Take a drive through Deep Ellum on any given weekend and you’ll likely hear local music echoing among the old buildings covered in buffed out graffiti behind the massive highways and the canyon of downtown skyscrapers and looming in the background. The music tells the story about an abundance of culture that many people take for granted.
Some say Dallas is boring when it comes to stuff to do. It can feel like a stifling place to live if you’re a music head, but in fact the city has deep cultural relevance on the world stage that is only now getting significant attention. As someone involved with the music community here for about ten years, I’m seeing a renaissance of music activity, and the mainstream is noticing in a big way.
Earlier this year at the Grammys, locally-bred artists St. Vincent, Pentatonix and Sara Jaffe took home awards showing hard evidence that North Texas has talent, but these accomplishments just scratch the surface of an entertainment revitalization of sorts happening in and around the Big D.
Dallas is also winning street cred as a hub for hip-hop. Blue the Misfit, who recently played a show here at UTD, has been playing some stellar shows and has worked with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, among other great local artists. Earlier this month, Justin Mohrle, a Garland-native has been in the spotlight for working with Dr. Dre. Even more recently, rapper Buffalo Black landed a soundtrack deal for director Spike Lee’s newest film, ‘Da Sweet Blood of Jesus’. These are all signs that hip-hop in Dallas is alive and well.
Things are even things happening here in the North Dallas area with music venues and businesses opening up and frequent concerts happening among the quiet suburbs. The Compound is one such venue run by UTD alumnus Evan Gordon. He organizes shows for a variety of local performers playing a variety of sounds ranging from punk rock to new wave. There’s also Josey Records, a record shop warehouse off of LBJ where, according to Dallas Observer, hip-hop legends Q-Tip and DJ Shadow were spotted hanging out over the past few months. Then there’s Dead Wax, a little specialty record store in Carrollton for those with a taste for the obscure.
Sure, the Dallas area is no Austin, a city so famed for its live music has that it has poured into every part of the city’s culture, even for those who aren’t involved. From my observation, the live music capital of the world is drowning in hopeful artists just trying to find their place in the spotlight. Even among the underground community, there is a seemingly endless sea of music to the point of oversaturation.
Some tend to forget that Dallas also has an important place in modern American music history. The Big D has been a place for music going back to the early days of Deep Ellum blues when the likes of Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson walked the streets. Two decades later, there was the Sportatorium where Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Elvis all played on the same stage. Stevie Ray Vaughan also has roots in Oak Cliff. Rhythm and blues artist Erykah Badu and the heavy metal Pantera also sprouted from the city’s creative atmosphere.
With so much happening, it feels like the same atmosphere is being invigorated. Just like in Austin, New York or Los Angeles, Dallas has more than just a scene now, but a community that’s thriving with organic culture in 2015. Now is a great time to support it.