2017 in review: Deep Ellum continues to the best option for live music in Dallas-Fort Worth

The final night of September brought Dallas-Fort Worth one of its strongest concert nights in recent memory. But we decided not to publish a story about it. The weekend felt bittersweet after the deadly shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday, Oct. 1, and we preferred not to harp on how awesome it was to go to a concert right then.

But after a few months of reflection on how healing music can be, we've decided to dig up that unpublished concert review for you. It's proof that, although D-FW was stocked with great music on that particular weekend, Deep Ellum continues to be the best music neighborhood in Dallas-Fort Worth right now.

Story written Oct. 1, 2017:

Deep Ellum, you sound good.

What a weekend.

In Irving, psychedelic Okie oddballs the Flaming Lips were performing at the new Toyota Music Factory, while in Oak Cliff, local country soul brothers on-the-rise the Texas Gentlemen were celebrating the release of its new record at the Kessler Theater. In Deep Ellum, quirky folk-rocker Father John Misty was at the Bomb Factory, Jersey indie-rockers Pinegrove had a sold-out show at Club Dada, Brooklyn three-piece Big Thief were playing Three Links. Across the street from there, Trees was set to host the album release show for local, adventurous rapper Blue, the Misfit.

Elsewhere in Dallas, bluesy jam band heroes Gov't Mule played the Majestic, while Flo Rida, the Starfest headliner himself, played the State Fair of Texas' main stage. And let's not forget that the most reliably excellent crew in Texas country, the Randy Rogers Band, was performing at Lewisville's annual Western Days festival.

There was too much greatness to consume in one night, and I had no intentions of seeing only one show.

But even the decision to jump around a bit didn't lighten my FOMO-induced anxiety. Catching two concerts in one night meant picking ones that were in close geographical proximity to one another -- which meant Oak Cliff, Irving, Lewisville and downtown Dallas were out of the equation. Some additional, less-scientific reasoning led to me choosing to first see Father John Misty with the plan of catching Big Thief in the act afterwards (read: two artists I hadn't yet seen live, in two of my favorite venues that indeed are near one another).

Maybe it was the crowd, or perhaps it was the excellent sound system inside the Bomb Factory, but within the first few clear notes of "Pure Comedy," the lead track from the album of the same name, I felt secure with my logistical decisions for the night. Though he's known to ramble in an unpredictable, sardonic manner in interviews, Father John Misty (real name Josh Tillman) offered but a few muttered syllables between tunes, keeping the focus on the songs for the 90 minutes I was there.

Tillman's velvety rich, Elton John-esque croon pairs remarkably well with a piano's lower note keys. Even with the typical concert babblers scattered throughout the room, the cavernous space felt quiet and still with each song's beautiful intro. With a swirling visual presentation accompanying him, Tillman wiggled his lanky frame and flailed his arms in a manner that would look clumsy on most fellas, but for him, it was fluid and sultry. Over the course of three records and countless festival headlining sets, he's proven himself to be the theoretical best possible outcome for an old-school Vegas lounge singer who wonders if there's more to life away from the strip.

Following the powerful one-two wallop of "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" and "I Love You, Honeybear" to close out Father John Misty's regular set at 10:30 p.m., I opted to skip the encore and trek up Crowdus Street to secure a standing spot at Three Links.

Big Thief

Released back in June, Big Thief's latest record Capacity is a flat-out stunner from beginning to end and generated a great deal of high-minded praise from NPR and Pitchfork. The Adrianne Lenker-led group's 2016 debut Masterpiece received similar love, so it was hardly shocking that the club was squished with fans.

Kicking off with the gorgeous title track from its first record, Big Thief offered one raw, delicate song after another for the eclectic crowd, which included plenty of grandparent-age attendees, in an unexpected Deep Ellum sight. "Mythological Beauty" was particularly arresting in its anger and grace. Lenker spoke softly between songs, reminiscing on the last time the group played the same club to "only 30 people." Her quiet demeanor betrayed her fiery guitar playing, especially when she'd close her eyes and go to town on an extended jam to close out a song.

Well after midnight, the band continued to play while the streets of Deep Ellum became lined with clubgoers. For me, it was a successful evening even if I missed out on seeing some great shows elsewhere. The Bomb Factory is the giant, sweeping venue with the intimacy of a neighbor's living room (if that neighbor could park tour buses out back), and Three Links is the tiny spot with the heart and soul the size of the city block it resides on.

How could there be any regrets? We're in a city where two very different, nationally-adored artists with two of the finest records of 2017 are performing in venues within a three minute walk from one another. The stars, schedules and sounds aligned.

Goes Well With...

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The Bomb Factory

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Three Links

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