Best Of Dallas

The 10 Best Dallas Metal Venues

Since the days of Joe's Garage, North Texas' metal venues have hosted some groundbreaking local bands like Rigor Mortis, Pantera and Drowning Pool with mosh pits reaching same intensity as the ones appearing at summer festivals at Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas, Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco or Quicktrip Park in Grand Praire.

As any old metalhead in the "metalplex" will tell you that finding an appropriate place to allow the electric guitars to shred and the mosh pit to grow hasn't always been easy. In the early '80s, most metal bands had to sacrifice to the gods of thunder in a pasture as part of Jerry Warden's "Heavy Meadows" extravaganza, an event that always ended with people taking a nature hike to dodge police helicopters.

Today, dozens of venues showcasing local and national metal acts can be found across North Texas, and when one disappears, two more take their place. To pay homage to these bar owners who put up with the mosh pit and the messy aftermath that sometimes follow when you get a group of people fueled with too many whiskey shots moving in a circle with their elbows leading the way, here's a list of the best metal venues in North Texas to "let the bodies hit the floor."

10. The Rail Club 3101 Joyce Dr., Fort Worth

There's no derailing the mosh pit when it begins to affect the crowd at The Rail Club. The stage faces an outer wall instead of the bar like other metal venues, offering minimal escape routes if the mosh pit grows too large. Of course, who would want to escape the pit? The closeness just adds to the brotherhood that most people feel when they walk through the door. Offering metal (and other genres) on the weekends, this place has a killer sound system, phenomenal bartenders and new owners investing even more money to help make this place one of the premier venues in DFW.

Upcoming shows: Primal Concrete Cowboys, July 26, DFW NORML's 1st Annual Metal Show, Aug. 2, and Warebeast, Aug. 8

9. The Boiler Room 2723 Elm St., Dallas

Stevie Benton, bassist for Drowning Pool, is part owner of this corner bar located just off Elm and Crowdus streets in Deep Ellum. It's a local favorite and a premier metal venue that offers an intimate setting to start a mosh pit (and probably safer, too, since moshers would have to go into another room to find a chair to throw). Daily drink specials, a 150-inch big screen playing sports and a menu that includes burgers, tacos and more just add to this place's appeal. It was voted Best Rock Bar in 2011 and still lives up to this moniker by offering up acts like Freakshow Band, Primoridus and Metal Man Sam.

Upcoming shows: House Harkonnen, June 27 and Parrkos, June 29

8. Gas Monkey Bar and Grill 10261 Technology Blvd. E., Dallas

One of Dallas' hottest concert venues, Gas Monkey Bar and Grill provides bands with a main stage on the southernmost patio that overlooks a lake. But the biggest selling point for bands and fans alike is the $300,000 worth of sound equipment. Gas Monkey staff also tailor the venue to meet the needs of the band jamming on stage. The front of the stage can act as a dance floor for "ragtag hippies" dancing to reggae or a perfect spot to start a mosh pit when Goatwhore, Dying Fetus and Thy Art is Murder arrive in July.

Upcoming shows: David Allen Coe, July 2, Pentagram with Venomous Maximus, July 5 and The Summer Slaughter Tour: Morbid Angel, July 27

7. South Side Ballroom 1135 S. Lamar St., Dallas

Part of the world famous Gilley's Dallas, this legendary venue has showcased some phenomenal metal acts, including Lamb of God, HELLYEAH! and Slayer. It's also home of John Travolta's Urban Cowboy legacy. Four long bars that border the venue allow drinks to flow quicker and smoother, a large open area -- more than 23,000 square feet -- in front of the stage has formed some massive mosh pits. Despite a TABC probe after people reported teenagers were drinking and smoking marijuana at a Ghostland Observatory concert (shocking, I know), South Side Ballroom is still one of the best places to watch bands like Slayer paying homage to the thunder gods.

Upcoming shows: Coheed and Cambria, Sept. 15

6. Diamond Jim's Saloon 305 Great SW Pkwy., Arlington

On the outskirts of Arlington, the birthplace of the metal scene in DFW, is where you'll find this new metal venue. The outside doesn't look like an abandoned retail shop or warehouse. It actually resembles a modern day saloon with iron horses parked out front. Local band Warlock's Jerry Warden has been offering metal acts such as Murder Junkies, SlutHammer and Sons of Bitches under his other moniker "Elmo Jones Productions" on a weekly basis. This is a "kick-ass live music venue where leather jackets and tattoos are king." A small stage sits in a dark, smoky space, providing bands a perfect atmosphere to unleash their metal. The small mosh pits have left the owner scratching his head, but he always has a smile on his face, says Warden.

