Oak Cliff’s Kessler Theater Draws Future Grammy Nominees

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Oak Cliff’s historic Kessler Theater has a knack for drawing up and coming musicians who end up receiving Grammy recognition.

An intimate space with tables and chairs for approximately 30-400 people, the acoustics lend the sound to a recording studio feel.

“We try to make the best sounding room in town, acoustically,” says Jeffrey Liles, Artistic Director for The Kessler.

Liles has been with The Kessler since it reopened in 2010 as a music venue. The building itself dates back to 1941 and was once a movie theater owned by Gene Autry.

It survived a tornado strike in 1957 and a fire in 1962. The theater sat empty for 14 years until Lisa and Edwin Cabaniss purchased it in 2009.

Liles says the music venue filled a void in 2010, opening during the recession at a time when artists who would normally play big rooms were scaling down, because fans weren’t going out as much.

“They had to check it out and once they got here, they found out how nice it sounds in here, and how the audience is real attentive,” said Liles. “A lot of Dallas audiences are real loud and kind of chatty during the shows. Here, they give the artists their undivided attention. Artists really appreciate that kind of thing.”

In the last five years the stage at The Kessler has seen Grammy hopefuls and Grammy winners.

Dallas native St. Vincent – who won Best Alternative Music Album on Sunday night – played The Kessler twice in 2011.

“She just came out of nowhere and now she’s like an international superstar,” said Liles.

Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin, nominated this year for Blues Album, played at The Kessler last summer.

2013 nominee John Fullbright has taken this stage twice.

Flaco Jimenez played The Kessler last fall; he was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 ceremony.

Edie Brickell won a Grammy last year for a record she made with Steve Martin. The Oak Cliff native has also played The Kessler twice.

“The artists who write and create their own music – they’re the ones that really want to be known for something. They’re the ones who want to leave a legacy behind that people will remember,” said Liles.

Liles estimates, 60 to 70 percent of the talent who takes the stage at The Kessler have been or will be recognized with a Grammy award or nomination over time.

“It’s always great having Grammy-nominated artists play here. You can tell it’s huge for them in this era of the music business – having that Grammy nomination or Grammy award is pretty much the best indicator for your overall success in the marketplace,” said Liles.

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