For the Dallas Music Scene, "The Big D" Stands for Diversity

A music scene isn't the easiest thing to define.

Kelly Dearmore
Posted on Jul 2, 2019


When looking into a city's music scene, the venues for live shows, the publications and websites, the recording and rehearsal studios, the media, fans, and lest we forget, the musicians living, working and creating in the city all gel together to create that city's musical vibe, its scene. 

For a number of folks who claim the Dallas music scene as their own, describing what's great about it isn't nearly as difficult as it is to define the many components that create it. No matter whom we asked, one theme kept popping up: diversity.

Diversity not just in race, ethnicity, age or gender, mind you, but in which genres are plentifully available to hear on a given night, the array of bands offering both original music as well as tribute and cover bands, and the types of venues you can hear any of them at are all choices that signify a wonderful amount of diversity. 

Tami Thomsen, the longtime manager for the Toadies and Sarah Jaffe, as well as an executive with Dallas-based Kirtland Records, says what's great about the gloriously unique music ecosystem of the Big D is that "there is no single Dallas sound. We are all the sounds."

"What other area can claim Erykah Badu, St. Vincent, Kelly Clarkson and Leon Bridges?" Thomsen asks, including noted artists who got their starts from just outside of Dallas, such as Clarkson and Bridges. "Or Pantera and Polyphonic Spree? I love all of them."

Dallas-resident Jeff Ryan has been drumming in the Dallas area or a couple of decades, playing in bands Pleasant Grove, the Baptist Generals and for St. Vincent. For him, the unique blend of interests all working towards the common goal of making Dallas music the best it can be is especially important.

"It's like the old saying, 'It's not the place. It's the people,'" he says. "The people behind venues like Twilite Lounge, Three Links and Dada helped bring Deep Ellum back from the grave and are thriving. Record labels such as Kirtland and Idol release both local and national artists. Chris Penn and Tim DeLaughter own Good Records and keep putting local artists' albums up for sale. Amy Miller and Gini Moscorro of KXT 91.7 continue to support local artists by playing them all day, every day."

Mayer Danzig, a music writer for twangville.com, moved to Dallas from Boston two years ago and has been impressed with the range of sounds he can hear within a close distance to his home near Greenville Avenue.

"One expects to find plenty of country music in Dallas, and there definitely is," he says. "But step beyond the traditional stylings of bands like 1100 Springs and the cowpony of the Vandoliers and there's Meach Pango's power pop and the Dead Flowers' punk rock." 

He also notes the "diversity of the music venues around town.

"There are classics like renowned honky-tonk Adair's Saloon, and the Granada Theater, which is a converted 1940s movie house, but also gritty clubs that host punk and metal like Trees, and places like The Kessler in Oak Cliff that play a little bit of everything."

John Poekahrt, a drummer for Dallas-based Green Day tribute band Green Dazed, lived in New York before moving to town a couple of years ago. He says the people and places associated with the Dallas music scene made him feel more comfortable about joining a tribute band, instead of being pressured to play only original music.

"The tribute scene in Dallas is unlike anything I had ever seen before," he says. "I never would've dreamed of being in a tribute band before because of the places I've lived didn't have the tremendous people we have here in Dallas."

We might not know exactly what a music scene is made up of, but Jeff Ryan knows why the Dallas music scene stands out above the rest: "Dallas is a thriving musical community because special people are making it that way."

Kelly Dearmore is a Dallas-based freelance writer whose work appears in the Dallas Observer.