North Texas music venues have played a pivotal role in the area becoming a healthy incubation chamber for local bands and an essential stop for touring ones. No matter what genre or popularity level the music is, there’s a home for it.
One is located in the manufacturing district of a college town, adorned with framed LP covers and … a small glass tube containing owner’s earlobe, lost during an assault in the middle of his favorite band’s set. Another is a converted ballroom that dates back to 1910. One looks more like an airplane hangar with a stage installed.
Let’s be honest here, nothing in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area is really that far of a drive, which is a definite plus for both listener and performer. And the sheer breadth of events in the region on a daily basis shows the quality – and quantity – of venues where bands can plug in.
The Loft at Palladium
1135 S. Lamar
Dallas, TX 75215
Situated just south of downtown, this small, second-floor venue occasionally rolls the curtains behind the stage back and lets the band play in front of floor-to-ceiling windows with the city’s picturesque skyline behind it. There are wood floors, a 15-foot bar off to the side and even attentive bathroom attendants.
There are few venues in town that embody the current style and feel of Dallas as the Loft. It’s a casual venue with crisp sound and is set up to give concertgoers a clear view of the goings-on onstage, while providing room to maneuver while grabbing a drink or having a smoke on its spacious outdoor balcony.
But enough about the amenities: The sound system can handle bass-driven hip- hop, or delicate folk tunes. Even sludgy, distorted metal bands sound at home in this tiny venue. The booking is varied enough, but tends to side toward touring independent artists. However, local bands are often asked to open the show. Also, keep an eye out for events such as Rockstar Karaoke, which allows guests to sing karaoke with a full band behind them. And win cash and prizes for doing it well.
The Palladium Ballroom
1135 S. Lamar
Dallas, TX 75215
The Palladium hits the ‘big-open’ venue idea right on the nose. Visit this looming, cavernous hangar with the house lights on, and you’ll see … a big open space. There’s a giant stage that cuts across its northern wall. Bars flank either side of that, with a rail to separate the ‘bar’ area from the standing room (this is only a big open room, after all). Bathrooms line the back wall.
What’s the significance of this? Well, similar sized venues – looking at you, House of Blues – like to put obstacles on the floor. For instance, beer carts are sometimes set up throughout a venue. Maybe there’s a series of giant, protruding pillars blocking the view of the stage. Or, even worse, the bar’s set up…right in the middle of the standing room.
There’s none of this at the Palladium Ballroom. And because of that, stage visibility is among the best in the city. The venue – much like the tiny Loft that sits on top of it – is equipped to handle a wide variety of genres pristinely. The booking here is a bit broader than its little brother the Loft, considering its much larger capacity.
The Palladium Ballroom has hosted legends like Tom Waits, big-time rap stars like Rick Ross and Young Jeezy, and blisteringly loud rejoined revolutionists like My Bloody Valentine. It also plays host to a series of radio-approved acts – Say Anything, Deftones – and handles the variety beautifully.
Concertgoers can either pay for parking in the Palladium lots, or drive south along Lamar to find scant street parking. The Dallas Police Department headquarters lies two blocks away from the venue, providing a safe overseer for those who choose to find their own parking spot.
The Granada Theater
3524 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206
Widely considered to be the best venue in Dallas, the Granada is the most relaxed and comfortable concert spot in the city. Built in 1946 as a 700-seat movie theater, the art-deco concert hall offers the widest selection of quality artists and bands in North Texas.
Dallas-bred acts that hit it big often make a point to return to the Granada on the southern leg of their tours. A big reason for that? The Granada took them seriously years before they were sought-after. While many Dallas venues will pool from the local scene for openers – and the Granada sometimes does this too, mind you – this Greenville Ave. staple has no qualms slapping a local band across its lighted marquee next to the big name playing the following night.
It also doesn’t hurt that its owners and management kept much of the theater’s personality intact when turning it into a humble music hall in the 2000s. The wide stage is elevated, but the setting somehow still feels intimate; the floor slants upward, making it difficult to find a bad view of the band; and it seems like every inch of the venue is covered in art.
