Venue Explorer: Dallas
They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and Dallas’ music and cultural scene is no exception. You can grab an all-thrills-no-frills elote any day, or catch an impromptu authentic mariachi performance at any one the city’s countless excellent Tex-Mex food outposts. Still, there’s a lot to be said for getting a seat at one of Dallas’ many top-notch performance venues and checking out the incredible restaurant scene that the locals love to extoll.
Dallas Sports & Music Venues
A power plant once stood in downtown Dallas’ Victory Park where the American Airlines Center resides today, but between the rock, pop, and country performers, top-tier comedians, and NHL and NBA teams that call the arena home, that spot puts out more volts than ever. With a capacity of 21,000 for concerts, and a little less for sports, the American Airlines Center opened in 2001, with a concert by the Eagles serving as the arena’s inauguration. It was actually built to give the NBA’s Mavericks and the NHL’s Stars a new HQ, a function it still serves proudly today. But over the years the center has also hosted concerts by rock legends like The Who, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty; country icons including Eric Church, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill; and such enduring pop titans as Neil Diamond, Janet Jackson, and Bruno Mars.
Located in Dallas’ University Park, home of Southern Methodist University, the 7,000-capacity Moody Coliseum was known as the SMU Coliseum when it opened back in 1956. Ever since then the arena has hosted SMU’s basketball team, the Mustangs. In 1965 it was rededicated in honor of Texas business tycoon and philanthropist William Lewis Moody, Jr. From the ’60s onward, some of the biggest names in rock and pop have performed at Moody Coliseum. The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Elton John, U2, and even Eric Clapton and Duane Allman’s short-lived supergroup Derek & The Dominoes are just a few whose concerts the arena has hosted, and more recently, artists like Nelly have appeared in SMU-sponsored concerts. Moody Coliseum has also been the place to catch Mustang Volleyball since the team was established in 1996.
Just East of downtown Dallas lays a landmark in more ways than one. Opened in 1925, Music Hall at Fair Park is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is a thing of beauty, with its handsome, Spanish Baroque architecture. But just as importantly, the 3,420-seat venue has always been at the center of arts and culture in Dallas. Renovated several times over the decades, the Music Hall has hosted some of the city’s most important artistic institutions, including The Dallas Opera, The Fort Worth Dallas Ballet, and The Dallas Symphony. These days, musical theater is well represented here, with touring productions of Miss Saigon, Wicked, and other crowd-thrilling shows occupying the stage. The Music Hall is also known for hosting standup comedy stars like Cedric the Entertainer; celebrity magicians like David Blaine; and concerts by everyone from R&B legend Mary J. Blige to prog-rock heroes King Crimson.
The 20,000-capacity amphitheater that’s known these days as the Dos Equis Pavilion in the Fair Park section of Dallas opened its doors in the summer of 1988. Known then as the Coca-Cola Starplex Amphitheatre, it was inaugurated with a concert by Rod Stewart. In the years since, the evolution of the amphitheater’s offerings has kept in step with the changing face of popular music. In its early years, the venue hosted some of the biggest acts of the day, including Don Henley, The Black Crowes, Phil Collins, Aerosmith, and Guns N’ Roses. When alternative rock exploded in the ’90s, not only did that mean concerts by the likes of Alice in Chains, and The Cranberries, it also meant the arrival of legendary music festivals like Lollapalooza and Edgefest. Other festivals that have filled the venue have included the jam band-oriented H.O.R.D.E. Tour, female-centric Lilith Fair, metal blowout Ozzfest, and punk institution Vans Warped Tour. In April 2018 the amphitheater became the Dos Equis Pavilion.
In the Las Colinas section of Dallas suburb Irving, the Toyota Music Factory was erected in 2017, and the Pavilion at the TMF is at the core of the 17-acre complex. The beauty of the Pavilion is its hybrid nature. The space can be converted to three different formats to fill different functions, depending upon the show and the size of the audience. It can operate as an intimate 2,500-seat theater; a more moderate 4,000-capacity theater; or, for the biggest events, it can expand into an open-air venue with room for 8,000. The kinds of artists the pavilion hosts are as varied as its configurations. You might find old-school R&B heroes like Al Green, The Temptations, and The Four Tops stopping in; or top-tier comedians like Bill Maher and Trevor Noah; or beyond-categorization icons such as Mariah Carey and Julio Iglesias.
