Justin DiBernardo, bar manager at Tradewinds, says many of its patrons are musicians and artists.
Justin DiBernardo, bar manager at Tradewinds, says many of its patrons are musicians and artists.
Mike Brooks

Tradewinds Social Club in Oak Cliff Is Dallas' Newest DIY Music Venue

When Justin DiBernardo became Tradewinds Social Club’s de facto bar manager about a year ago, one of his goals was to make the dive bar a go-to music venue in Oak Cliff.

“If you’ve ever hung out at Tradewinds, even if there is only a few people in the bar, at least one of them is a musician or an artist,” says DiBernardo, who has worked at Tradewinds for a few years. “It has sort of grown organically with people just wanting to play here because it’s such an intimate setting, and it still is mostly a DIY space.”

Tradewinds has been a staple of the neighborhood since it opened in 1968. In a few months, it will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Tradewinds has always been family owned, but it's been owned by a few different families in its five decades.

On the surface, Tradewinds is a pretty typical dive bar. It has few windows, and patrons can sit on mismatched furniture or relax with a game of shuffleboard or pool. But lately, Tradewinds has begun to make a name for itself as a music venue.

On Tuesday nights, musician Jim Branstetter hosts the weekly series Run With Scissors. Yells at Eels, Cygnus, Homer Street, Atop, Justin Longorio and Atom & EV are among the series' performers.

Run With Scissors, which will move to Thursday nights beginning Dec. 14, was designed as a continuation of Harper’s Revue, a weekly event organized by Lily Taylor at The Crown and Harp on Lower Greenville. Harper’s Revue was what Branstetter calls “a showcase for the more obscure and experimental acts.”

The Crown and Harp closed in May. The following month, Branstetter started Run With Scissors “with the idea of creating a safe DIY space, a space that had a community atmosphere to go along with encouraging creative freedom," he says. "We have a lot of ensemble acts with artists from different bands collaborating to create something new, often spontaneously."

Live shows at Tradewinds have been great for business, too. DiBernardo says that the shows are great pick-me-ups on uneventful nights at the bar.

“It’s a neighborhood bar first and a venue second, and I think that’s what musicians really enjoy about the place,” DiBernardo says of Tradewinds. “We’re really lucky to have so many people that love Tradewinds as much as we do, and they are almost always interested in playing.”

The bands from the neighborhood tend to bring in the most people.

“We can get especially packed with Oak Cliff bands bringing what seems like the whole neighborhood in,” DiBernardo says. “It seems that the more local, the better for us, business-wise. Even when we sign on to host touring bands, we can usually get some acts from the area to come bring a crowd and support the touring bands. All in all, I’d say live music has been nothing but a positive for us.”

This Friday, Tradewinds will host Inferno Texino and Sweatloaf, a Butthole Surfers cover band, along with Toxic Water, a touring band from Austin. On Saturday, Nov. 18, Tradewinds will host its monthly show featuring the Stoners, a Rolling Stones cover trio.

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