The Kessler Theater
Mike Brooks

January's release show for Jacob Metcalf's Fjord was just as ambitious as the album itself, which was his first as a solo artist. For starters, he had singer Kaela Sinclair open for him, shortly before she joined M83 and went on to play around the world. But the topper were the 20 musicians who filled the Kessler's stage that night, having more players than the venue's stage has ever hosted. The singer was in the company of a five-piece band, three alto singers and a 14-piece orchestra, which included violinists, unheard-of Asian instruments and a World War II-era reed organ. Metcalf's grandiose orchestra proved a tasteful accompaniment to his otherwise simple style, and they delivered melodic magic. As he played the entire album, the stage lit up with band members wearing string lights under a chandelier of colorful shredded paper. Metcalf not only had the best album release show, but easily one of the best shows Dallas hosted this year, period.

Off the Record Craft Beer & Vinyl

When the owners of Club Dada decided to turn the space formerly used as the venue's green room into a rustic little combination record store and bar called Off the Record, they miscalculated its potential popularity. In retrospect, they should've used up more of Dada's space, perhaps all of it. The space seemed plenty back when it was a mellow gathering spot for people who like to browse records while buzzed, but when they started putting on DJ nights like Blue, the Misfit's, it became the smallest dance club in America. Don't worry, there is still plenty of room on the sidewalk to wait at the door for a good 30 minutes, quietly judging the passersby and missing the days when Deep Ellum and Addison didn't have one and the same patronage. At this point, the bar may as well set up tents outside for the refugees seeking shelter inside. But once you're in, it's worth the wait. Off the Record is a cozy, friendly place to literally rub elbows with your fellow drunks.

Sue Ellen's

Technically, Sue Ellen's is known as a lesbian bar, though inside you may find every shade in the LGBTQ rainbow. If you want to dance, see lots of glowsticks, half naked men and drag queens, go to S4. If you're a woman who wants to dance and get hit on by women, go to Sue Ellen's. The Oak Lawn bar has a legit dance floor, and whether you're looking for a new girlfriend or an "I kissed a girl" short fling, you're likely to find it. It's a loungey, semi-classy place with plenty of patio space, but, most important, they stamp your hand with the word "boob" at the door (we said semi-classy), and who doesn't want to show up hungover to work with that ink the next day?

Readers' Pick:

Round-Up Saloon

Trees

We don't know what you look for in a bouncer, but some of us are comforted by a sense of protection. Dustin, aka Junior, is a Deep Ellum staple who's been throwing away our weed pipes at Trees and The Bomb Factory for the last five years. The guy is more thorough than airport security in North Korea. Simply nothing escapes him. He once thwarted a fan's attempt to gift a band with a sword, which he'd concealed in a flower box. Dustin guards the doors like they're the pearly gates and doesn't care who you think you are, even if you're on the list. He's worked doors in New York and New Jersey, so no, he's not letting you in with your "apple juice." It actually was apple juice, by the way, but he's not taking any chances. Luckily he wasn't there when Kurt Cobain got in a fight onstage at Trees, or that bit of music history would've never happened.

It'll Do Club

It'll Do Club takes the crown once again, mostly due to consistency. Every Saturday you know exactly what you are going to get from It'll Do: world-class house music (with occasional techno) bringing in some of the most respected touring DJs in the world. No VIP, no bottle service, and none of the other pretentious pitfalls far too many clubs fall into. It's all about the music, dance floor and the DJ. It's the crown jewel in Brooke Humphries' growing empire of bars, clubs and restaurants, and the vibe at It'll Do recalls '90s warehouse parties minus all the sketchiness. On the off nights that they don't have a touring show, resident DJ Red Eye holds it down bringing sets that often one-up a lot of the touring acts that come through.

Readers' Pick:

Station 4

Scottie Canfield, better known to the nightclub regulars of Dallas as DJ Red Eye, has managed to be the only DJ in town holding down multiple residencies playing classic house and techno. That's no small feat in a town with an overabundance of Top 40 clubs. His two decades of experience have seen him controlling dance-floor vibes at some of Dallas' most reputable dance spots, from Club One back in the day to It'll Do and Beauty Bar today. Red Eye brings to the table a librarian-level knowledge of classic club tracks (many of which he owns on vinyl) and a firm grasp of the latest tracks with underground buzz. He can read a crowd like few others and uses his deep knowledge and extensive technical skill behind the decks to set dance floors off every weekend.

Readers' Pick:

Lord Byron

When Erik Estornel left Dallas seven years ago, he was already on a rising tide internationally under his Maetrik alias. After relocating to Spain and reinventing himself as Maceo Plex, he quickly became one of the most-charted producers on dance industry tastemaker Resident Advisor's DJ charts. In the years since, he has consistently landed in the top five of Resident Advisor's top 100 DJ's of the year poll. This past summer has found Estornel holding a popular residency in Ibiza and headlining the biggest clubs and festivals across Europe. When Estornel left Dallas he was criminally overlooked and playing to a few friends at small parties. On the rare occasion when he comes home to play nowadays, he's guaranteed to pack any room. But Estornel also hasn't left his roots wholly behind, as he tipped his hat to Dallas by naming his record label Ellum Audio.

In only two years, Josey Records has established itself as a go-to stop for the crate digger on the hunt for vinyl gold. Ranging from the pricier collector stock to the hidden gems buried among the racks of vinyl, there is something special to be found in Josey's used and new stock. The warehouse-sized retail space is easy to get lost in with its ever-shifting inventory. Record players, vinyl cases, multiple vinyl listening stations and all kinds of assorted vinyl accessories contribute to a full-service vinyl shopping experience. Josey also serves as a great performance space with a stage and PA at one end of the store and one of the nicer DJ booths in town, which comes in handy on the Record Store Day celebration and other events throughout the year.

Readers' Pick:

Good Records

Sometimes Tinder and OKCupid just don't suffice. Sometimes it's nice to meet a mate in the flesh before committing to drinks with them on a Saturday night. It takes effort, but it's worth it when you can finally fulfill that pesky "In a Relationship" status on Facebook. Meeting single people in Dallas is easy, so long as you go to Mutts Canine Cantina, the combination dog park, bar and restaurant in Uptown. Going to a bar alone and drinking can be hard and come off as creepy. Going to a dog park with only your dog and drinking can be cool and inviting. Simply head to Mutts with a dog — your dog, a stray dog, any dog — order a beer and watch the potential spouses come rolling in. Dogs are great icebreakers because they sniff your potential mate's butt before you ever have to.

Dammit, we're still thinking of that Kelly Clarkson performance of "Piece By Piece" on the final season of American Idol. A pregnant and beautiful Clarkson returned to the stage that made the Burleson native a household name and America's first-ever American Idol to perform a song about her struggling relationship with her father. About three-fourths of the way through, however, Clarkson began choking up while singing the lyrics. If that wasn't enough to get America teary-eyed, the camera then panned to judge Keith Urban completely weeping as he watched the performance. Judges Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. and host Ryan Seacrest were misty-eyed as well, proving Clarkson's voice can evoke great emotions. Damn it, Clarkson. Stop it. (Except don't.)

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of