In an imperfect world, it's naive to assume there will ever be a perfect concert experience. Some things are just out of our control: noisy audiences during intimate sets, slow bar service or a band that starts an hour after its set time. But, like in the wonderful world of online shopping, we created a wish list by picking and choosing the best options for a live music outing. By Frankensteining the best qualities of North Texas venues, like ample seating at Dan's Silverleaf, the kid-friendly Disco Kids at It'll Do or the free concert series at Klyde Warren Park, we've created a list of these qualities with input by area musicians and frequent concertgoers.
Ticket prices can sometimes stand in the way of a good time. After all, there’s a lot of people who have to get paid when there’s a concert taking place. And for those who can’t afford the big-time arena shows coming through town, or can’t swing a door cover at a club, a lot of places offer free shows, and some offer them regularly. Save that money for the bar, or better yet, support the musician or band at their merchandise table and grab a record, T-shirt, pin-back button or sticker. There's peace in knowing your money is supporting artists whom you admire. Our top picks: Klyde Warren Park (2012 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Dallas), Safari Nights at the Dallas Zoo (650 S. R. L. Thornton Freeway, Dallas), The Box Garden at Legacy Hall (7800 Windrose Ave., Plano), Tradewinds (2843 W. Davis St., Dallas), Spinster Records ( 829 W. Davis St., Dallas).
For many people, the music scene and nightlife seem to go hand in hand, but it doesn’t always have to be so. It's easy to list reasons to see a show earlier in the day: It’s normally less crowded, it’s usually cheaper and — most of the time — there are fewer drunk, boisterous people around. From festivals offering day-time programming to venues that regularly host matinee concerts, in an ideal concert scenario we wouldn't have to choose between getting enough sleep or staying through the midnight headliner’s entire set. Our top picks:
The Rustic (3656 Howell St., Dallas), Granada Theater (3524 Greenville Ave., Dallas), Dan's Silverleaf (103 Industrial St., Denton), AllGood Cafe (2934 Main St., Dallas), LSA Burger Co. (113 W Hickory St., Denton), Truck Yard (5624 Sears St., Dallas).
There comes a time in everyone’s life when the sight of an empty chair, barstool, bench or even a shredded and duct-taped booth in a venue sparks the kind of joy not felt since childhood birthdays. Especially when there's not a pole, column or tall concertgoer blocking your line of sight to the stage. It’s been a long night already, and depending on how well-coordinated one’s shoes are for hours of standing at a crowded concert, those chairs can provide instant relief. Resting one’s weary feet or tired legs can sometimes be vital in enjoying the overall experience, even if some consider it uncool to relax and slowly sip a beer during the third set at a punk show. Our top picks: The Rustic (3656 Howell St. Dallas), The Free Man (2626-2630 Commerce St., Dallas),
The Kessler (1230 W. Davis St., Dallas), Dan's Silverleaf (103 Industrial St., Denton), Texas Theatre (231 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas).
Becoming a parent doesn’t mean the things that once brought you joy as a childless adult have to go away. Plenty of parents want (need) to get out of the house, and live music can be a great way for the whole family to spend time together. Although some venues with bars will have a 21-and-up policy, for obvious reasons, many venues across DFW are just fine with the little ones tagging along. And that means mommy and daddy can enjoy a few drinks while introducing the kids to local music. And some venues even have kid-specific events, so let bedtime linger a little. They'll probably thank you for the experiences one day. Our top picks: Spinster Records (829 W Davis St., Dallas), The Rustic (3656 Howell St., Dallas), Deep Ellum Brewery (2823 St. Louis St., Dallas), Pecan Lodge (2702 Main St., Dallas), Klyde Warren Park (2012 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Dallas).
Lots of Room
Wading through a sea of sweaty, flailing concert attendees can deter many folks from going to a show (or maybe that just begins in your 30s?) Large crowds can be intimidating and off-putting for plenty of people for plenty of reasons: anxiety, claustrophobia, the sheer grossed-out feeling of rubbing up on a stranger’s sweaty arm. Shudder. Venues with outdoor stages or stages situated far enough away from a bar and its long lines can let crowds breathe a little, leaving you a comfortable distance from others. Our top picks: Club Dada (2720 Elm St., Dallas), Deep Ellum Art Company (3200 Commerce St., Dallas), Backyard on Bell (410 N Bell Ave., Denton), 'Til Midnight at the Nasher series at the Nasher Museum (2001 Flora St., Dallas), Billy Bob's (2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth), Longhorn Ballroom (216 Corinth St., Dallas), Dos Equis Pavilion (3839 S. Fitzhugh Ave., Dallas).
Cheap Drinks/Drink Specials
To some, a hefty chunk of money is spent during a night out enjoying live music is on alcohol. And a lot of venues rely largely on alcohol sales for income, but that doesn’t always mean paying $8 for a can of beer (sometimes more if it’s one of those fancy craft beers). Plenty of venues in town offer drink specials, and it's always nice when there's a budget tall-boy can or a beer-and-a-shot special. Our top picks: City Tavern (1514 Elm St., Dallas), The Goat (7248 Gaston Ave., Dallas), Double Wide (3510 Commerce St., Dallas),Truck Yard (5624 Sears St., Dallas), Balcony Club (1825 Abrams Road, Dallas), Bryan Street Tavern (4315 Bryan St., Dallas).
More Than Booze
On the other hand, some people want to see more than just booze behind the bar. Plenty of clubs offer an alcohol-free experience for designated drivers, pregnant ladies, those trying to stay sober for personal reasons and others who simply prefer not to ingest poison. Enjoy teas, coffees and juices and let others prep for a hangover in the morning. Some venues offer the best of both worlds so everyone can have a good time. Our top picks: Harvest House (331 E Hickory St., Denton), Opening Bell Coffee (1409 S Lamar St., Dallas), AllGood Cafe (2934 Main St., Dallas), The Box Garden at Legacy Hall (7800 Windrose Ave., Plano), The Wild Detectives (314 W. 8th St., Dallas), Off the Record (2716 Elm St., Dallas), Barcadia (1917 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas).
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Maybe too many years standing close to the speakers at loud shows has become cumbersome to the concert experience. And depending on the size and acoustics of the venue, that amplified electricity can all but throw spears at your ears. Don’t risk hearing loss, at least too early in life, just to enjoy live music. A lot of music venues have disposable ear plugs available for free or on the cheap behind the bar. Our top picks: Granada Theater (3524 Greenville Ave., Dallas), Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios (411 E. Sycamore St., Denton),
Trees (2709 Elm St., Dallas).
A Clean Bathroom
A clean bathroom can make or break your experience anywhere, not just at a concert. But for some reason, music venues have some of the worst of them. It's more noticeable, and, let's be honest, expected, at smaller clubs. But that doesn't make the trip to a foul-smelling, piss-soaked bathroom any easier. And if someone had a few too many vodka sodas that night, it's only worse. A tidy bathroom with working toilets and, if we're lucky, a few fresh-scented amenities go a long way. Our top picks: The Bomb Factory (2713 Canton St., Dallas), American Airlines Center (2500 Victory Ave., Dallas), Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios (411 E. Sycamore St., Denton), Balcony Club (1825 Abrams Road, Dallas), Canton Hall (2727 Canton St., Dallas), Twilite Lounge (2640 Elm St., Dallas).
top only pick: Three Links (2704 Elm St., Dallas).