instagram). Photo: Jessica Waffles

Upon entering the dimly lit venue, the melodies of an open jam session warmly welcomed all. The first jam, lasting an impressive 15 minutes, showcased the incredible talent of local musicians.

Instruments were passed seamlessly between players, including guitars, trumpets, keys, and a group of at least four vocalists, each bringing their unique flavor to the mix.

A singer on stage

Eric Rosener took the mic at Social Thursdaze at Dope Ellum. His band Overshare has a single release party at Double Wide on October 7. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A guitarist and drummer on stage

Valmir Hajro (right) is a regular at the weekly jam session at Dope Ellum. Photo: Jessica Waffles

The beat died down, and the entire lineup changed. A new drummer, bass player, and a fresh set of guitarists took the stage. Vocalist Jo Indigo kicked off the next jam with powerful vocals that resonated throughout the venue.

Despite the challenge of so many instruments, novice vocalists seemed emboldened, belting out their lyrics with a passion that filled the room.

There was the incredible synergy among the musicians. They played off each other’s sounds with an inspired improvisation that made it feel like lightning in a bottle.

Musicians on stage

Jo Indigo came through to lay down some freestyle lyrics for the jam session at Dope Ellum. Photo: Jessica Waffles

People sitting on the floor next to a balcony overlooking a stage

Music lovers enjoyed the view from the second story of Dope Ellum, where there are hang out spaces to lounge. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Jon Day is one of the forces behind this creative haven.

“Dope Ellum started as a streetwear brand a couple of years ago,” Day said. “But it’s more than that; it’s almost like a lifestyle. We have a studio in the back, a creative workspace where we’re cultivating talent and facilitating creativity.”

An interior shot of a lounge seat, a table and chairs

One of the upstairs areas that feature lounge seats and tables. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A man playing guitar

Segun Oguntona hopped on guitar for a while at the Dope Ellum jam session. Photo: Jessica Waffles

“Airto [Castaneda-Cudney] is the main man,” Jon emphasized. “We’ve expanded our scope to encompass various creative endeavors, from video games and streetwear to film, photography, and live streaming.”

Reflecting on the journey of Dope Ellum, Jon shared, “Last year, there was a fire and flood at our storefront, which was then Ellum Electric, Airto’s electric scooter shop. It underwent reconstruction until May/June of this year, and we rebranded it into Dope Ellum, complete with the Night Rider Coffee Lounge & Stage.”

A singer and someone dancing in the background

The intimate space gave the audience the ability to be close to the music. Photo: Jessica Waffles

People dancing and watching musicians play music

The vibes were immaculate inside Dope Ellum. Photo: Jessica Waffles

For Day and Castaneda-Cudney, Dope Ellum is about fostering a sense of community.

“It’s about asking, ‘What are you doing? What can we do together?'” Day said. “It’s personal to us. We’ve put everything into this.”

The Dope Ellum live stream is a unique piece of the puzzle to their production – showcasing the events that are hosted at Dope Ellum. The intentions of connectivity and collaboration run throughout every part of Dope Ellum’s DNA.

A painting on a wall

Spotted an original Joon Bug art piece on the wall at Dope Ellum. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A singer on stage

Creator Jewels is a collaborator with Dope Ellum; she hosted her “How To Be Social” event at the location earlier this month. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Dope Ellum currently hosts a couple of weekly events, including Toxic Tuesday game nights and the beloved Social Thursdaze open jam sessions.

Day’s creative vision includes starting to test the video games he’s been making on the Tuesday game nights. “I’ve had a dream since I was a kid in the ’90s to have a game cafe/game testing center,” he shared. “This is like the beginning of that dream.”

During the day, Dope Ellum also serves as a co-working space with coffee available from Night Rider Coffee, open 9am-4pm. It’s a welcoming environment for creatives to collaborate and bring their ideas to life.

Musicians on stage

The musical dynamics between the artists on stage seems to flow effortlessly. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Muscians on stage

The welcoming atmosphere made it easy to get cozy inside Dope Ellum. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Social Thursdaze at Dope Ellum is not just a music event; it’s a testament to the power of community, creativity and collaboration.

In the heart of Deep Ellum, this hidden gem is nurturing artistic talent and providing a space for people to connect over their shared love of music.

Social Thursdaze, Thursday, 8 p.m.-12 a.m. at Dope Ellum.  $10. Tickets. 


Musicians on and in front of a stage

Musicians pass the mic at Dope Ellum’s Social Thursdaze. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Jessica Waffles is a freelance photographer/videographer and regular contributor to KXT. 

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