Granada Theater has been a key player in Dallas’ entertainment industry since 1946. After its original life as a movie theater, the current owners Mike Schoder and Julia Garton reopened the space as a live music venue in 2004. The venue has won The Dallas Observer’s award for “Best Live Music Venue” six times since reopening.
We had a chance to speak to marketing and artist relations manager Mark Kennedy about what makes Granada such a crucial part of Dallas’ nightlife scene.
The Granada Theater has been around for a while and transitioned between purposes—from concert hall to movie theater and back again. Would you say the identity changes have influenced the direction of the venue?
The venue itself is so unique and historic; that definitely plays into the overall aesthetic of who we are and who we bring in. The beauty is we are not a fixed-seating venue, so we can go from a fully-seated venue for shows like David Crosby, Timothy B. Schmit of The Eagles, Graham Nash, and Five for Fighting, where intimacy is key for the show, to fully standing for iconic shows like Willie Nelson, Killer Mike (of Run the Jewels), Kacey Musgraves, and Sylvan Esso, just to name a few.
Is there a favorite genre or style when booking artists for the theater? Anyone you’re excited about to close out the end of the summer and into fall/winter?
Our booking team does a great job of keeping things well balanced and making sure we keep a diverse roster of shows on the books.
Personally, I dive more into the indie rock/songwriter categories with a love for the ’90s, so I’m excited for up-and-coming indie rock act Coin, songwriting duo Penny & Sparrow, and I’m really excited to see Milligan Vaughan Project—which features the son of Texas blues guitar legend Jimmie Vaughan/nephew of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
How has the Greenville location made a difference in the venue’s success?
Lower Greenville, as we affectionately call it here in Dallas, is such a wonderful area. It’s very neighborhood and family driven, which I think plays a large part into our success. We see people come to shows all the time or eat at our farm-to-table restaurant that also doubles as a 200-cap venue, Sundown at Granada, numerous times in a month, so it really feels like we’re all family and we play such a unique part in peoples lives.
It’s a place to let go and forget the bad days, to celebrate the good days, and to drift away and not worry about politics or work or school for a few hours. Just take in some great music, some amazing food, and a brew or two, if that’s your thing!
What differentiates Granada Theater from other Dallas venues?
I think the “indie” approach to most everything is very unique and something that you don’t see much more. There are some other great venues in town, but they’re being run by LiveNation and some of the big players, whereas everything we do is in house.
Our booking team books everything by hand via research and outreach, my marketing team does everything in house from analytics to programmatic to retargeting, and our venue staff, beloved in Dallas and known as “Serenity,” is truly one of a kind.
I truly believe the Art Deco, the original paintings on the walls of the venue, which were painted by someone who worked on Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in L.A., and feel of the historic building, helps.
What do you like most about the Dallas music scene?
The Dallas scene has really hit a pretty awesome stride. We’re a close-knit group, from artists, to marketing people, to venue staff, and we’re all here to make Dallas a hotbed of music.
A lot of people think Austin for music, and rightfully so, Austin is awesome, but people would be surprised by how much good music Dallas has, and how many awesome rising artists we have.
What’s the craziest experience you’ve had doing marketing and artists relations at Granada?
Man, this is a good one. I’ve seen some crazy stuff through my time with Sony Red and other music related careers and entities, but really nothing in this industry surprises me anymore.
I saw Willie Nelson sell out back-to-back nights in January of this year within 20 minutes, which was pretty surreal to see. Not only that, getting to say I got to work with Willie and see him, front row, in a 1,150-cap venue is a story I’ll tell my kids someday.
Oh, and getting to shoot some hoops with Yannis and the Foals boys behind the theater before their sold-out show was also pretty awesome.
Any must-visits in the neighborhood for the next night out?
I spent five years in Chicago living, working, and going to grad school, so neighborhoods became ingrained in who I am, and I truly love the pockets of people and diversity, which I brought back to Texas and Dallas with me. I love the resurgence Deep Ellum has seen, but I’m really excited for the growth of the Bishop Arts District over the last few years, as well as the Dallas Design District.
I’ll always throw it out there, but some of the best BBQ in Dallas is in Design District at Slow Bone, so don’t sleep on it. Plus, they serve the food on the old-school lunch trays, which just tugs at my ’90s loving heart even more.
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