The Box Garden at Legacy Hall. courtesy Box Garden
The high-density centers of Dallas and Fort Worth have always offered the lion’s share of concerts, plays, operas, and food and art events with a plethora of venues, museums, and restaurants. Denton’s DIY venues and music school courtesy the University of North Texas nurtured emerging talent; new restaurants and development followed. In the last year, suburbs have been making a major push to outbid the cities at the North Texas triangle’s three points for top-notch food and music.
Take, for one, the Toyota Music Factory, which opened in Irving late last year. With its accompanying restaurants, the complex is now competing with Dallas’ front-running venues for popular touring acts like Post Malone, Ray LaMontagne, The Killers, and Joan Jett.
CityLine is stepping up Richardson’s game with dozens of forthcoming eateries, not to mention high-end apartments, office buildings, and a hotel. Then there’s The Star in Frisco, which just welcomed Chef José Andrés’ only location of Zaytinya outside of D.C., along with local stalwarts Dee Lincoln Prime and Cane Rosso.
Consider Plano. The Shops at Legacy have been holding down the North Texas ‘burbs nightlife game for the last fifteen years. Plus, 2017 harkened the arrival of a development just across the tollway at Legacy West: a buzzy three-story food hall with more than 20 food vendors, nine bars, and its own brewery and canning operation called Legacy Hall debuted in December.
Its most recent addition, an outdoor music venue called The Box Garden, quietly assembled some well-known Dallas names to run its programming. The result just might give North Texas’ historic live local music monopolies a run for their money. For now, the growth is moving some players around on the board.
Heads turned when the creative director for Deep Ellum’s Bomb Factory and Trees, Gavin Mulloy, announced last month that he’d left his post at two of Dallas’ most important venues to assume the marketing director role at Legacy Hall. Soon afterward, Mulloy’s longtime collaborator Trang Nguyen left The Bomb Factory; she landed in Uptown at The Rustic.
One of Mulloy’s key job functions was to book bands at venues, and he became synonymous with Deep Ellum music, often acting as the public face for the big rooms via his involvement with the music community at large. At Legacy Hall, he’ll collaborate on music and events programming for The Box Garden, which he’s done independently and for venues like the Granada Theater before signing on with the Bomb Factory and Trees.
Mulloy joins another booking maven, Tim Ziegler, the former general manager of the Granada Theater, in spearheading the programming efforts at Legacy Hall.
Is this just the first wave of major Dallas culture-creators migrating to the suburbs? Will more follow? Mulloy, for one, still lives in Deep Ellum. It’s too early to say whether he’ll ditch his southern denizens in favor of a suburban pad and shorter commute. As for Ziegler, a musician with a sleeve of tattoos who’s been with Legacy Hall since last April, the M Streets are still home. He’s “East Dallas to the core,” he says.
In Mulloy’s case, the job change was prompted by the growth opportunity with Legacy Hall, which is already breaking ground on similar food halls in Nashville and Atlanta. And, of course, Legacy Hall offered him more money.
Despite people’s assumptions about the ‘burbs, Mulloy assures that they aren’t “uncool” as pop culture or the historic lack of culture, specifically in North Texas’ suburbs, would have us believe.
“I think we all listen to the same music and like the same TV shows,” he says. “Think about this: Scott Beggs [who owns Three Links] has a chess night that’s killing it in Deep Ellum. Every time you go in there now, there’s people playing chess at a punk rock bar. You wouldn’t necessarily associate chess with being ‘cool’ but it’s keeping his bar open and busy.”
“I think this perception of what’s cool in the suburbs versus what’s cool in East Dallas or downtown is a bit of a misnomer because I don’t think areas of towns can be cool, or rooms can be cool,” Mulloy explains. “Rooms are just boxes. It’s what the people in that box do, and the ideas they can generate.”
To that end, Mulloy and Ziegler are luring some of Dallas’ biggest talent up to Plano to grace The Box Garden stage, including Sarah Jaffe on May 18 for its grand opening weekend. Her’s is one of the few ticketed events at the mostly free venue, which has already sold out; plus Vandoliers and Kirk Thurmond and the Millennials on May 19; the Polyphonic Spree on June 2; and Bright Light Social Hour comes up from Austin on June 3.
“Just do cool shit and people will come to see it,” Mulloy asserts, expressing no surprise that Sarah Jaffe, one of his and Ziegler’s favorite local musicians, already sold out. “Yeah, we’re certainly not trying to force it, because people can see through that,” Ziegler adds. “She’s the perfect [person] to represent what we’re trying to do here: local, strong, empowered, cutting-edge, and constantly evolving.”
The duo has plans to keep the space filled with not just music but other fun events throughout the year, including Mario Kart competitions that will be projected on the giant LED screen suspended behind the 600-square-foot stage, Wiffle ball tournaments in the massive outdoor space (picnic style seating can be removed for flexibility), plus a roller rink during nice weather, and an ice rink during winter months to keep people coming out when the weather isn’t so nice.
The guys aren’t hemmed in creatively — they’re not beholden to ticket sales at the fledgling venue. “There’s really no boundaries yet,” Mulloy states gleefully, to which Ziegler adds, “There’s certainly a lot of ridiculous ideas thrown around in meetings, but out of those ridiculous ideas, we get some traction.”
“It’s all built around discovery,” Ziegler explains. Legacy Hall bills itself an incubator for food vendors to get a local foothold before expanding their operations elsewhere, and The Box Garden operates with a similar vision as an incubator for talent that’s already recognized locally to grow to the next level. Mulloy and Ziegler plan to book regional and national touring acts as well.
“What it boils down to is, we’re just throwing parties. It’s not a symphony, we’re just helping people have fun at the end of the day,” Mulloy says. “If you’re around fun people, having fun is easier, and that’s what I see from everybody here. I threw the best parties of anyone in college; Tim throws the best parties of anyone in his group… We’re assembling an all-star squad. I might just be the least talented person here,” he says wryly.