Spring is a good time for live music shows in Dallas, and it?s easy to see why.
The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, people are wearing gigantic sunglasses, and nearby Austin with its week-long music extravaganza, South by Southwest, makes it seem like a waste for bands to strut their stuff there and leave Dallas and Fort Worth music-lovers pining and lonesome.
There is no denying that the line-up of visiting bands this year is pretty phenomenal, but the venues where they are playing leaves something to be desired from the Dallas music scene in general. It seems that as time goes by, more and more bands are drifting away from the nearby venues of Deep Ellum and are going on to greener pastures, and with good reason.
During the past few years Deep Ellum has become increasingly unfriendly terrain to concert-goers and their wallets. Here?s the general problem: first of all, unless you want to pull a wrinkly 5 dollar bill from your pocket to leave your car behind a dark building or under a shady bridge, there is no place to park. Even if you get there early enough to scavenge for a free parking spot in some out-of-the-way lot that seems innocent enough in the daytime, chances are it won?t be a pleasant walk back at one or two in the morning when your concert ends and the streets are dark and relatively unsafe.
Even before you set foot inside the venue, you have already spent money on gas to drive there and at least 5 dollars to park there. After you get to the door and obtain your wristband or those embarrassing sharpie X?s that always end up on your face by next morning, the venue itself is a place to face.
Weekdays aren?t bad, the shows aren?t too crowded and generally the people are there to actually listen to the bands. Weekends, however, aren?t very pleasant, to say the least. Venues such as Gypsy Ballroom and the now-closed Trees get oversold and you?re lucky if you are tall enough to see above a sea of faces and through the smoke to catch a glimpse of the band members? dot-sized faces. Noisy and mostly intoxicated people are also an unforgiving source of suffocating body heat. Sometimes the music makes it all worthwhile, but most of the time you feel like you wasted your money and time. You walk back to your expensive parking spot only to waste more gas battling traffic to arrive home, where you will definitely want to take advantage of a bar of soap, a bottle of Febreeze and a lot of sleep.
So why bother? Well, I think a lot of people have had that same thought. Many venues that have tried their best to stay open in Deep Ellum have gradually started to shut their doors because of new options that are moving the music scene out of downtown Dallas and into its peripheries.
In Greenville, for example, we find The Cavern and the Granada Theater. Although the same problem with parking exists and the ambience in general creates more of a 21-and-up atmosphere (most of the shows at The Cavern require you to be 21), we can definitely see that people have found Greenville an appropriate alternative to Deep Ellum. Fort Worth also offers a variety of venues, if you?re up for the drive. The Ridglea Theater offers a space for bigger acts while The Wreck Room, which boasts its own parking lot, gives you a cozier show.
Another option, which seems to be the one that shows the most promise, is driving your car up to Denton and enjoying the free-parking nightlife to your heart?s desire. The town itself exudes a carefree, laid-back, culture-conscious feeling that is delicious to experience, as well as an 18-and-up general rule that makes it all much more agreeable. With venues such as Hailey?s, Rubber Gloves and Dan?s Silverleaf, Denton attracts first-class acts with its relaxed and artsy atmosphere. Hailey?s has abundant parking and very good sound, as well as three different sections that create cozy spaces for those who want to enjoy the show sitting and wide floor space for those who prefer to stand. It also has weekly dance nights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Dan?s Silverleaf is a venue with more of a bar-like feeling, where you can sit to watch your favorite bands or cool off in the back deck when it gets too hot inside. Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios is a cement factory turned live music venue. Local coffee houses also offer smaller local acts. Art Six Coffee, for example, hosts bands and plays in its backyard stage and makes very good peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Deep Ellum, with all this competition, has grown less and less appealing to the public. Although it nearby shows would be preferable, people would rather take the quality or the atmosphere that other places give you than the familiarity of downtown. I would like to see Deep Ellum cultivate its strengths, while trying to fix that which keeps people away.
After all, it?s not only the public that shrinks away from uncomfortable venues; the bands, too, prefer somewhere that people can enjoy the music they give their life to create.