One of Fort Worth’s prime live-music venues, The Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge in the burgeoning near Southside, is shutting down at the end of April after nearly five years.
Citing spiraling rent hikes, entertainment director Brooks Kendall Jr. said it’s becoming increasingly difficult to operate. “The location for the Live Oak was amazing, which is part of the reason rent was going up so much,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “When The Live Oak opened, the neighborhood wasn’t a thing yet.”
The last performance on the Live Oak stage will be Brandy Clark and Charlie Worsham on April 29. The staff was informed a little more than a week ago.
Since 2012, The Live Oak has hosted an eclectic mix of performers from venue opener John Oates (of Hall & Oates fame) to local stars like Luke Wade and Leon Bridges. The refined space also became an alternative location for the Fort Worth Opera’s Opera Shots program and some smaller performances from The Cliburn.
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The loss of any local venue is tragic for musicians and fans but the closure of the 300-capacity Live Oak cuts especially deep in Fort Worth, a city often eclipsed by its larger neighbor to the east when it comes to booking bands.
“It will be a loss for sure as Fort Worth is trying to get recognized by agents and managers as a valid market -- to go to it instead of Dallas,” Kendall said. “Having more venues helps the cause.
“To me, the biggest problem is that once you get above a certain threshhold, you are in the shadow of Dallas,” he continued. “Acts want to play the major market, which is Dallas. I’ve had agents refer to Fort Worth as a suburb, not to be mean but they just don’t understand.”
He also noted it’s tough bringing acts to Fort Worth because there are few mid-sized venues. “All of our club venues are 500 [capacity] or smaller. We have a big leap from a 500-cap venue -- Lola’s, Shipping & Receiving, Live Oak -- to your next step is Billy Bob’s, which is like 5,000 or 6,000.”
So, Dallas continues to get a lot of the good shows.
The other reasons to mourn The Live Oak going away are its rooftop patio and its reputation for good sound. “The Live Oak is not just any venue. It serves a unique kind of concertgoer who wants a special kind of venue,” Kendall explained. “It was the only place like it on this side of the Metroplex. It was like The Kessler [in Dallas] as far as a nice listening room goes.”
Long before the announcement of its closing, The Live Oak had been the source of drama. Shifting menus, staff turnovers, a bankruptcy -- all of which are detailed in a Fort Worth Weekly story -- led to rumors of instability. But Kendall says, lately, things had been going well.
“The model is working,” he said. “It probably is one of the highest grossing bars in Fort Worth.”
Fort Worth music fans shouldn’t totally give in to despair though.
Kendall, through Arlington’s Afallon Productions, is working on a couple of ideas. “Our company plans to have a venue in Fort Worth sometime soon and, hopefully, a new Live Oak in Arlington in the fall.”