With a capacity of nearly 4,000 people, the South Side Ballroom is the biggest of the seven venues housed in the mega entertainment complex that is Gilley’s Dallas in the historical Cedars District. Containing three tiers, the ballroom can be scaled to different sizes depending upon the requirements of the event. In 2018, it was given a million-dollar renovation to make the 27,000-square-foot space even more adaptable and accommodating regardless of the size of the show. And when it comes to the kinds of acts playing at the venue, let’s just say they like to keep things eclectic. Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar, Imagine Dragons, Lauryn Hill, and Snow Patrol are just some of the artists to grace the stage of the South Side Ballroom.
View this post on Instagram
If you are anywhere near us tonight load up the friends & family and come see me! We are gonna talk about faith, family and play some good ol Country Music! Might even surprise you with some new songs! 😉 Hope to see ya here!!! Choctaw Grand Theater Durant, OK All ages. Show at 8:00pm #puttingCOWBOYbackinCOUNTRYMUSIC #LONGLIVEtheVAQUERO
One of three different venues contained within the fun factory of Choctaw Casino & Resort in Durant, The Choctaw Grand Theater kicked off with a bang. In June 2015, Aerosmith was the first act ever to play the venue, and the band themselves were on hand earlier that same day for the ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially opened the theater for business. Located in southeastern Oklahoma, about 90 minutes from the heart of Dallas, The Choctaw Grand Theater’s first level has 1,500 seats, the balcony holds another 500, and the VIP section on the third level (with private suites and a bar) can host yet another 500 customers. The theater has welcomed hot country artists like the Turnpike Troubadours and Chris Stapleton; hard rock legends like Whitesnake and Tesla; classic-rock icons such as Foreigner and REO Speedwagon, and much more.
Since the very first House of Blues opened in Cambridge, MA, in 1992, what started as a small club has blossomed into an empire. Texas got its first House of Blues in Dallas’ Victory Park in 2007. The 1,750-capacity venue hosts tons of top-tier talent along with lots of enticing extras. If you want to grab a bite before the show and soak up some entertainment at the same time, the club’s restaurant/bar features free live music and a happy hour every day of the week, with a menu featuring Southern cuisine and local beers. Sundays it’s time for the famed Gospel Brunch. And the Foundation Room VIP Club offers an extra level of luxury. But of course the headline acts are at the heart of it all, and at House of Blues, you’ll experience a diverse roster including the likes of Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Guster, Taking Back Sunday, Buddy Guy, Indigo Girls, and more.
The 48,000-square-foot Bomb Factory in Dallas’ Deep Ellum district is a historic site that has had a number of lives. Back in 1914 at the start of the auto age, it was one of the first Ford manufacturing facilities. During WWII it was a production site for bombs and other artillery, finally closing in the ’70s. When it was reopened as a music venue in 1993 its history was honored with the name The Bomb Factory, and bands like Black Sabbath, Nine Inch Nails, and Rage Against the Machine appeared there. That iteration of the bomb factory closed in 1997, but it was renovated and revived in 2015 by Clint Barlow, the owner of Trees Dallas. In addition to presenting such artists as Robert Plant, D’Angelo, Sturgill Simpson, and Erykah Badu, the 4,300-capacity venue became a hub for sports including mixed martial arts and boxing.
Located in Dallas’ jumping Deep Ellum district, Trees has some heavy history as a venue for alternative music. The 600-capacity club earned its rep in its early years as the place to see the likes of Radiohead, The Afghan Whigs, and Nirvana. The first version of Trees closed its doors in 2009, but live-music entrepreneurs Clint and Whitney Barlow gave the club a new lease on life when they reopened it in 2009. Since then, the venue has hosted concerts by a diverse roster of artists including Post Malone (in his first-ever sold-out show), G Love & Special Sauce, The Melvins, Talib Kweli, Crystal Method, Of Montreal, Andrew W.K., and plenty of others.