Upcoming shows: Absence of Despair, June 25, and Rogue Radio, June 28

5. Tomcats West 3137 Alta Mere Dr., Fort Worth

Located just on the other side of the highway from The Rail Club, this hidden gem is nestled in a shopping center of bars with patrons who look like they belong in a Quentin Tarantino movie. But don't let this threat of being mugged or shanked turn you away; metal isn't meant to be packaged pretty. And once inside, you'll find James McWilliams, one of the most notable sound guys in DFW, working the system. The mosh pits that erupt inside this small venue often involve just a few drunk people stumble-slamming until one passes out or vomits, but every once in a while a vibrant one reminiscent of the Tombstone Factory days appears.

Upcoming shows: Solomon, June 27, Parabelle, June 28 and Feeding America Benefit Show, June 29

4. Three Links 2704 Elm St., Dallas

Once known as "La Grange," Three Links in Deep Ellum hosts a larger stage, revamped sound system and more beer. Oliver Peck of Elm Street Tattoo is part owner and created an artistic décor -- David and Goliath interpretations and owl-over-pyramid diagrams -- that just feels metal. "This is more like your homie's buddy's friend's neighborhood hangout where you know who's running it, you know who works here, you're friends with everybody and it's way more relaxed and more inviting," Peck says in a recent Observer interview. School of Rock in Dallas has felt this community spirit and held its annual metal show at the venue a few months ago. The stage sits in the corner of the room, allowing a mosh pit to push out the back doors into the smoking area if it gets too large. It's the perfect place to watch young and old metalheads alike banging their heads to the "right rhythmic pattern."

Upcoming shows: The Casualties with Lower Class Brats, Sniper 66 and Electric Vengenance, July 17 and Full of Hell and Nolsem, Sept. 9.

3. House of Blues 2200 N. Lamar St., Dallas

Everyone knows the blues helped to kickstart the metal movement. The key of E is a favorite of Metallica's Kirk Hammett, and listening to the old blues masters' solos often mirrors the aggression felt at a metal show. So where better to catch a metal show than at the House of Blues? Bands such as Dethklok, Behemoth and Goatwhore all have put on some killer shows with massive mosh pits underneath the Voodoo eye's watchful hand. These offerings are just another aspect of the House of Blues' mission, which is "Dedicated to educating and celebrating the history of Southern Culture and African American artistic contributions to music and art."

Upcoming shows: Guitar Gods Tour 2014, July 10 and King Diamond, Nov. 6

2. Reno's Chop Shop 210 Crowdus Rd., Dallas

Bikers and metal just belong together. Richard Rawlings, owner of Gas Monkey Bar and Grill, understood this fact when he opened his bar. It's like french fries with ketchup, Coke with Jack Daniels, weed and Snoop Dog. It's best not to have one without the other, and where better to catch a metal show and fall into a mosh pit with a bunch of outlaws who ride fiery steeds than at Reno's Chop Shop in Deep Ellum? It's the best biker bar in Dallas and offers live music every weekend. The staff is friendly and AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Guns N' Roses can often be heard when the live bands aren't playing.

Upcoming shows: TBA

1. Trees 2709 Elm St., Dallas

Don't let the name fool you. There are no tree hugging hippies singing "kumbaya my lord" inside this large venue, only the best concerts for the diehard fan. Wes Scantlin of Puddle of Mudd's onstage meltdown is just one of the finer examples. Some of the biggest names in music have found their way to this legendary stage, including Nirvana, Deftones and Tool. This world-famous venue has an upstairs VIP area that offers a comfortable lounge where people can mingle between sets and a downstairs bar that faces the stage, allowing fans who are less likely to enter a mosh pit an opportunity to listen to drunken renditions of their favorite metal song.

Upcoming shows: Drowning Pool, June 28, Dark Horse Darling, July 25 and Zepparella, July 30.

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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.