In some cities, free music is literally everywhere. Musicians fill the streets and small coffee shops, and a walk by any park could mean getting drawn into a gratis impromptu performance from a popular local band. Unfortunately, because Dallas' music venues are everywhere from downtown to far-flung neighborhoods, it's not as easy to walk the blocks in search of good tunes on any given night.
But free live music does exist in Dallas, and there is plenty of it. Alongside up-and-coming acts who are scratching out their first material on small stages in dark bars, you'll also find national acts that have decided to pick up an acoustic guitar and play a small show. Whatever your musical preferences, these venues have something to offer any music fan in Dallas who is too broke to buy a ticket.
Adair's 2624 Commerce St.
If you like country music, you need look no further than Adair's for all the free music you could ever want. Seven nights a week, a diverse set of country singers and songwriters pour their hearts out on a stage that helped raise some of Texas country's best artists. Depending on which night you're heading out, live music starts as early as 7 p.m., and nightly drink specials make it easy to stick to your broke-ass budget.
Crown & Harp 1914 Greenville Ave.
Most nights, Crown and Harp has some kind of cheap, well-curated live music. A dedicated group of talented promoters, DJs, and artists make this spot unique, especially on Monday nights. Cool Out Mondays, hosted by Tony Schwa and Cold Diggin', is always an uber-fresh mix of funk, disco, boogie, and soul. Occasionally, Cool Out will host resident DJs from popular clubs across the country, but the guys who run this show every week and their commitment to "strange games and funky thangs" is enough to keep you moving until 2 am.
The Common Table 2917 Fairmount St.
The Common Table might be one of the best kept secrets in Dallas live music even if it weren't free. On Thursdays and Saturdays, this Uptown venue hosts a calendar of acts from a wide range of genres, styles, and speeds. Some nights there's a low-key indie act, other nights a pop-electronic band, but you can generally have faith that the booking agents here have done a damn good job at curating a night of free tunes. Paired with The Common Table's drink specials, it's an obvious choice for an aimless Saturday or Thirsty Thursday.
Sundown at Granada 3520 Greenville Ave.
It wasn't easy to improve on the awesomeness of the original Granada Theater, but the people behind Sundown at Granada have somehow figured it out. The rooftop patio is already prime real estate for your ass on those cool fall evenings we're all pining for, and there's something on the schedule that will satisfy even the pickiest music snob in your group. A full menu of healthy-but-delicious food and a comprehensive beer list don't hurt, either.
Opening Bell Coffee 1409 S. Lamar St. #12
Thanks to boring and generic singer-songwriters, open mic night has gotten a bad reputation. Sure, they're typically a place where boring cover artists play and newbies try to figure the whole "music" thing out, but you'll sometimes be lucky enough to hear someone break new ground. Artists use open mic nights to work through new material, and the Tuesday night shows at Opening Bell Coffee are consistently among the best in the city. It's likely that some of the talent you'll see grinding it out on the stage here will soon be playing in much bigger venues.
The Free Man 2626 Commerce St.
The Free Man has live music just about every night, up to about fifteen free shows per week. On Wednesday, though, you can experience one of the area's most talented blues guitarists in his element without plunking down a dime. Starting at around 10 p.m., the Stevie James Trio plays blues riffs and experimental work that is the perfect cure for your southern blues jones. Get there early, and you'll catch La Pompe, an always-fun "gypsy jazz" act that keeps things up tempo with their catchy French-inspired jazz and swing sound.
Twilite Lounge 2640 Elm St.
If you're a regular in Deep Ellum, you already know that Twilite Lounge is one of Dallas' best bars. Take the live music schedule into consideration, and you'll never need another bar again. The calendar here tends to be heavily dominated by local jazz acts, but there's no shortage of singer-songwriters and acoustic acts. The booze is cheap, the people are cooler than you, and the music is just as good as you'd expect it to be in a place like this.
Klyde Warren Park 2012 Woodall Rogers Freeway
Dallas is full of public parks and green spaces, but you'll rarely find live music. Klyde Warren Park has rapidly become a destination for both hipsters and families, and the free music on Thursdays is one of the only spaces in town to enjoy live music in the great outdoors. Bring a blanket and stake out your spot on the lawn on Thursday nights for a calendar of acts that will suit families, hipsters, and everyone in between.
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The Balcony Club 1825 Abrams Parkway
For music fans that prefer a live experience that is a little more nostalgic, nightly shows at The Balcony Club pay tribute to great music from decades past. Almost all genres and time periods are represented here, ranging from Dave Burris' focus on pop music of the 1920s to emotional blues from best-of-Dallas chanteuse Miss Marcy. Jazz fans will also find plenty to love at The Balcony Club, as alumni of University of North Texas' storied jazz band has a regular presence on the stage.
The Rustic 3656 Howell St.
Being named after one of the most formative figures in Texas country has given Pat's Backyard at The Rustic some big boots to fill. If the last few months are any indication, though, they're having no trouble living up to the task. At least four nights a week, Pat's Backyard is packed with fans listening to local singer-songwriters and Texas country artists on the rise.