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Dallas' Unpredictable Concert Start Times Make Life Awkward for Fans

We've all been there before: You plan your night around a show in Deep Ellum, meet up with your friends, grab pre-game drinks and carefully figure out what time you need to show up to catch the openers. But then things get awkward. Doors were at 7 p.m. You get there at 8, but you're too early. So you grab a drink. And wait. And wait.

What gives? If you know anything about going to concerts, you know not to show up too early. Fashionably late, you might call it, is better. But the waits — sometimes two hours or even more from the advertised start times — have gotten pretty absurd at some shows in Dallas, and the variance from show to show has made it almost impossible to know when to show up. Whatever is a concertgoer to do?

It's not just a matter of feeling foolish for showing up too early (or sometimes too late), either. Inconsistent start times can introduce a series of problems for fans to deal with. If it's a night when a handful of your favorite bands are playing at bars around town, you're faced with a dilemma: Like at SXSW or any other festival, you just can’t see every band on your list. Why? Things lag. Bands and fans are on two separate schedules. Throw in artist and venue management, and you technically have yourself four separate schedules. Somehow they’re all supposed to coincide and make it work.

Word on the street is that most bands at Deep Ellum dives and DIY spots simply aren’t big enough for their britches. According to Club Dada doorman Jon Bryant, “Where a lot of the trouble starts is when bands are supposed to load in at 5 and don’t show until 7.” Then when they try to sound check, they put things behind. Add a few more bands sharing the bill and you get yourself a mess.

This is occasionally acceptable, because traffic and other vehicle-related things just get in the way. Bands ride around in shitty vans. The van breaks down or a tire blows. Automatically, the schedule is thrown off. It happens to a band almost every night, and if any band made a habit of being punctual the venues would probably get worried.

Or maybe a band leaves town late because the show the night before was just too much fun. It happens. But they still have another set of fans in the next town who equally love them. Those fans will stroll in late, too. Why leave the house early if the band they want to see isn’t playing until 11?

This creates another issue. Often fans are unaware of who else is playing, no matter how talented they may be or how much buzz has been bestowed upon them. This creates a weak, thin audience, so smaller spaces that host smaller bands push set times back to ensure no one has to play to a near-empty room. (Sometimes a blessing if you happen to be running late.)
But in doing that, the night also runs much longer for the venue’s employees, and in time, the audience will just leave. One night at North Dallas house show spot The cooOmpound, “Aztec Death were set to go on around 12:30ish but didn’t end up starting until 2 a.m.," says house owner Evan Gordon. "The crowd had whittled down from 100 to 15 and we had to cut them off after about 20 minutes. That was a real bummer.”

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No one wants to be out late on a weeknight and then have to get up at some ungodly hour for work or class the next morning. You feel groggy and gross. You may have had a good time, but that next morning is no fun. All because a show ran late the night before.

Months ago, the folks at Gawker suggested all shows should end by 11 p.m. For weeknights, it makes total sense. I've seen Transmission shows — as of late, the best ones — end at 11, even on a Friday night. You leave a little out of phase, but you generally get enough time to reset before you have anywhere else to be or the club kicks you out.

This is really a matter of basic professionalism. Some have it, others don’t. We say, leave it to the pros to be prompt and on time. The folks behind Trees and The Bomb Factory let people enter the space at a consistent time of 7 p.m. This “gives people a chance to buy a drink, buy merch and make an evening of the show, to not just pop in and watch one band, like waiting until the action scene in a movie,” says media manager Gavin Mulloy.

Sounds reasonable to us. Let the audience acclimate to the evening they’re about to have. It makes for a better night and a lot less awkwardness — well, unless it's self-inflicted. But that's another story.

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