Best Of Dallas

The 10 Best Listening Rooms for Live Music in Dallas-Fort Worth

There are a lot of ways to experience live music, many of them that will lead to ringing ears the day after (and even after that, if you're not careful). Whether you're arms-up at a hip-hop or thrashing in the crowd at a punk show, live music is often at its best when you're in the metaphorical shit. But sometimes it's the listening experience itself that needs to take front and center, and when that happens some rooms excel more than others. When you're looking for the optimal listening experience in Dallas-Fort Worth, these 10 venues lead the way.

10. All Good Cafe

This is a weird one. Let’s go and eat a piece of meatloaf and a kale salad in a restaurant straight out of a TV show from the late ‘70s and watch Yells at Eels. The music is virtually in your face while you dine, and it’s loud. This is not at all what you would expect from dinner music. It’s also pretty surprising when your server shows up and it’s someone from a great local band like Party Static (or, uh, Yells at Eels). This is one of the most unique listening rooms in Dallas. Jeremy Hallock

2934 Main St., Dallas,
9. The Winspear Opera House

The Winspear Opera House is specifically designed to showcase the voices of opera and theatre performers, but it also often attracts top-tier musical talent. Aimee Mann, Johnny Mathis and plenty of other artists from the pop world have graced this stage, which showcases an incredible voice and a great backing band better than perhaps any other venue in town. It doesn't hurt that it's also a gorgeous place to catch a show. Show up early, and you can hear the Phillip Glass-composed piece of music that accompanies the ascension of the Moody Foundation chandelier – it's an essential part of the experience. Amy McCarthy

2403 Flora St., Dallas,
8. Trees

Something happened when Trees reopened a half decade ago. With a new sound system in place, no matter what genre plays that night, everything works really well in this room. Whether it's a simple, stripped-down set from Sarah Jaffe or Deafheaven blending shoegaze and death metal, there's a lot of oomph and clarity in the PA. Trees might book a lot of rock and metal acts, but it's done great in the past with all-acoustic shows like the Revival Tour. Whether you're standing up in front, in the middle of the floor or up in the balcony, you feel like you're standing behind the mixing board. Eric Grubbs

2709 Elm St., Dallas,
7. Gas Monkey Live!

You wouldn't generally think of a venue created by a reality TV mechanic as anything remotely resemble a "listening room," but Gas Monkey Live! isn't your average music venue or reality TV star venture. At any spot in the room, whether you've fought the crowds for a front row spot or prefer to hang out closer to the bar in the back, you're going to get stellar sound and a pretty decent view of GML's stage. This is one of those venues that makes good bands shine and terrible bands sound better than they really are. AM

10110 Technology Blvd., Dallas,
6. Live Oak

The Live Oak in Fort Worth is a converted Lions Club hall with a big, elevated stage, a modern sound system and first-rate lighting. The club’s in-house sound man, Joshua Jones, is one of the best in the Metroplex — and plays the rooms acoustics like a violin. With the hall isolated from the main bar/dining area (although you can still get table service), those not interested in the music have a place to take their conversation where it won’t interfere – something encouraged by signs on the doors to the music hall during more intimate sets. Steve Watkins

1311 Lipscomb St., Fort Worth,
5. Club Dada

One of many things highlighted during last year’s Dallas Observer Music Awards Showcase was the upgraded sound system at Club Dada. There were many genres of music here that night and they all sounded impressive with that new setup. The club venue is five years into its second chapter and it is an undisputed staple of the Deep Ellum neighborhood and the Dallas music scene in general. But Dada is definitely a listening room. Sure, people wander in and have drinks and stand around on the back patio occasionally, but this is a place where people go to stand around and see something new and exciting on stage. On any given night you could see an up-and-coming touring act or a brand new local band here. JH

2720 Elm St., Dallas,
4. Majestic Theatre

The properly named Majestic Theatre is the kind of gorgeous room that turns any show into an event transcending mere concert status. Donald Trump could take to the nearly century-old theatre' stage and recite lines from a Cheesecake Factory menu and we're pretty sure five star reviews would roll in. The theatre isn't tiny either, with a capacity of 1,700, so major acts such as Wilco, Lyle Lovett and Morrisey can bring their show to arguably the most distinguished concert space in town. The elite status of this spot is certainly fitting, as iconic names such as Houdini and Bob Hope have seen their names on the theater's marquee. Concerts ranging from delicate acoustic affairs (Gillian Welch) to full-on rock shows (Old 97's) and any style of gig in-between (Leon Bridges, Sarah Jaffe) have an elegant, resplendent home on street where old downtown meets Deep Ellum. Kelly Dearmore

1925 Elm St., Dallas,
3. Dan's Silverleaf

Dan’s Silverleaf is definitely one of the best listening rooms in Dallas-Fort Worth, and it's the best one in Denton. The intimate venue holds 250 people and has been open for nearly 14 years. After renovations late early year, the patio now has a new bar and a new outdoor stage, while the interior opened up quite a bit, making way for more standing room. The vibe is always mellow, the programming is typically stunning, and the staff, including Dan Mojica — the Patron Saint of Denton music venues — are some of the best people in town. The walls are adorned with random relics and beautiful artwork and the sound is manned by one man, and one man only: the infamous Jimmy. Sara Button

103 N. Industrial St., Denton,
2. The Bomb Factory

The Bomb Factory is so good it’s scary and we probably haven’t even seen everything it can do yet. Ministry was a fairly early show and a loud one with intense visuals. It was like wondering from Canton into another world. Everyone just stood hypnotized by the lights and sound. A band touring with stage props by the truckload, any kind of private party, hell, a sporting event—there are virtually no limitations with Bomb Factory. Any event will look and sound incredible with flawless execution. It’s a venue that makes you proud to be from Dallas. JH

2713 Canton St., Dallas,
1. The Kessler Theater

Sorry, but it’s not even close. This is the best place to see live music in the city. The Kessler is a service to the community of Oak Cliff and it sure shows just how much details matter. Intimate stage, comfortable setting, great bar, perfect sound, house music that will have you Shazaming until the band starts, and they’ll even cutoff your bracelet on the way out. It’s not unusual for a touring act to thank artistic director Jeff Liles and his entire staff from the stage while gushing about how happy they are to be at the Kessler. This is one of the best places to see a show in the state. JH

1230 W. Davis St., Dallas,
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Dallas Observer Music Staff