The Nine Best Unconventional Music Venues in DFW
"Decks in the Park" at Klyde Warren Park
Photo by Jerry McClure
Thousands of years ago, primitive man performed their music near the campfire. Flash forward some thousand more years, and the "live show" (for most of the time, just the only way you could hear music) was later housed in churches or the castles and courtyards of the Renaissance age. Flash forward more to the thousands of blues and jazz clubs, rock venues and corporate sponsored arenas, and today the live music setting is remarkably homogeneous.
But there some places that still offer a genuine surprise of live music event. Here are some of the best in North Texas, the ones that afford you the chance to see your favorite band from behind a film screen or from the comfortable confines of your floaty tube in the middle of the Trinity River.
Unorthodox venues sparsely dot all over the DFW map, and while some of them range from outdoor park settings to DIY restaurant floor spaces, each is unique in its own way. Here is a list of some of the more atypical venues throughout DFW that may be of some interest to those who seek adventure outside of what's behind your usual venue's door.
A packed house at The Where House.
Photo by Luke McGlathery
9. Where House, 2510 Hemphill Ft. Worth 76110
A modest brick building located on Hemphill street in Ft. Worth houses a growing interest amongst local artistic enthusiasts and DIY-ers. Any type of local venue that runs on the sweat and hard work of basically one dude and some volunteers in a giant warehouse facility is going to be unconventionally attractive.
"The Where House is unique for a thousand and one reasons. The most prominent in my mind is its drive to fit the need of the community," says owner Casey Smith. Also, the back lot features such amenities as half-pipes or mechanical bulls, depending on the occasion.
Best show in the last year: The Kopecky Family Band
Taqueria Pedritos. Tacos and grindcore.
Photo by Aaron Ortega
8. Pedritos, 4910 Capitol Ave. Dallas 75203
For obvious reasons, local acts ranging from hardcore to experimental coupled with Dallas' quaint little taqueria serving authentic Mexican tacos is what makes this restaurant venue an ideal choice for a show off the beaten track. Jesse Fuentes, a local musician involved with several bands, stopped by one day on a whim, and saw an opportunity that could create a new blip on the map in the virtually non-existent DIY scene in Dallas. There's an equal exchange between the business owners and the music community, as there is no charge for use of the venue, and the shows themselves helps increase revenue for this humble mom and pop taqueria. "For me that's one of the best things about it, the fact that we're benefiting what we need to do for our own musical community, and these guys, they [get more] business," says Fuentes. Although live music has existed at Pedrito's for years, primarily folk, the hardcore scene has made itself at home.
Best Show in the Last Year: Kill the Client
Death Cab for Cutie plays an in-store performance at Good Records
Photo by Shil Patel
7. Good Records, 1808 Lower Greenville Ave.Dallas 75206
An in-store performance at Good Records is tailor-made for intimacy and stripped-down presentation. But not always, as Co-Owner/Manager, Chris Penn admits, sometimes the shows are almost as packed as any regular venue show. "In-stores serves as a great appetizer to the venue show later that night to get folks excited about that and heighten awareness of the show and the band's latest musical release," says Penn. The first show held at the original location, featured Brainiac, where member Rick Lee unplugged his guitar, ventured out onto Good Latimer Street, and came back just in time to finish the song with the band. While Good Records does most of the booking for in-store performances, some bands reach out to them looking for a gig. "We had Death Cab for Cutie play on their second album tour," says Penn. "They reached out to us as they couldn't find a show in town. My how times have changed."
Best Show in the Last Year: Black Joe Lewis
Photo by David Worthington
6. The Kessler Theater, 1230 W Davis St. Dallas 75208
Intimacy, a quality not too many bars on any given weekend can guarantee, and something that is certainly lost in an arena setting, is not just one aspect that makes The Kessler unique. Its history as everything from movie theatre to church to sweatshop make it decidedly unconventional. "Our focus is on nuance," says Artistic Director Jeffrey Liles, "instead of pounding you over the head with volume, we want to be the one place in town where an artist can walk onstage and sing in a delicate whisper." Modesty and a focus on personal attention makes The Kessler Theater unique.
