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Dallas Music Scene

Lauren Wells | March 21, 2014
The Shelton Brothers got the Dallas music scene off to a strong start during the mid 1930s with their country sound. Guitarist and songwriter Jimmy Rollins and rockabilly musicians The Rebels and Joe Poovey kept Dallas on the map as a music hub. The 60s introduced the likes of rock legend Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young fame) and blues rock maven Stevie Ray Vaughan. Alternative rock act Edie Brickell and New Bohemians made their mark with an experimental sound only the mid-80s would allow. Rapper the D.O.C. also made a name for himself during the mid-80s, working with artists like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. During the late 80s and early 90s, the Dixie Chicks rose to fame with hits like “Wide Open Spaces,” and “Goodbye Earl,” as pop-country music stormed the nation. R&B, neo-soul musician Erykah Badu emerged from Dallas in the mid-90s, putting herself on the map as a Grammy winning artist. Musician and Glee actor Mark Salling also hails from Dallas, where he began his career admiring acts like Dave Matthews Band. The millennium brought artists like Kelly Clarkson, Selena Gomez, and Demi Lovato to the chart-topping mainstream pop scene. Pop-rock acoustic performer Ryan Cabrera, pop-punk band Forever the Sickest Kids, and the eighteen-member orchestra The Singapore Slingers, also got started in Dallas during the millennium.

The Venues

The Majestic Theatre, in Dallas’ City Center District, is a 1,704-capacity theater that has been open since 1921. An official historic landmark, the Majestic Theatre was designed by John Eberson with a Renaissance Revival style (think crystal chandeliers, red velvet stage curtains, and magnificent arches). Having hosted movie premieres, big bands like Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, plays, musical productions, pageants, dance performances, and concert, the Majestic Theatre has seen it all. Big names like Morrissey, Conan O’Brien, Pet Shop Boys, and Eddie Izzard come through the Majestic, so keep your eyes peeled for tickets before they sell out!

Dallas’ House of Blues opened in 2007 in the White Swan Building, a space dating back to the 1920’s when it was a coffee processing plant. The Dallas location keeps in line with other House of Blues venues by displaying the “Crazy Quilt” and storing a box of Delta Mississippi mud beneath the main stage. Bands like Flogging Molly, Back to Blue, Blackberry Smoke, Whit Jackson, Classixx, Dita Von Teese, and Chromeo make stops at the House of Blues.

The Granada Theater, built in 1946 by Phil Isley, originally opened as a 700-seat movie house, but has since become one of Dallas’ favorite live music venues. Muddy Waters, Kenny Rogers, Bob Dylan, Beck, Little Feat, Indigo Girls, Dolly Parton, and the Allman Brothers have played at the Granada since it underwent renovations to become a music venue. With state of the art sound and lighting systems and a rich film history, this venue is covered in murals and eye-catching decor to keep you occupied between sets.

An elegant music venue, the Bass Performance Hall seats 2,056 people underneath its 80-foot wide dome structure. Managed by the non-profit organization Performing Arts Fort Worth, the Bass Performance Hall serves as the home to the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Texas Ballet Theater, Fort Worth Opera, and the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and Cliburn Concerts. For a night of classic entertainment in the historic Sundance Square district of downtown Fort Worth, Bass Hall has you covered.

Opened in 1989, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is home to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Turtle Creek Chorale, the Dallas Wind Symphony, and the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra. The concert hall is located in the Dallas Arts District, allowing for a capacity of 2,062 people. A very modern building, the Meyerson Symphony Center houses a 4,535 pipe organ known as the Lay Family Concert Organ. With impressive acoustics and a shoebox style theater, this venue hosts public art installations, orchestral concerts, and other arts-driven events.

South Side Music Hall at Gilley’s, a 1,500-capacity event space, has a massive dance floor, ample full-service bars, pool tables, and a mechanical bull– prepare for entertainment overload! Hosting live music, special events, comedy shows, company parties, weddings, and banquets, South Side Music Hall has a unique southwestern charm. The Gilley’s complex is also home to the South Side Ballroom, a 23,000 square foot event space with four bars and plenty of room to get down to your favorite artists (like Ellie Goulding!). Gilley’s brings in well-known acts like Foster the People, Trampled By Turtles, Phantogram, Lindsey Stirling, and Panic! At the Disco. Gilley’s has a handful of event spaces, so make sure to check their website for the latest and greatest gigs coming through its doors.

Opened in 1990, Trees is a live music venue rooted in Dallas/Fort Worth’s Deep Ellum neighborhood. Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Deftones, Dave Matthews Band, Tool, and Erykah Badu have all graced the stage at Trees and have put this venue on the map as an audiophile’s heaven. An edgy space, Trees accommodates all your rock needs.

The Door has hosted modern names like AWOLNATION, Walk the Moon, The Lumineers, Grouplove, Gym Class Heroes, Anberlin, Paramore, Dashboard Confessional, Silverstein, Erykah Badu, All Time Low, Underoath, Fall Out Boy, and Brand New, among many others since its beginnings in 1998. Located in Deep Ellum, The Door showcases touring as well as up-and-coming bands, exposing them to the Dallas concert-going crowd. The Door has launched music careers, so get your tickets before you have to pay hundreds of dollars to see these acts in a few years.

American Airlines Center, an award-winning sporting and entertainment arena, opened in 2001, and has since hosted performances by the Eagles, the Dixie Chicks, Michelle Branch, Madonna, P!nk, Rihanna, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga. For your mainstream concert needs, the American Airlines Center has you covered!

