Ranking Dallas' Best Music Venues
With its huge variety of music venues (and huge variety of music fans), Dallas plays host to acts of all genres and levels of popularity, but not all places to catch a show are created equal. We divided the best music venues in Dallas by size and ranked them for your convenience.
4. Good RecordsLower Greenville
Good Records frequently hosts some of the most popular touring acts for intimate in-store performances "live from the astroturf." Bands playing sold-out shows elsewhere make time to play a set on the small stage clad in the iconic green carpet that was somehow deemed safe for competitive sports. Although Good Records is about 90% record store and 10% music venue, that 10% is more that enough to rank as one of the best small venues in Dallas. To sweeten the deal, the shows are always free, but it’s hard not to leave with some fresh vinyl.
A long wooden bar sets the tone for The Prophet Bar, a small annex of the space formerly known as the Gypsy Tea Room (RIP). The large bar dominates the front half of the room, with nearby chairs and tables to congregate. Follow the worn and warping floorboards to the small but well elevated stage and you’re guaranteed to find some of the area’s best musicians. The standing Wednesday night jam sessions are notorious for famous drop-ins by the likes of Erykah Badu. It’s Wednesday night, what else do you have to do?
2. Dada DallasDeep Ellum
To love Dada is to love the music. The venue itself isn’t especially remarkable -- cement floors, brick walls, a bar with the usual selections -- but the low-slung corner stage draws the audience right into action. Expect to hear a full spectrum of genres at Dada. It hosts everything from hip-hop to bluegrass on any given night. The sound system is ample for the space, and if you need a break from the noise there is a large back patio space. Or better yet, slip next door to Off the Record, Dada's record store concept. Don’t worry, they serve beer there too.
Remember when people sat down at concerts and focused on the music rather than cramming towards the stage for the best Instragram picture? Neither do I, but the good folks at The Kessler are bringing some respect back to the concert-viewing experience that’s lost at so many venues. Though tickets are general admission, there are usually seats throughout the floor and balcony with VIP tables near the stage, a sight for sore legs after too many shows spent endlessly standing. Every act is booked with quality in mind -- you’ll never leave disappointed by the talent on display -- but its the bar that takes this venue over-the-top. A wide selection of local brews and house cocktails are available, making The Kessler a refreshing environment to catch a show.
The country music fans among us will know the overall space as Gilley’s, while others may remember this venue as The Palladium Ballroom. The most recent rebrand of this concert venue has changed little besides the sign out front -- inside still consistently hosts some of the most nationally popular touring acts. The bands you see playing at South Side Music Hall are often on their last go-round of venues this size. Next time they swing through Dallas, they’re likely to be playing a stadium in front of thousands more.
Say what you will about their corporate "cookie-cutter eclectic" venues -- House of Blues is a fine place to catch established bands on their stop in Dallas. The standing room is ample, but avoid getting pushed too far under the balcony if you want to see much of the stage. There isn’t a bad seat from the balcony if you pony up the extra cash, and if it’s open to the masses, check out the Foundation Room afterwards. Decorated in soft textures of from the far east, it feels fit to be an emperor's opium den circa 1800.
This converted movie theater on Greenville Ave hosts a variety of classic movies, sports watch-parties, and, most importantly, top touring music acts. The concession booth that once hawked popcorn and candy now serves a full selection of adult beverages. Psychedelic murals don the walls and ceiling of the old theater with three distinct areas to enjoy the music: a tightly packed space immediately in front of the stage, a loosely organized floor area, and a deep balcony area resting above. Arrive early enough to have your pick.
1. TreesDeep Ellum
If we’re picking an overall winner, Trees is pound-for-pound the best venue in Dallas. It’s got the location, pedigree (c'mon, Nirvana played here), and unmatched authenticity that can only come from over two decades in the concert game. Its "shmedium" size is makes it the perfect venue to catch bands on the cusp of stardom. The standing-room floor slopes gently towards the stage to give everyone a clear sightline and the balcony railing provides a great birds-eye vantage. Trees is the crowning jewel of the Deep Ellum music scene, proudly casting its green-neon glow onto the street that defines live music in Dallas.
It seems like every major city has a venue similar to Gexa Energy Pavilion -- an unruly beast of concrete and steel beams where the biggest names come to play to the most people possible. Chances are you have a hazy memory of seeing some hair-metal band from the lawn seats here. Love it or hate it, Gexa Energy Pavilion (or whatever it might be called next year) is really all about the party surrounding the music. And who doesn’t like to party?
Bands who play American Airlines Center have reached the top -- only the biggest, most star-powered acts can command this stadium venue. Seeing music in a space this size is as much about the lights, the pyrotechnics, the theatrics, and usually less about the music being performed. And hey, thats ok sometimes. It’s a comfortable venue that has surprisingly good sound for such a large space.
Back for the first time, the Bomb Factory will blow you away with it’s sound and size. This reincarnation of the Deep Ellum staple of the early 1990s is the newest addition to the Dallas music scene brought to us by the same impossibly cool couple that revitalized Trees some six years ago. The improvements made from its late predecessor? Air conditioning for one (that's a pretty big "one"), plus premium suits, and no support beams to block your line-of-sight (height permitting).
Luckily for us, you don’t need to be an opera buff to enjoy this chic performance hall. Rock stars of eras past and current fame are opting to play this venue designed for quality acoustics rather than capacity. Visually, with its ruby red finish and intricate retractable chandelier that you must see to believe, the building is magnificent and has quickly become the hub of activity in the Dallas Arts District.
Sign up here for our daily Dallas email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun DFW has to offer.