Travel around the country and you'll notice Dallas is spoiled by one thing few other cities have: free live music.
On any night of the week, you can catch local bands and nationally acclaimed acts performing in bars and restaurants where the cover charge rarely exceeds $Free-99. Sure, the music scene here isn't as revered as Austin or New Orleans, where live music is inescapable, but we believe it should be.
Stumble into these 10 places and you'll see why.
If you own even one cowboy hat or a pair of boots, you're due for a trip to Adair's Saloon. The storied Deep Ellum honky-tonk brings in acts every night of the week to keep the dance floor nice and scuffed. It's a must-hit for anyone looking to add a little twang to their step, and dare we say, it's one of the best country music venues in the region. When you go, don't forget to leave a mark: Adair's is known for letting its patrons leave a John Hancock on the wall — if you can find a free space.
Consider AllGood Cafe in Deep Ellum the local musicians' hang out. Any day you stop by, you're likely to run into a who's who of Dallas' music scene, whether they are serving you the restaurant's famous grilled cheese sandwich or dining with their band mates. And it's not only local celebrities — singer-songwriter Steve Earle stops by every time he's in town and Ozzy Osbourne even dined at AllGood in 2017. Owner Mike Snider has a long history of booking bands to play Dallas venues, so you can expect performers there to be worthwhile. Most shows are free (tips encouraged), other nights may warrant a cover, so bring cash just in case. AllGood hosts live music Thursday through Sunday.
Deep Ellum Brewing Co.
Come for the beer, stay for the tunes. Deep Ellum Brewing Co. opened in Dallas in 2011 and has spent the years since quenching locals' thirst for creative and dependable brews. The outdoor patio is a splendid place to spend a Saturday afternoon day-drinking (pro tip: you can bring your dog if you keep it leashed), especially when there's a band on the calendar. The brewery hosts an eclectic mix of artists, such as soul musician Kirk Thurmond and roots rock artist Cody Jasper, who will perform there on Feb. 2 and 9, respectively. Pair that with one of the 16 beers on tap and a bite from the kitchen and you're guaranteed a good time.
The Free Man
Every day is Mardi Gras at this New Orleans-inspired joint. The Free Man, which opened in 2011, hosts bands seven nights a week, meaning you can hear funk, blues, jazz and big band sounds spilling onto the Deep Ellum street whenever the door opens. Duck in and pair those tunes with a Cajun dish, such as crawfish pasta or red beans and rice with sausage. In February, owner John Jay Myers is opening up a second restaurant and venue next door that's twice the size of the original, adding more music to an already stacked lineup.
What can you expect from a bar with seating areas crafted from shipping containers and a stage built of wood pallets? Simply the essentials: Local beer, cheap cocktails and a solid free music lineup. The Foundry, which usually hosts concerts on weekends, brings North Texas acts and regionally touring groups to its outdoor stage. Visitors can also order eats from the neighboring Chicken Scratch restaurant, which specializes in frying birds every which way. (Trust us, you want house-made biscuits with that.) Upcoming acts include local folk-rock act The Roomsounds (Feb. 2) and rockabilly band Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones (Feb. 16).
If your favorite indie band is coming to Dallas, there's a good chance it's playing a free pre-party at this Dallas record shop. Acts including singer-songwriter Conor Oberst, indie-pop group OK Go, guitar maestro St. Vincent and even legendary rocker Alice Cooper have played "live from the Astroturf" stage shows, so named because the stage is literally covered in fake grass. Good Records is known for hosting album-release shows for local bands, some of which have a small cover charge. But staff there is also normally serving free beer, so worth it, right? Be sure to mark April 21 on your calendar for Record Store Day, the shop's biggest (free!) party of the year.
One of the best dive bars in Dallas is also a dependable place to catch a performance by a local band. When the weather is nice, Lee Harvey's welcomes acts to play in an outdoor area, transforming the large gravel patio into a makeshift dance floor. You never know what you may get here: Funk, reggae and rock acts, as well as cover bands spanning yacht rock to Tom Petty to Elvis have all taken a turn here. Most shows take place Friday and Saturday nights.
This venue in Uptown Dallas is co-owned by country musician Pat Green, so you know it takes live music seriously. While not all the shows here are free, the Rustic has proved a true player in Big D's concert scene for both the quality and quantity of bands it brings through. In 2017, singer Nicole Atkins, country-punk group Lucero and folk-pop trio Castro performed free shows. (Other ticketed acts included St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Shakey Graves.) The Rustic is hugely popular because of its location and ambiance, so if you're headed to a show, get there early to grab a seat.
Sundown at Granada
Live music is one of the pillars of Sundown at Granada, a sister business to the iconic Granada Theater on Lower Greenville. The restaurant hosts local or regional bands nearly every night of the week, usually late-night after dinner service. (Some shows have a cover, but the majority are free.) Sundown at Granada is one of the few venues in town that caters to jam bands and reggae musicians, though no genre is off-limits. And because it's located next door to Granada Theater, it often hosts after-parties, so you can keep on dancing until 2 a.m.
Any New Orleans-inspired joint is required to have a healthy live music lineup, and Twilite Lounge in Deep Ellum is no exception. This cozy bar plays host to a variety of local bands spanning the jazz, funk, rock and acoustic genres, and sometimes DJs, who perform inside or on the patio depending on the time of year. Patrons can even take centerstage on Thursday nights, when Twilite Lounge's popular Good Luck Karaoke takes place. So grab a famous frozen Irish coffee and settle in a booth — at least until the music moves you.