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6 Storied Texas Music Venues for Special Events

Main Hall Rendering, Stable Hall, San Antonio

This March, Frisco became the 42nd Texas city designated as a “Music Friendly Texas Certified Community” under the Texas Music Office’s pioneering music business-related economic development program. Two months later, the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards show came to town.  

Co-hosted by country legends Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks and streamed worldwide, the two-hour spectacle was held at the Ford Center, the 12,000-seat multipurpose indoor stadium at The Star, the Dallas Cowboys’ world headquarters.  

Keith Urban opened the show with “Texas Time” while newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Parton closed the night with “World on Fire” from her upcoming debut rock album Rockstar. 

Generating more than $26 billion in economic activity statewide, the Texas music industry, described by Gov. Greg Abbott as a “key to the Texas brand and to our local economies,” has the ultimate underground scene.  

This August, Austin-based star Monte Montgomery performed for some 200 people in the Cavern Ballroom, a new subterranean venue within the largest known commercial cave in Texas, Natural Bridge Caverns.  Located close to JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, this group-capable natural wonder just reopened following a multi-million-dollar renovation. Plans for The Ballroom—180 feet below the surface and offering exceptional sound quality—include a regular concert series and event hosting.  

Back on terra firma, the Dallas-Fort Worth market was ranked eighth in the nation by Pollstar for 2022 concert ticket sales, fueled by venues including American Airlines Arena in Dallas, the world’s sixth highest grossing arena last year. 

Smaller Texas venues more than hold their own, including these six group-capable halls with stories and impact far above their size. 

The Longhorn Ballroom, Dallas

Longhorn Ballroom interior
Longhorn Ballroom interior. Credit: Andrew Sherman

Built for Bob “King of Western Swing” Wills and his Texas Playboys by a millionaire friend, Bob Wills' Ranch House opened in 1950 in South Dallas with a massive stage and dance floor—and a 45-foot bar inlaid with silver dollars.  

Briefly owned by Lee Harvey Oswald assassin Jack Ruby, the barn-shaped venue, which sits on six acres in the emerging Cedars/Southside entertainment district one mile from the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, was renamed The Longhorn Ballroom in 1967.  

Stars from Ray Charles to the Red Hot Chili Peppers have played here. In 1978, The Sex Pistols stormed the stage on their ill-fated debut U.S. tour, famously sharing the marquee with the following night’s act, country legend Merle Haggard. One week later, the British punk icons called it quits. 

Closed since 2019, the Longhorn reopened this March under new owner Edwin Cabaniss, whose other revival successes include the Kessler Theater in Dallas and Heights Theater in Houston. Ushering in the venue’s latest era was Western swing legend Ray Benson and his band Asleep at the Wheel, which first played the venue in 1974. 

Versatile rentals include the 2,000-capacity Ballroom, with space for up to 5,000 people when combined with the outdoor Courtyard and Backyard. Museum-style displays of original art and memorabilia, such as original costumes and guitars of stars such as Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette, add to the allure. Forthcoming developments include a restaurant and amphitheater-style outdoor concert venue.    

Stable Hall, San Antonio

Stable Hall exterior in San Antonio
Stable Hall exterior. Credit: Stable Hall

San Antonio’s Pearl Brewery (1883-2001) was once the largest brewery in Texas. Today, the reimagined Pearl District is a dynamic mixed-use neighborhood incorporating award-winning restaurants, shops, residences, a farmers’ market and public programming.  

Reborn historic Pearl buildings include the former brewhouse, now captivating group-capable Hotel Emma, the only AAA Four Diamond property in Texas. The 1904 administration building houses acclaimed chef Steve McHugh’s charcuterie-driven Cured restaurant. The historic Mueller House lives on as 2023 James Beard “Emerging Chef” nominee Jennifer Dobbertin’s Asian-American fusion restaurant Best Quality Daughter. 

Built in 1894 for the brewery’s draft horses, the graceful Pearl Stable is being transformed into a live music venue. Featuring a 1,000-seat “jewel box” stage that “conjures the multilayered feel of an intimate early-1900s theater with the bones and soul of a classic Texas dance hall,” Stable Hall is slated to debut in fall 2023 as an event-capable showcase for local, regional and national music.  

Stable Hall will be available for select private event rentals, including full buyouts, plus group and corporate ticket buys for shows. Additionally, when an event prospect includes a compelling music component on an available date, the Stable Hall event team will engage to produce a memorable program. 

[Related: These Fast-Growing Texas Markets Have It All for Meetings]

Broken Spoke, Austin

Broken Spoke exterior in Austin, Texas
Broken Spoke exterior. Credit: Visit Austin

Austin lives up to its billing as the “Live Music Capital of the World” with some 250 live music venues. The tunes start upon arrival at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, where musicians perform at passenger gates including Gate 19’s Asleep at the Wheel stage. 

Hot tickets in town include ACL Live at The Moody Theater, taping home of long-running TV show Austin City Limits; the rocking new $375 million, 15,000-plus seat Moody Center; Stubb’s Bar-B-Q; and 1957 legend The Continental Club. 

