But Will It Fly?

Trey Johnson's Sorta opened for a packed Jack Ingram show on Friday at the renovated Granada Theater.

Lindsay Graham

At first glance, the renovated Granada Theater looks mostly unchanged--the same stage orientation and bar areas, the same murals of movie icons up on the wall. Yet, a few beers into the evening, and the differences start to creep in. There's that huge sign hanging above the rafters, bright as Day-Glo: LOVE YOURSELF. It's the kind of thing you expect at a self-help seminar, or in certain no-shaving zones of Austin, not at a Dallas rock venue. Then there's the food floating by on trays and in people's hands--The Flaming Lips taco (presumably soft), the Widespread Panic pizza (what, extra cheese?). There's the doormen, with shirts that read "Serenity" rather than "Security." There's crazy gobo lights and a fog machine. Peel back those flourishes, however, and you find more fundamental changes: earlier shows, hugely expensive sound (still getting ironed out), easier mobility through the aisles. It's largely the work of Mike Schoder, the man behind CD World, the best music store in the city. Now, with a reimagining of the Granada, he wants to be the man behind the best live music venue in the city, too.

"There's no reason this place shouldn't be open every night of the week," Schoder told me at Wednesday's opening-night party, complete with a bubble machine, a group portrait and solid sets from Salim Nourallah and Sorta. Schoder's right, of course; the Granada (like the Lakewood Theater) has been long underutilized, considering its proximity to Lower Greenville's more popular restaurants--a few blocks from Teppo and Gloria's, across the street from Blue Fish and Kirby's Steakhouse. The fact that it's been advertising reruns of Ab Fab for the last month is pathetic.

So Schoder can build it, but will they come? That was the question everyone was asking last Wednesday. And the consensus? One musician told me it was a sure hit. One insider guessed it would be sold within the year. Nobody could agree about much of anything besides the fact that the Granada, at its core, is a good idea. Anti-Deep Ellum sentiment is riding high (two men were shot on Malcolm X Boulevard near Elm Street last Sunday morning), and the Granada offers an alternative for the twenty- and thirtysomethings who simply won't mess with the area anymore.

From onstage, opener Salim Nourallah heaped praise on the venue. "I wish you could see the view from up here," he said, staring into the balcony. "I don't think I've ever seen anything like it."

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But a night at the Granada doesn't come cheap: $5 Shiners, $16 pizza, up to $33 tickets. It's steep, but the cost didn't deter people from Wednesday night's Olospo show. The popular jam band, reuniting for the second time after breaking up last year, played a tight set to an ecstatic 600-person crowd. In fact, that show was better attended than the free opening party.

More impressive, however, was the crowd at Friday night's Jack Ingram show. Ingram is a heartthrob of a musician who sings simple, rollicking songs about beer drinkin' and fallin' in love, and his audience knew every riff by heart. They embraced opening band Sorta as well, making for a lovey-dovey, feel-good atmosphere--the perfect start to a Friday night.

Love yourself? Possibly, if I keep up the medication and the therapy. Love this place? I just might.

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