Brass Tacks is a new barbershop in the heart of the Bishop Arts District that people actually enjoy waiting in. Grab a stool or relax in one of the ridiculously comfortable chairs, have a hot or cold beverage and watch a fun '90s film on the TV, something like Desperado or Batman Returns that you remember watching as a kid with your dad or grandfather, but hadn't thought about in years. With its gorgeous vintage chairs, dark wood finish and Art Deco sinks, the barber shop is its own little work of art.
But on the right day, Brass Tacks transforms from simply a stylish barbershop into something far more unusual -- say, a concert venue, as it did recently when Leon Bridges did an in-store performance. It's all part of the unique vision of owner Brandon White.
"I really wanted to be a tattoo artist," White explains. "But I wasn't that good at drawing." His mother worked as a stylist and he recalls kitchen sessions from his youth where he and his three brothers lined up for haircuts. White learned from watching and started cutting his own hair. "I remember buying a clipper set from Wal-Mart for 10 bucks," he says, with a laugh. The next thing he knew he was giving his brothers haircuts and then his friends.
After attending barber college and working as a barber for five years, White started considering opening his own shop. He had a few different areas in mind, but hadn't considered Bishop Arts until he noticed the building on Davis Street with a For Rent sign when visiting the area one night with his girlfriend. It was the perfect size for a barbershop and he loved the area, so he called the realtor. "It's like destiny and I love it here," he says with great enthusiasm. "Now that I'm here, I would not be anywhere else."
Brass Tacks already feels like a gem of the neighborhood, too. The clientele often look like they front blues rock bands from Nashville. The hairstyle they have is typically Prohibition era. "I would say that they were looking for a place that cuts hair like that," says White of his clients, "but there wasn't a place until now."
When White was renovating his shop, he considered including a bar and patio, but decided to stick with a barbershop. Nonetheless, he knew that he would want to do something else with the space. Live music seemed like the easiest thing, but he had no contacts in the local music scene.
Enter Jeff Brown from King Camel Productions. He approached White offering publicity in exchange for sponsorship for the upcoming Have A Heart Benefit show at Trees on January 17. Have A Heart is a charity run by Brown and Matthew Gray from the band Matthew and the Arrogant Sea. This is not Gray's first foray into charitable organizations; he had a talent-buying upstart in 2011 called Denton County Proper and has some experience with booking in Denton. White offered a small donation and also a pre-party to raise money for the benefit.
Have A Heart jumped at the idea. Gray approached rising Fort Worth soul singer Leon Bridges to perform at the charity event and also brought sound equipment. On Saturday November 15, International Bitterness Unit and Bridges played sets inside the barbershop. The original plan was for the show to take place in the parking lot, but the cold and drizzle forced it inside and approximately 100 people showed up for the event. There was also a silent auction for items offered by Have A Heart sponsors. The money from all of the haircuts given that night was also donated to Have A Heart.
King Camel is known for putting diverse lineups together and IBU and Leon Bridges were certainly disparate. IBU played a noisy set that bounced off the walls and impressed everyone. On the other hand, Leon Bridges played a set that was moving and intimate. White gave Leon Bridges a haircut in front of the audience 10 minutes before he started his set.
"It was hilarious," says Leon Bridges. "It was a great photo opportunity, almost surreal. There's no better setting than a barbershop for the kind of music I play."
The show was undeniably a success and both White and Brown agree that they will have more events at Brass Tacks in the future. White would like to have a show once a month. But with clientele that definitely goes to shows and the ability to offer a unique live setting that would draw fans who would admire the haircuts they see, White realizes this would be a win-win situation for himself and any promoter. He may even get enough offers to have shows more frequently and welcomes the opportunity.
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"I'm down," he says. "As long as it's okay with the landlord and city, I have no problem hosting shows." White loves cutting hair to live music. In fact, prior to the Have A Heart benefit he'd also set up shop during the Oaktopia music festival a couple months ago in Denton.
In the end, though, even the concerts are a chance to build a culture that White sees an opening for here in Dallas. "There is an underground culture of barbers that inspires me," White says. He cites The Proper Barbershop in Los Angeles and Donnie Hawley from the world famous Hawleywood's Barber Shop in Costa Mesa as examples. "These are people who would be tattooing if they weren't cutting hair," he says. "It's a great culture."
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