And the sound; oh my, the sound. Each individual instrument comes through clear, doing justice to the heaviest or the most delicate of artists. Hip-hop acts blast the main hall with clear subwoofer stabs and discernable vocals. And because of the traditional theater setting, the acoustics are phenomenal from all angles.
There’s a reason many consider this to be the best in Dallas.
Sons of Hermann Hall
3414 Elm St. 75226
If The Loft oozes the current feel of our fine city, Sons of Hermann Hall is the framed, black and white photo hanging behind the bar that reminds patrons of how things used to work.
Located on the corner of Elm and Exposition on the edge of Deep Ellum, the Hall has stayed its ground since 1910. The place is staffed completely by volunteers, and the concerts happen here because a promoter or a booking agent rented the lodge from the Sons of Hermann Home Association. There’s a lot of history in this place; grab a beer at the downstairs bar before the show (open at 5 p.m. Wed. through Fri. and at 7 p.m. Saturday) and have a chat with one of the staffers. Chances are they’ll be glad to elaborate.
The ballroom is where concertgoers will spend most of their night. It’s a humble space: The stage sits in a small corner of the room, indoor picnic tables sit along the wall, and a small disco ball hangs over the crowd.
The acoustics aren’t as crisp and updated as some of the newer venues in town, but I’ve never been to a show that sounded bad here. On its website, it proudly boasts that it’s hosted a heavy amount of Texas artists, but these days local promoters like Parade of Flesh and Spune flood the venue with exciting tour groups.
Parking can be found on surrounding streets, or in scattered pay lots near the venue. It is Deep Ellum, after all.
Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios
411 East Sycamore St.
Denton, TX 76205
What’s behind the bar tells you all you need to know about this Denton staple: Owner Josh Baish’s earlobe, which was bitten off during an assault in the middle of his favorite band Boris’ performance in Marfa, Tex. A band member found it, but Baish had no health insurance at the time. As such, he enshrined it behind the bar, right next to a signed Boris EP.
Baish’s venue is a labor of love, and it shines through on the walls, – look at the framed LP’s and search for some of the more hidden band photos – the booking, which includes an array of local artists and some of Baish’s touring favorites, and the sound system, which has no qualms handling some of the most punishing rock n’ roll in the area.
Plus, the staff is wonderful and the beer is cold. A definite must-stop in Denton.
103 Industrial St.
Dan’s Silverleaf is an often-smoke free oasis tucked away from the hazy confines of other Denton clubs. It also features the city’s best patio and a humble performance space for the Americana acts that often play here.
And humble may be the best word to describe Dan’s Silverleaf: It’s never an overwhelming affair, just a good time. The performance area is an intimate space, which allows for the performer to comfortably interact with the audience better than any other venue in town.
Though it has played host to the noisy, rugged punk rock that makes up a big chunk of the Denton scene, Dan’s is usually a go-to getaway that feels more like Luckenbach than Dallas or Denton.
122 W. Mulberry St.
Denton, TX 76201
Located just off Denton’s downtown square, Hailey’s is smoky, hyper-local and a big part of why the city can host a bevy of hyped national acts. In fact, Hailey’s once was the dominant Metroplex location for bands that pulled midsized crowds. But then, Dallas (see: above) had a venue boom, and here we are.
But instead of kicking the dirt and quitting, Hailey’s smartened up. The Denton venue is more dedicated to the thriving local scene than ever before. Homegrown bands iron out the kinks in basements and living rooms, playing to crowds armed with cheap beer and poor air circulation. Then they head to Hailey’s, Rubber Gloves and Dan’s Silverleaf for minimal cover and beer tickets.
If in Denton and wanting to catch a distinctly local show, it’s a good bet that’s what you’ll find at Hailey’s. Well, that or their quite-popular dance and DJ nights.