The Southside Music Hall is part of the Gilly’s entertainment complex on Lamar Street just southeast of downtown Dallas. It’s a 15 minute walk (about a ½ mile) from the Omni Hotel, and 23 miles from DFW Airport. Despite what the Gilley’s website says, it is not “three blocks” from the Omni. The venue also includes The Loft which is a smaller venue. I’ll review The Loft at a later date.
The DART Cedars stop is located two blocks away and is served by the DART Rail Red and Blue lines, with connections to bus route 26. In addition, The DART free D-Link line also goes to the venue, but only on Friday and Saturday.
There is a driveway in front of the venue with “VIP” parking for $20-$30. Avoid the front of the venue unless you plan to park in VIP. There is a large dirt parking lot just south of the venue which normally charges $10. This lot will fill for larger shows. The best way to approach the lot is from the east on Austin Street off of Belleview Street. After the show, head east on Austin, north on Belleview over the DART tracks, and then West on Akard back to downtown or I-30. In addition, there is a surface lot across Lamar from the venue, which can charge anywhere from $5 to $15 depending on the event.
Food and drink nearby
In the area surrounding The Southside Ballroom there is a small but interesting selection of places to eat and drink:
- The SODA Bar in the NYLO hotel has the best view of the skyline of any bar in Dallas. It’s worth a trip just to see it.
- Absinthe is one of the few bars in Dallas where you walk downstairs to enter. It’s a nice small bar with in-town feel.
- Cedars Social is a higher end craft cocktail and small plate/large plate restaurant.
- Opening Bell Coffee Shop is a coffee shop with music, wine and beer. It’s open until midnight on weekends.
- Full Circle Tavern is next door to the venue in the same complex as Bill’s Records and Poor David’s Pub (which is really a music venue)
- Off The Bone BBQ is a sit down BBQ joint with beer and wine and is also until midnight.
- The Gilly’s complex includes the Jack Daniel’s Saloon, which has a full bar and a menu of barely edible food.
Seeing the show
The Southside Music Hall hold up to 1500 standing and tends to host shows that are too big for the Granada Theater http://cravedfw.com/tag/granada-theater/ and too small for Gexa Energy Amphitheater in Fair Park or Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie. Because of the lack of competing venues The Southside Music Hall books very interesting shows. But there are serious problems with this venue that hinder enjoying a show.
- The sound is terrible. Embarrassingly terrible. The venue a high ceiling directly over the stage/audience and low ceilings over the tiered bar areas surrounding floor. I have been told the shape of the room makes a challenging environment for the sound engineer. But if you get close enough to see the band, you will not be able to hear the vocals.
- The sight lines are terrible. The stage is at least 1-2 feet too low, making all but the tallest patrons unable to see the band. This causes concert goers to line rails of the raised tiered bar areas surrounding floor.
- The drinks are expensive. The liquor and beer selection is limited. The bar set up is difficult for the staff, which can make service slow and impersonal. It feels “corporate” in the way going to the AAC or The Cowboys Stadium feels.
How best to enjoy the show
- If you are just interested in seeing the band up close go early and get close to the stage, but the sound will almost be unrecognizable.
- If you are interested in getting the best (of the bad) sound, try standing on the floor all the way to the back in the middle on either side of the mixer board. Or try standing backed up to the gate that separates the mixer board from the floor. As an alternative – try the rails on the upper tier on either side of the VIP area. You can also try to stand right next to the stage on the left side where the walkway to the bathroom is located. In this spot you actually hear the band’s monitors more than the PA. And of course, you can easily see the band from the side stage.
- If the bathrooms are crowded, there are two small rest rooms hidden all the way to the back right of the upper rear tier in a small hallway.
- The outdoor smoking patio has a really nice vibe other than the smoke. It’s a good place to go hang out between bands.
- You can take your expensive drink into the Jack Daniel’s saloon to watch sports if you get bored.
- The merchandise table is located right past the ID check. It is small and very slow. I suggest buying merchandise before the show if possible. After the show, I have heard of 30-45 minute lines at the merch table.
It is disappointing The Southside Music Hall’s concert experience doesn’t match the quality of the bands they book. The issues with the sound and sight lines are well known and have never been addressed in the years the venue has been opened. This tells me that the concert viewing experience is not the main concern of the venue owners.
Yet, I continue to go to The Southside Music Hall because the bands they book are compelling enough for me to deal with the frustratingly bad venue experience. I’ll continue to go to see and support the bands I really like. But if I’m on the fence about spending the $30-$50 for a ticket, I will probably not go. I’m hoping the newly remodeled Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum will offer a better experience for both the bands and the audience when it opens next year.