The Winspear Opera House is a 2,300-capacity event space opened in 2009 as a part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Located in the Dallas Arts District, the Winspear Opera House produces music, dance, Broadway shows, concerts, and lectures for the public. Also located inside the Winspear Opera House, the Nancy Hamon Education and Recital Hall is a space used for classes, rehearsals, meetings, and events for smaller crowds.

Club Dada hosts eclectic bands like Odesza, Meat Puppets, Miniature Tigers, and The Districts, making it a great venue to check out what’s new in the indie music circuit. For all you smokers, there’s a great little patio spot for you to get away from the crowd. With industrial features, Club Dada has been revitalized in recent years under its new management.

The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is a historic 66-acre botanical garden located on White Rock Lake. With views of the Dallas skyline, the Dallas Arboretum also hosts outdoor concerts at the Martin Rutchik Concert Lawn. Creedence Clearwater Revival Tribute bands, Emerald City, the Molly Ringwalds (an 80’s tribute band), and Bruce in the USA (a Springsteen Tribute band—are you sensing a theme here?) are the kinds of acts you’ll see perform amongst the flowers.

Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill features acts like Fighting Jamesons, Uncle Kracker, Tab Benoit, and The Creepshow. A dining and music venue, Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill serves burgers and bands side by side. So come hungry and leave satisfied!

The Spanish Baroque style Music Hall at Fair Park venue is a musical theater lover’s dream. The Music Hall features musicals like Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Aida, and Madama Butterfly, among countless others. The 3,420-capacity venue is also a space for dinners, receptions, meetings, and private events.

Opened in 2005, the 145-acre Toyota Stadium is a state of the art entertainment and sporting facility. Toyota Stadium is home to FC Dallas and Frisco ISD teams. Drawing in over 1 million guests per year, Toyota Stadium has a capacity of 20,500 and has hosted events like the heavy metal/hard rock festival Ozzfest.

Since 1988, the Gexa Energy Pavilion has been hosting the biggest names in music (think Dave Matthews Band, Journey, Steve Miller Band, Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton, Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry, Lionel Richie, KISS, Paramore, and Def Leppard). The outdoor amphitheatre is owned and operated by Live Nation and has a 20,111 capacity. Gexa Energy Pavilion is a great spot for a night under the Texan stars.

A part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Annette Strauss Square is an outdoor performance venue named after the late former mayor of Dallas, Annette Strauss. With a capacity of about 2,000, Strauss Square hosts music festivals, concerts, and theatrical performances.

AT&T Stadium, originally Cowboys Stadium, is home to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. When the stadium isn’t hosting sporting events, A-listers like the Jonas Brothers, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Martina McBride, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Blake Shelton, Lee Ann Womack, Jordin Sparks, Paul McCartney, U2, and Muse take the stage.

The Festivals

Founded in 2008, the South by So What? Festival in Grand Prairie, Texas was founded as an alternative to the wildly popular South by Southwest Festival held in Austin every year. South by So What? runs during the same time as SXSW, and features punk, rock, metal, hip-hop, and electronic acts like The Used, Taking Back Sunday, Chiodos, Scary Kids Scaring Kids, A Day to Remember, Of Mice & Men, Blessthefall, Hellogoodbye, and Metro Station. To see big names like the Avett Brothers, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and Matt & Kim, check out the KXT Summer Cut: The Happy Funtime Fest. The Kerrville Folk Festival has been going strong for over 40 years, and features folk music by the Stray Birds, Warren Hood Band, and many more. Willie Nelson, Dierks Bentley, Randy Rogers Band, and Gary Allan, among other big country names, headline Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic, an Independence Day staple in Texas. BFD, held at Gexa Energy Pavilion, features hard core acts like Slash, Megadeth, Black Label Society, Device, Newsted, and Hellyeah. Hosted by the KEGL-FM 97.1 radio station, BFD is not for the faint of heart. Prepare to rock! For even more mayhem, check out the eco-friendly Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, also held at the Gexa Energy Pavilion. You’ll be entertained by the likes of Rob Zombie, Five Finger Death Punch, Mastodon, and other hard rock acts. So don your leather and thick eyeliner, ladies and gents! Keeping with the Rockstar Energy aesthetic is the Rockstar Energy Uproar Festival, featuring bands like Jane’s Addiction, Coheed and Cambria, and Alice in Chains. The Vans Warped Tour also makes a stop at the Gexa Energy Pavilion, hosting mosh-pit friendly bands like Motion City Soundtrack, Reel Big Fish, and Bowling for Soup. The Navasota Blues Fest might be more up your alley if you’re into some old-fashioned blues—enjoy acts like Woody Russell and Tubie and the Touchtones. James Hall, Dirty River Boys, Toadies, and Gary Clark Jr. are among the many acts that perform at Dia De Los Toadies at Panther Island Pavilion. Described as “Willie’s picnic for a new generation,” Dia De Los Toadies is hosted by the band Toadies, and sells out in advance, so pay attention before you miss your chance to check out one of Dallas/ Fort Worth’s notable festivals. The Meltdown Music Festival, held in April, hosts bands like Justice, Flux Pavilion, Adventure Club, Bro Safari, Carnage, and Delta Heavy at LaGrave Field in Forth Worth. Also held in April, the Deep Ellum Arts Festival is a two-day event featuring folk, alternative pop, country, and rock acts like the Transporters, Back to Blue, Mike Morgan, and Thieves of Sunrise. The Dallas Indie Festival features film, art, and music every June at White Rock Lake. Acts like Etc!Etc!, Travis Scott, Pass the 40, Crit Morris, and Colton Carlyle perform at Rageville Music Festival held at the Door Dallas every April.