Summer may be wrapping up, but Dallas’ lineup of fall concerts is just getting started
For fans of the Dallas music scene, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more dialed-in than the writers at Central Track. Editor and founder Pete Freedman checked in to share his roundup of the can’t-miss live shows closing out August with a bang…
Listen: The State Fair of Texas is problematic for a number of reasons, none of which we have the space nor the inclination to detail here. But the fair deserves credit for including a better representation of the Dallas music scene among its concert offerings throughout its 24-day run this year, which kicks off Friday, September 27. This Granada Theater-hosted show—a fair-themed and -sponsored deal dubbed “The Wild Ride”—is intended as a tease of what’s to come by featuring three of the quite-worthy bands that the fair has tapped to play shows as part of its new and free (well, after the cost of admission to get into the grounds, anyway) Lone Star Music Series.
While this early preview will indeed be charging a cover, it’s an easy-to-swallow spend. The night will serve as a dual-album release show for two stellar area acts signed to the local (and fair-inspired, but not -related) State Fair Records label. You’ll catch Ottoman Turks (winner of the Best Country Act title in the 2019 Central Track Music Honors) and the 40 Acre Mule (a nominee in the Best R&B Act category at the very same music awards), plus an opening set from the talented, genre-bending area players in the Squeezebox Bandits.
A portion of all ticket sales from this night will go toward the State Fair of Texas’ scholarship fund. Does that mean your ticket is a write-off? I’m not qualified enough to answer that query; but I am informed enough to suggest that this show should be a highly enjoyable time. Tickets: $8 to $16.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 24
It Ain’t Fair Festival at Green Elephant
As a general rule, I tend to side against recommending hip-hop bills with more than six performers in their schedules. The harsh truth: Too often, albeit in the admirable name of scene unity and support, these high-count events are bogged down by also-rans who refuse to admit that they pleaded their way into their opening roles and, in turn, end up overshooting their slotted stage times by absurd amounts. Unfortunately, that often results in the acts you came to see ending up with their own sets pushed back and shortened—because, hey, closing time is always firm. It’s a crappy reality that no one likes to acknowledge or admit. So why on earth, then, am I recommending this whopping 42-act lineup? Well, because I think it’s going to be the exception and not the rule.
Hosted by one of the few Dallas venues that embraces its role as a home for the healthy and vibrant Dallas rap community, and thrown by the #IAmDallasHipHop brand that has established itself in recent years as a dependable crew of show-runners and promoters with solid taste, this two-stage, 12-hour showcase looks to be as impressive a sampling of Dallas’ hip-hop fruits as any other offering this month.
From top to bottom, this deal boasts talent worthy of your look. Among the acts we’d most confidently recommend catching above all others? The chip-on-her-shoulder boom-bap emcee Alsace Carcione, the agile-tongued rhyme-spitter DQ Hampton, the versatile street prophet Que P, the vibe-intensive aesthetician Van Gammon and the booming-voiced throwback rap impresario Mega Czar. But expect copious other diamonds to find ways of shining here, too. Tickets: $20.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, THROUGH SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1
TBAAL’s Riverfront Jazz Festival at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center
As has been the case since its 2017 inception, The Black Academy of Arts & Letters’ third annual Riverfront Jazz Festival will once again be anchored by a show from Dallas hero Erykah Badu, whose celebrated sound may be anchored in R&B but can still certainly be described jazz-influenced and -adjacent. But while Badu—a local and international figure who contributes her name and abilities to area causes with shocking regularity—is returning to the lineup and serving as an honorary chair at this three-day offering as she has from its launch. She’s hardly the sole draw at this event, which seems truly to be coming into its own in year three.
The star power here is very real, starting with the fact that the Academy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. is also lending his name to the effort and serving as Badu’s honorary co-chair. With those two on board and a couple years of smooth operations now under its belt, the Riverfront Jazz Festival’s 2019 lineup is looking like its strongest to date, promising concerts by noted players from across music’s more higher-minded end of the genre spectrum—among them the second-generation mambo ambassador Tito Puente Jr., Tony Award-winning Broadway performer Jennifer Holliday,and a deep roster of acclaimed R&B performers such as Raheem DeVaughn, Bilal, and Leela James. That’s on top of literally dozens of other performers from Dallas and points beyond. Outsiders are quick to think of Dallas as a country-loving town, but anyone who hits this event will quickly discover that our city’s true sound is a blend of the many genres—and considerable talents—that will be on display here. Tickets: $55 to $1,500.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 31
¡Eso Es! at Canton Hall
This evening promises to be a busy one on Deep Ellum’s Canton Street as a pair of neighboring venues will host competing festivals, both of which are hyper-targeted at Dallas’ music-loving millennial set. But, with apologies to the promising Young Thug-headlined and unapologetically rap-focused Family Business event that’s going down next door, I’m far more intrigued by this ¡Eso Es! affair taking place at Canton Hall on this night. The second stop on a four-city touring festival package from independent Texas booking agency Margin Walker Presents, this decidedly Latinx-flavored-but-sonically-varied presentation will hit Houston the night before arriving Dallas, then continue on for additional showings in Austin and San Antonio.
The stacked lineup is worthy of such a production, too: The Dallas-sprung chillwave progenitors of Neon Indian will headline the proceedings. Los Angeles-based alt-R&B songstress Empress Of, the Miami-sprung Spanish-language trap emcee Lil Goony Chonga, the Austin-based Selena tribute act Bidi Bidi Banda, and Dallas’ own upstart indie pop favorites Luna Luna support. With Texas’ Latinx community on the verge of surpassing its white population (and almost certain to take the lead by 2022) it’s actually kind of shocking that we don’t see more events boasting the kind of cultural, and distinctly Texan, mélange that this event promises. Here’s hoping this deal is just the start of an encouraging new trend. Tickets: $25.50
SATURDAY, AUGUST 31, THROUGH SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1
Texas International Pop Festival’s 50th Anniversary at Lake Park (Lewisville)
Here’s a fun, too-often-forgotten bit of Dallas-area music history: Fifty years ago, just two weeks after the iconic Woodstock Festival, the then-mostly rural Dallas suburb of Lewisville hosted a massive and mind-blowing music festival all its own—one that similarly drew dope-loving hippies by the hundreds of thousands to its grounds, and also featured a Who’s Who of late ’60s rock icons on its bill.
It was called the Texas International Pop Festival, and featured such Woodstock performers as Janis Joplin, Carlos Santana, Sly & The Family Stone, Canned Heat, Johnny Winter, Sweetwater, and The Incredible String Band across its three-day Labor Day weekend run. The event also hosted sets from such legendary acts as B.B. King, Chicago, Grand Funk Railroad, and an upstart rock outfit out of London that was billed on promotional materials as “The Led Zeppelin.”
All these years later, the Texas International Pop Festival is still putting feathers in its cap that Woodstock can’t. Whereas attempts to throw a 50th anniversary celebration of Woodstock fizzled out earlier this year after promoters failed to come up with the capital needed to pay the bands it had hoped to book, the City of Lewisville is going ahead with a two-day, half-century commemoration of its own storied gig.
Original event performers Chicago, Grand Funk Railroad and Shiva’s Headband will all be on hand to reprise their original sets from five decades back. They’ll be joined here by the iconic Texas rockers ZZ Top, plus a roster of others that includes acclaimed Dallas indie pop songstress Sarah Jaffe and the shoulda-been-around-in-the-’60s-anyway area blues rockers, Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights. See, every now and then, it’s a blessing when history repeats itself. Tickets: $30 to $50. —Pete Freedman