Best Show in the Last Year: The Residents
The courtyard at the Foundry.
Photo by Eliot Munoz
5. The Foundry, 2303 Pittman St.Dallas 75208
The Foundry is an unexpected treasure nestled comfortably in its unassuming surroundings. Upon walking into the rustic courtyard, the stage setup, an impressive installation made up of more than 650 reclaimed wood pallets, the brainchild of local artist Gary Buckner, and is the obvious focal point. "I don't like outdoor shows typically, because the sound kind of dissipates," says Bar Manager Jeff Biehler. "One of the things I like about that stage, it almost sounds like an indoor stage even though it's outside. It resonates off the back of that wood and then off the side of the building...it forms this really good tunnel." The homey picnic tables and the Craigslist sofas really add an unmatched comfort quality rarely found in your average venue setting. Plus the beer selection is enticing.
Best Show in the Last Year: Centro-Matic
Home By Hovercraft performs on the stage at Klyde Warren Park.
Photo By Lauren Smart
4. Klyde Warren Park, 2012 Woodall Rodgers Fwy. Dallas 75201
With a memorable grand opening performance by The Polyphonic Spree, the pavilion at Klyde Warren Park was designed not only for larger shows of that magnitude, but also serves well for the stripped-down solo artist or classical music ensemble. Either way, its free to attend, and with the visible Dallas skyline as your backdrop, it's easy to say Dallas deserves this little stretch of land for taking in and enjoying Dallas' local talent.
Best Show in the Last Year: The Polyphonic Spree (technically one year and two weeks ago, but we hop you'll allow it).
The Soundings series performance at the Nasher Sculpture Center.
Photo by Kristen Gibbons
3. The Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora St. Dallas 75201
The sleek modern design of the Nasher Sculpture Center visually indulges the senses. So it's natural that any live music here reaches far beyond standard stage perceptions. Take a show like "Pulsars" from the Soundings series for instance, where audience members were invited to lay down in a de-installed gallery, and look up at the stars while percussive choreographed music played in the background, experiences like this are few and far between amongst the Dallas music scene.
Best Show in the Last Year: Gerard Grisey's Le Noir de l'Etoile
Panther Island Pavilion
2. Panther Island Pavilion, 395 Purcey St. Ft. Worth 76102
The first tubing event at the Panther Island Pavilion had only 42 people in attendance. Now, every Thursday night, that number (pardon the horrible pun) floats around 1,500 to 1,700 people a night. Outdoor venues in the summer seasons tend to be unattractive to show-goers, however, propping your main stage right on the Trinity River where guests are invited to tube to their heart's content, kind of alleviates the Texas outdoor woes. "I'm a fan of neat, fun, cool, gritty outdoor venues," says J.D. Grainger, Executive Director for the Trinity River Vision Authority. "I've done Stubb's in Austin, I've done WhiteWater Amphitheater ... and they're hot as hell, but people still love it. So I was watching those and I thought, 'We could really do this in North Texas.'" According to those numbers, the Panther Island Pavilion is doing just that.
Best Show in the Last Year: Dia De Los Toadies
Mind Spiders perform behind the screen at the Texas Theatre.
Photo by Jason Reimer
1. Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd. Dallas 75208
The amount of history associated with this relic of a building in Oak Cliff should be reason enough to appreciate this unsurpassed piece of real estate. But as far as venues go, this one goes beyond traditional means. "There are many cool venues around Dallas but it's impossible to replicate the history of an 80 year old building, especially that's been covered from the inside," says Jason Reimer, Creative Director. "Since it's so large there's been a concerted effort to use various areas of the theater that would not be considered traditional." The "Safe Room" upstairs hosts pop art galleries and acting classes. Hidden dungeon shows. And then there's those "Behind the Screen" performances, where bands and comedy acts provide auditory enjoyment or laughter, or possibly both, literally from behind a giant movie screen.
Best Show in the Last Year: NO AGE
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