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Photo by Susie Geissler.

At the risk of sounding like a third-rate psychic, give me a single strip of bacon and I’ll foretell the eventual doom of a bar business. A few years ago, I was sitting on the rooftop of the now-defunct Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge with three friends trying to figure out why it took 40 minutes to make some BLTs. They arrived with only lettuce, tomato, and a swipe of mayo, with a single strip of bacon broken up and distributed across four different plates.

I realized then the place would fold, because the owners/managers fell prey to that age-old problem of creating an unfocused business concept, which always leads to mediocrity in everything. Was Live Oak a music venue, a restaurant with elevated cuisine, a rooftop patio-driven nightspot, a casual neighborhood hangout, an event space, or a straight-up bar with typical snack foods to soak up beer? They didn’t know, and we couldn’t figure it out for them.

When I heard the Fairmount Music Hall would be taking over the space, I was itching to check it out, hoping new ownership would bring a tightly focused and well-executed concept to a venue with so much potential. On a recent visit, I instead had flashbacks to Live Oak’s ever-shifting identity. What we were led to expect about this place was nothing like my experience there.

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The Fairmount Music Hall’s tagline is “sky bar & kitchen,” which conjures a casual food-and-booze vibe. However, in their promotional material, the PR folks told us to expect “craft cocktails” and “eloquent dining” (our emphasis). Assuming it was supposed to read “elegant dining,” the initial menu created by Chef Jordan Rogers did reflect higher-end, pricey Italian steakhouse fare. It’s a month later, and that concept was nowhere to be found on my visit. The vibe at Fairmount Music Hall actually seems to slant toward laidback Texas country, where you might expect to sprain your ankle slipping on a rogue potato skin instead of asphyxiating on a piece of $70 dry-aged Steak Florentine. 

It would seem that either the chef realized his food was a poor fit for this Texas country-leaning bar or the owners realized they needed to go in a different direction. Either way, Rogers is no longer affiliated with Fairmount Music Hall. Instead, there’s a new menu of what appears to be ballpark food, complete with cringe-worthy names like the “Justin Timbersteak,” “Snoop Hot Doggy Dog,” and whatever the Hades is “Johnny Scooper Wings with Justin Ross Sauce.” As for the aforementioned “craft cocktails,” I never saw that menu, and the bartender managed to screw up my extremely simple drink request on a night when the place was dead.

On the upside, one of the biggest gripes about the Live Oak’s rooftop patio was its lack of restrooms upstairs, and this was solved to the wild applause of all patrons. There is also a screen to watch the show going on downstairs. 

But in the strangest move I’ve ever seen in a live music venue, the back wall of the stage has been knocked down, leaving performers with their backs turned to a ground-level patio of drinkers and a large parking lot. It’s going to be a bad scene when the first bar fight or flying object goes crashing into a musician from behind.

Therein lies the crux of the issue with places like the Live Oak and Fairmount Music Hall: There doesn’t seem to be any reasoning behind the concept – nothing that ties it all together to create a unique experience. Secondly, if you promote your business to be one thing, it’s best not to make a patron check the sign on the window to make sure they are at the right place. Luckily, the Music Hall still has time to reassess their model and concentrate on what they actually do there.

The Fairmount Music Hall 

1311 Lipscomb St, FW. 817-360-5642.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I have not been to the newly opened Fairmount Music Hall, however, I did frequent the Live Oak. I absolutely loved it and was sad when it closed. I was not there for the drinks or the food, but for the MUSIC. I loved that it is a small LISTENING Venue where you could go to appreciate music and not have to strain to hear over a bunch of talkative drunk fools. If The Fairmount Music Hall will focus on music it will work out. Just basic drinks are fine. I don’t need or want to pay $10 for a cheap drink that is mostly ice. A $4 beer will do just fine thank you. Food, give me a basic burger or chips and queso and I’m happy. Again, I’m there for the music. Hope it works out for them. I will have to go check it out soon! Oh, and I love the Sunday Supper Club where music started at 6:00 and over by 8:00. For us old folks who have to get up early for work the next day, it was fabulous!

  2. Uh oh. This was a place we really LOVED, a great venue for small-scale shows, but with really quality entertainers (Patti Griffin, Fred Eaglesmith, Joe Ely, Alejandro Escobedo, and many others), PLUS the added benefit of a Tuesday Jazz Ensemble night, so people could come and hear high-end jazz played by local, community, and college bands, effectively offering a community-service to the locale. The food was good, drinks were good, and quickly brought, and staff was friendly, efficient, and accessible. I myself was able to play there in my duo, at fundraisers for local heros (Elizabeth Anna, etc.), and for the Tuesday jazz concert series. There was no place like, except maybe the Kessler in west Dallas, but that’s a far drive. Our hopes are high that the new version will succeed, as there is a great walk-in, local, neighborhood support for such a venue. PLEASE see to your business plan and make this a success. The area needs it.

  3. Came prior to the new menu and food didn’t meet my expectations! Here for 2nd time and new menu is much better fit! Looking forward to the live music.

  4. I loved Live Oak & I love Fairmount Music Hall. I visit mostly for the music. The venue is on point for listening to music with a variety of seating options! It’s been an enjoyable experience each time. As for the food? I have experienced both menus. While the flatbreads were good, I won’t miss the price point. I don’t believe any patrons will
    miss it either because prior to the new menu roll out, I hardly saw anyone eating, with the exception of the crawfish boil on St.Pattys Day. Since the new menu, albeit a little silly, food is consistently being ordered and served. I think the owners recognized a problem and made necessary adjustments. I respect that. Overall, great place to hang! I’ll continue to be a loyal customer. Thanks for reviving 1311 Lipscomb!

  5. Also, I am wondering if the person who “wrote” this article has actually stepped foot in Fairmount Music Hall, as their “facts” are simply not accurate. A wall knocked out in the back? There is nothing of the such. The garage door facing “backstage” lifts up and down, providing versatility to patrons and artists. An open air concept while inside, if you will. I’ve watched shows when it’s been open and closed. Each time enjoyable! And I’m looking forward to watching Stoney LaRue there this Friday! An intimate music experience with a well known artist at a phenomenal venue! Cheers to that!

  6. I do not understand the poor review from the Fort Worth weekly. i think that Fairmount is a great place to go chill and listen to great music. Love the atmosphere. Do not get the problem with the backstage at all. this is not a rowdy croud performing artist at risk. Seemed like a lot of folks just chilling and listening to some chll music.

    • I agree with your post, Pam. The title of the article “Watch Your Back” sounds like a personal vendetta, in my opinion. I’m just elated that 1311 Lipscomb is back in the Fort Worth music scene. And thus far, the venue has met my expectations. Great place to watch a live show in an intimate setting.

      • LOL at the personal vendetta comment…
        It’s because the bands play with their backs to an open parking lot where drunks and vagrants alike can hurl projectiles. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t or is unlikely. It doesn’t matter who is performing… people are assholes when alcohol is involved. As someone who has photographed thousands of live shows, anything can happen.

        I personally applaud this article. I want real, honest feedback from those who are staples in this community; and the writers at Fort Worth Weekly are staples, whether you like it or not.

  7. I’ll pass on the new place. The initial menu was something that made me excited for the rebirth of this location. By the time I got there, it had changed to the current Chuck E. Cheese kid’s menu. I saw they had Stoney Larue on their schedule, but I’ll just go to Billy Bob’s if I want a good venue with crappy food. Disappointed to say the least.

  8. randy… I do not believe a single soul will miss you and every person I questioned has the same sense as me. get over your self, good grief.

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