Plano’s Newest Venue, The Latest In A String Of Big-Money Music Spots Opening In The Dallas Suburbs, Took Its Bow This Weekend.
After a spattering of smaller shows booked to ease audiences into the idea of its existence and to get its staff prepared for the happenings to come, the newest big-budget music venue to open out in the North Texas suburbs officially celebrated its grand opening this weekend.
Called The Box Garden, this spot exists as part of a 60,000-square-foot food hall (Legacy Hall), which sits on the outer edges of an outdoor mall (Legacy West) in Plano that was inspired by its successful, very similar sister shopping center (The Shops at Legacy) that’s located across the highway (The Dallas North Tollway) from it.
Got all that? Good!
Moving on: The venue formally took its bow this past Friday night with a headlining set from revered Dallas indie pop musician Sarah Jaffe, whose concert seems likely to stand as one of the few ticketed events booked to the space moving forward.
“Hello Plano!” Jaffe announced at the start of that set, seemingly well aware that she was uttering a phrase not frequently heard outside the confines of country spot Love & War in Texas, the late Eisenbergs Skatepark or the rare festival taking place at Oak Point Park. Following an opening set from Denton pop rock outfit Tomkat, Jaffe would for more than an hour endearingly charm this crowd — very much filled with her fans, if the cheers at each song’s start was any indication — by deftly performing tracks from throughout her more-than-a-decade’s worth of material, all the while backed by her crack band of guitarist Don Cento, keyboardist Scott Danbom and drummer Matt Pence.
Jaffe’s a consummate pro, who can (and has) sounded great in any setting. But this setting had a lot going for it, it needs to be said.
For one thing, The Box Garden is big — from its stage, upon which not even The Polyphonic Spree could feel cramped, to its floor, which rather comfortably boasts a capacity of 1,200 attendees in addition to another 300 or so who can fit on its second- and third-floor balconies. (On Friday, we’re told, the space was just a handful of attendees removed from hitting its fill.)
It’s also versatile, as this weekend’s variety of set-ups — sometimes with the gravel floor left completely open as it was on Friday night, and other times being filled with picnic tables to allow for seated listening.
It appears to be rather high-tech, too, as seen through its massive video board that serves as the backdrop for the stage, and heard through its surprisingly crisp sound system, which impressively seemed unaffected by the outdoor set-up or the fact that the space is filled with right angles. (It helps, presumably, that speakers have also been built into the balconies to offset delay by pumping audio directly into those spaces).
Also not hurting matters: The Box Garden’s kind of a looker! It’s maybe a little cookie cutter, but only in the way that every house on HGTV is. In other words: This spot, which boasts a rustic-meets-industrial look thanks to the shipping containers and wooden features incorporated into its design, is just a couple slabs of shiplap getting slapped onto the massive concrete wall behind the stage — shout out to the neighboring (and free!) parking garage — away from being Gaines Family-approved. (It also somehow feels a little reminiscent of a horse track, with its tiered decks recalling those venues’ familiar grandstands.)
Those are nice features, all of them. But they’re also a bit required as the region marches forward and faces a conundrum we’ve been pondering for some time. It’s a fair question: If every Dallas suburb has a venue like this — Irving only just recently debuted its Toyota Music Factory, which boasts not just its Live Nation-backed Pavilion but also the multi-stage Big Beat Dallas; Arlington is readying its own Texas Live! (exclamation theirs, not ours) concept; and even the Dallas Cowboys-funded The Star just a few exits up the Tollway from Legacy Hall in Frisco hopes to include music as part of its own mixed-use offering — what’s to set one of these spots apart from the other? How will they each compete? How will they all survive?
From her position on stage on Friday, Jaffe may have provided some insight into The Box Garden’s plan, which seems to be centered around a careful attention to detail. Repeatedly, Jaffe asked her crowd not just how they were enjoying themselves, but how they were enjoying her beer. Created just for this grand opening occasion by Unlawful Assembly Brewing Company, which operates out of Legacy Hall’s third floor, her Bad Baby Ale — named for her most recent album (not the “Cash Me Outside” girl) and with a can designed by the same designer (John Lisle) who designed that album’s artwork — is a rather delightful and refreshing grapefruit- and lime-infused sipper that was created after the brewers and singer met to discuss her palate.
No one is expecting Unlawful Assembly to make beers for each and every performer that hits The Box Garden stage moving forward. But that they can? Well, that’s pretty neat. And as the Dallas suburbs continue to make their play as entertainment destinations that can pull crowds away from The Big City — or, perhaps more accurately, keep its nearby residents from heading that way in the first place — it seems likely that such details could be what separates the wheat from the chaff. Or, put better, the Legacies from the Live!s.