In 1972, Willie Nelson, now 90, relocated from Nashville to Austin and revolutionized the city’s music scene. Earlier, in 1967, he played at The Broken Spoke for the first time, one of Austin’s and Texas’ most storied dance halls. Opened in 1964, this barn-style honkytonk has hosted countless other country stars.  

Dedicating the venue as a Texas State Historical Marker in April 2023, Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott stated that, "Places like the Broken Spoke are crucial touchpoints with our Texas culture, connecting us with our heritage and with each other.”  

Those links include hosting and catering corporate gatherings for clients including Google and Visit Austin, and special events such as a movie wrap party for Quentin Tarantino. Groups can also book private Texas Two-Step dance lessons. 

White Oak Music Hall, Houston

Exterior White Oak Music Hall in Houston
White Oak Music Hall exterior. Credit: White Oak Music Hall

Greater Houston’s sprawl extends to its vast live music landscape, with group options in every direction. 713 Music Hall is a new 5,000-capacity venue at the POST Houston mixed-use complex. Texas stars including Lyle Lovett and Lucinda Williams launched their careers at 1970 folk and acoustic music shrine Anderson Fair. The Hobby Center and Wortham Center are multi-venue performing arts showcases for diverse live programming. The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, ranked second in the world for 2022 ticket sales, and Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston are Texas institutions.  

After opening in 2016 near downtown, White Oak Music Hall fast became a go-to destination for live music. Versatile rentals on the five-acre complex include the 1,000-capacity bi-level Music Hall and 200-person Stage at White Oak Music Hall. Outdoor stages with skyline views include the 800-capacity Lawn and 100-capacity Roof Deck. The event-capable Raven Tower is a six-story architectural quirk from the 1970s with an outdoor patio and bar. Buyouts for 3,000-plus people are available. 

Toyota Music Factory, Irving

Toyota Music Factory concert
Toyota Music Factory concert. Credit: Visit Irving Texas

From 1971 to 2010, Texas Stadium, the iconic former home of the Dallas Cowboys, was the extent of the fun in Irving. Incorporating pioneering planned community Las Colinas, the city, advantageously located between Dallas and Fort Worth and close to DFW International and Dallas Love Field airports, was deep in corporate headquarters and hotel rooms but more about business than play.   

“For decades, we had to rely on offerings in our neighboring communities for group offsite events, often providing rebates to cover the cost of transportation,” said Irving CVB Executive Director Maura Gast.  

That was then. Irving today marches to a pulsing new beat as a live music and entertainment destination following the 2017 opening of the Toyota Music Factory. Within walking distance of the Irving Convention Center and Westin Irving Convention Center, the venue stages headliner shows at the open-air Pavilion with three flexible indoor-outdoor seating sets for up to 8,000 people.  

The 17-acre complex also includes 20-plus restaurants and bars, an outdoor performance plaza and Alamo Drafthouse movie house. 

Distinct new dining and outdoor event spaces include Water Street; reimagined Williams Square Plaza, home of the famed Mustangs of Las Colinas sculpture; and the Levy Event Plaza on Lake Carolyn in the heart of Las Colinas. 

[Related: Texas CVB Leaders Share Meetings and Events Outlook for 2023 and Beyond]

Love & War in Texas, Plano

Musicians play on stage at Love & War in Texas
Musicians play on stage at Love & War in Texas. Credit: Love & War in Texas

Fast-evolving Plano may look corporate-centric, but to the surprise of even locals, the city has a distinct musical heartbeat with 30-plus live performance venues. Popular stages include the versatile Box Garden outdoor entertainment venue at the multi-faceted Legacy Food Hall complex; 321-seat, proscenium-style Courtyard Theater in the Downtown Plano Arts District; and picturesque 1,500-seat Red Tail Amphitheater at Oak Point Park.  

Seemingly airlifted from Hill Country, Love & War in Texas, which opened in 1999 as a tribute to Lone Star life and culture, is authentic Texas defined. 

Founder Tye Phelps is a seventh-generation Texan from Laredo whose father worked for Texas Tourism. Their roaming statewide travels inspired and informed every aspect of this local institution, which combines a restaurant, music venue and shaded outdoor patio.  

The menu takes guests on a sizzling culinary tour of Texas, from brisket street tacos and Caddo Lake catfish to wild boar quesadillas and Texas chicken fried steak. Exceptional, too, is the live music and the venue’s support for musicians. In the way of Grammy-winning country superstar Miranda Lambert, who got her start here as a 15-year-old, aspiring singer-songwriters share the historic stage with national acts.  

Read the 2023 edition of Meetings Today Texas

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About the author
Jeff Heilman | Senior Contributor

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based independent journalist Jeff Heilman has been a Meetings Today contributor since 2004, including writing our annual Texas and Las Vegas supplements since inception. Jeff is also an accomplished ghostwriter specializing in legal, business and Diversity & Inclusion content.