Let it be known: Dallas is a superb destination for live music. Given the city’s vibrant diversity and cultural substance, this shouldn’t be a surprise—but, unfortunately it often is, considering that nearby Austin’s live music legacy looms so large in the national consciousness. But Dallas’s rich musical heritage is evident in so many nooks and crannies of the city; you may just have to look a little closer. The historic Deep Ellum neighborhood saw the emergence of the blues and the arrival of hot fiddle and Western swing, which soon gave way to trailblazing punk rock, hip-hop, and some of the state’s hottest country stars. With a slew of offbeat clubs, hip theaters, big-time arenas, hometown coffee shops, and every other imaginable type of venue in between, there’s always genre-spanning music to enjoy in the Big D.
Good Records serves several functions—most days, it operates as a regular music store, selling CDs, records, posters, turntables, but occasionally, it’s the spot to catch small, intimate performances by all your favorite popular touring acts. As part of their famed “Live from the Astroturf” performances, Good Records has been a temporary stage for Grimes, Erykah Badu, Dawes, and St. Vincent, Dallas’s hometown guitar virtuoso. Best of all, the shows are usually free; though if they’re not, the cover charge is small (and the staff serves free beer).
The Foundry, a friendly North Oak Cliff bar and restaurant, has everything you need to be happy in life: namely, inexpensive cocktails, local brews, laidback vibes, and a solid live music lineup. Some of Dallas’s best musicians have played the eclectic outdoor stage here, and the spacious courtyard has plenty of seating, along with a giant pecan tree, backyard games, and several picnic tables; inside, you’ll find an impressive selection of almost 50 beers. It’s a low-key, relaxed, and altogether magical spot.
House of Blues Dallas
No, it’s not a Dallas-based venue (House of Blues has 12 locations scattered around the country), but it’s still one of the best places to see established bands when they come through town. At House of Blues, visitors are greeted with elegant lighting, tapestry-lined walls, and African-inspired decor; there’s a tasty, Southern-inspired food menu, while the luxurious Foundation Room VIP Club is available if you’re feeling fancy. Inside the venue, there’s plenty of standing room, but if you don’t mind shelling out a little extra cash, the balcony seating here is fabulous.
At Armoury D.E., visitors can catch weekly free shows with all the best up-and-coming North Texas acts while staying fortified on innovative cocktails and rather refined bar snacks (think octopus simmered in white wine and Spanish spices, Hungarian-style meatballs served with garlic-parm aioli, and a truly decadent charcuterie plate). Add a recently revamped sound system and D Magazine’s “Best Bar to Catch a Local Band” distinction to the list, and there’s no wonder music lovers are always swarming around this spot.
Walk into the storied, charmingly gritty Lee Harvey’s and you’ll likely feel like you’ve stepped back in time, or into another dimension entirely. There’s something otherworldly about this space. Maybe it’s the bar’s checkered past—Lee Harvey’s has been around for half a century—or maybe it’s just the spare, no-frills decor (a rarity in glam Dallas), but the place reeks of mystery and more than a little dark magic. Besides being one of the best dive bars in town, Lee Harvey’s is a great spot to catch local, praiseworthy bands, from funk to reggae to yacht rock and everything in between.
A slightly unassuming storefront venue on Elm Street, Three Links is owned and operated by local Dallas musical legends—former La Grande manager Scott Beggs; Elm Street Tattoo owner and artist, Oliver Peck; and Tactic Productions talent buyer, Kris Youmans—and it promptly became a beloved hangout when it opened in 2013. In addition to hosting an array of local hardcore, indie pop, electro-pop, and rock bands in a memorably intimate setting, Three Links has an excellent beer selection (with 16 brews on tap), access to DFW’s first and only gourmet slider truck (Easy Slider), and a cozy patio when you need to grab some fresh air.
Originally built as a movie house in 1946, in the historic Lower Greenville neighborhood, the Granada Theater is a true fixture on the Dallas live music circuit. All the top touring acts stop in at the Granada; this eye-catching art deco landmark has seen the likes of Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, the Black Keys, the Avett Brothers, Adele, TV on the Radio, and countless others over the years. Enjoy the tunes from the balcony area or tiered terrace floor; just be sure to arrive early since the space is usually packed to capacity.
Seeing a show at Trees is a rite of passage for everyone, from local high schoolers to out-of-town music diehards. This legendary Deep Ellum venue boasts an unparalleled musical pedigree—this is the place, after all, where Kurt Cobain got punched in the face by a security guard, Deftones held a secret album release party, the Flaming Lips performed their '90s-era famous headphones experiment, and the insanely popular rapper Post Malone recently played his first-ever sold-out show. A trip to Trees is a trip down Music History Lane, and it’s still one of the best places in Dallas to catch bands on the cusp of fame.
The Bomb Factory
Trees’ sister venue, The Bomb Factory, is an industrial-chic space in the heart of Deep Ellum that can accommodate up to 4,300 fans and features a 50,000-square-foot stage, a state-of-the-art sound system, and multiple bars. The Bomb Factory also has a fascinating, unique history—in the early 1900’s, the building manufactured cars for Ford, then, during World War II, bombs and ammunition for the armed forces were produced here (hence the name); since it was transformed into a music venue, the Bomb Factory has seen big-name bands like Sonic Youth, the Ramones, Radiohead, Phish, and Nine Inch Nails grace the stage.
Canton Hall opened its doors in 2017, and since then, this stately 12,500-square-foot space has become a favorite among the concert-going crowd. Owned by the same duo behind Trees and The Bomb Factory, Canton Hall got off to a grand start with a stirring performance from indie rock legends Grizzly Bear, and since then, they’ve hosted a range of hip, well-known acts and local artists alike.