Tried and True
Catherine Downes

A while ago, Nick Badovinus closed his previous restaurant, NHS Tavern, and opened Tried and True. It's a roadhouse-themed bar (it's got that shelled-peanuts feel) with great whiskeys and sandwiches. But here's the thing: They play records. No, seriously, they play vinyl. You can actually saddle up to a burger and let Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger or Led Zeppelin's first-through-fourth albums pop and hiss around. It's why Tried and True is one of Dallas' best places to plant and drink.

The Goat

Sometimes you need a drink at 7 a.m. Maybe you work the third shift and the sunrise hours are your happy hours. Maybe you're keeping the party going even beyond the break of dawn. Or maybe you're just a drunk. Whatever the case, the humble East Dallas blues dive The Goat is there for you. At that hour, it's quiet and calm, free of rowdy crowds but not lonely — exactly the right atmosphere when you could use a beer or screwdriver at that hour but would like a little company.

The Libertine Bar

Deep Ellum gets all the comeback love, but Greenville is experiencing something of a nightlife renaissance itself — especially Lower Greenville, where a new bar or restaurant seems to open every week. The robust foot traffic there may soon lead to a different, more stable crowd than musicians, but right at this moment there are plenty, spilling over the patio at the Single Wide, stopping at Good Records for an in-store performance, attending one of the practically nightly gigs at Crown and Harp or buying a drink for a friend at one of the most welcoming bars in the city: The Libertine. That's the Town Hall of the neighborhood, and the guitarist-to-barstool ratio in there is often damn near even.

Katy Trail Ice House

Whether it's a crisp autumn evening or a scorching summer afternoon, the large outdoor patio at Uptown's Katy Trail Ice House is constantly packed with dogs of all sizes, shapes and breeds. This spacious outdoor patio invites Rex to join in on the fun. Whether he just got through running alongside his owner on the trail or got a new hairdo at the pet spa around the corner, he's welcome to hang out while you guzzle a few beers and watch the game or catch up with friends. The patio is so dog-friendly that the pooch-watching can be more entertaining than the people-watching.

Kalita Humphreys Theater

The old girl's got a lot of life in her yet. Built in 1959, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the creamy layered wedding cake of a theater building on Turtle Creek has lately been home to some spectacular new productions. Uptown Players now do all their shows there, having learned in recent seasons how to handle the stage's balky revolve and how to complement its curves and acute angles. It is a friendly hug of a theater space, with the best acoustics in town. And no matter where you sit in the 400-seater, the view is fine. The best event there this year was Dallas Theater Center's musical Fly by Night, an intimate, magical piece with a small cast, a tight little band and simple scenery. The warmth of Kalita was perfect for that show, which would have been swallowed by the cold, cavernous Wyly Theatre downtown. Now owned by the city, Kalita Humphreys desperately needs an interior makeover: new carpets, fresh paint, reliable air conditioning (Uptown has struggled through some performances sans air this summer). Can't someone Kickstart a fund for keeping Kalita cool?

It'll Do Club

Listen, It'll Do Club is unstuck in time. A trip through It'll Do will take you through a grab bag of iconic outfits from the last three decades. Somewhere in between running into a cast member from Flashdance and discovering where Waldo has been all this time, you'll find the dance floor. It's one of the best in Dallas with its electric blue panels and chandeliers. There's no sense of time inside, just loud music, big drinks and dim lights to hide those awkward dance moves. It's also the most unassuming club in Dallas, where any sort of adventurous soul can un-Dallas themselves and cut a rug.

Sammy's Bar-B-Q

We weren't expecting it either. Snug against the wall of Uptown-adjacent barbecue spot sits the most fascinating jukebox in Dallas. It's big, Tron-like front is loaded with typewritery slips of paper that have perfect songs from Elvis, Billy Joel and B.B. King. It's one of the oldest working jukeboxes in Dallas, has about 100 albums in it, and it still plays 45s. Also? It's a quarter per song. Take that, digital jukeboxes.

DFW is home to the largest country radio market in the country. Flip through your FM dial and you'll hear plenty of twang, but it's all been polished to shapeless oblivion in Nashville. Well, almost all of it. There is one strange holdout, a rare independently owned commercial radio station, at 95.3 FM The Range. There, you'll hear country outlaws and Texas legends and bleeding-heart Americana hipsters and whatever the hell else the eclectic DJs feel like playing. After commercial breaks, the voice of Burton Gilliam (Lyle in Blazing Saddles) will tell you what you're listening to, cackling mischievously. Clear Channel would never abide something this ramshackle — no, this is the work of real, actual music fans.

The third album from Denton's The Baptist Generals came 10 years after the second and right on time. Frontman Chris Flemmons relinquished some control of the band's sound to his ridiculously talented bandmates, and the result is a collection of songs that takes his meticulously ramshackle ideas and expands on them beautifully, loudly and strangely. Jackleg Devotional to the Heart is a record full of pointed nonsense and unforgettable melody, and no one released anything quite like it this year, in Dallas or anywhere else.

If you attended nothing but shows booked by Spune, you'd still manage an impressive survey of North Texas music. You'd also be busy — the Dallas-based operation, now in its 16th year, books roughly 10 shows every month. You'd split your time pretty evenly between Fort Worth, Denton and Dallas, and you'd see everything from local weirdos like Warren Jackson Hearne & Le Leek Electrique to arena indie like She & Him. Stick with it long enough and you'd find yourself at dark little clubs and in big open fields (Spune's festival itinerary has expanded impressively in the last couple years). The company is also probably the most restless contributor to music in the area, operating a label, marketing shows and bands and generally finding more and more ways to get people to go to concerts.

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