Yes, Virginia, there is a live music scene in Dallas and Fort Worth. This month we tread fearlessly into the blind alleys and vine-choked thickets that await those who even try to recommend places to hear live music. Remember, as The New Yorker says, musicians and club owners lead complicated lives. Cover prices and show times vary widely, and plans can change at the last minute: By all means, call first.
● Sons Of Hermann Hall. This fraternal hall, built in 1910. offers the hottest in real roots-rockin’ Texas music. The upstairs ballroom, with wood ceilings and floors, matches the music perfectly-and there’s always room for dancers. Music ranges from Austin cowboy yodeler Don Walser (Aug. 9) to Los Lobos-meets-Brave Combo group the Blazers (Aug. 16). Downstairs there’s another bar where burgers ’n’ fries can be had. 3414 Elm, 747-4422.
● Bronco Bowl. After a heralded re-opening, this venue has had a spotty score card, and the 38-lane bowling alley, electronic arcade and two rooms of pool tables may or may not be open- call first. But as Dallas’ only midsize (approximately 3,000 seats) arena, the Bronco Bowl hosts some pretty good road shows: Bruce Springsteen. Oasis, Lou Reed. Upcoming gigs: Sex Pistols (Aug. 2) and Elvis Costello (Aug. 20). 2600 Fort Worth Ave., 943-1777.
● Poor David’s Pub. This staple of Lower Greenville is approaching the end of its second decade as a folkie’s fave. Although drinks are a tad dear ($3.25/beer) and the appointments somewhat low-fi. this club sees an impressive range from talented locals like acoustic guitar whiz Dave Somogyi to international stars like Doc Watson (Aug. 11) and Robyn Hitchcock. Food is of the nacho kind. 1924 Greenville Ave.. 821-9891.
● Deep Ellum Live. A boxy space with bathrooms that seem borrowed from a Peruvian territorial prison, this venue’s generally exploitive attitude ($1.25 for a glass of water) and surly servers guarantee you’re only within the walls to hear interesting mid-level road shows by such acts as John Hiatt, Joan Armatrading and Fishbone. 2727 Canton, 748-6222.
● Trees. Designed to look like an indoor forest (if you’ve had several drinks and the house lights are down), Trees hosts national rock and alternative acts and breaking local bands like Tripping Daisy and Jackopierce. The myriad drum skins on the walls from previous acts remind you the band on stage may be the next Pearl Jam. Aside from a few scattered booths, plan to stand (or mosh). Best vantage point: upstairs along the east side, but these seats fill quickly. Drink prices are fair, but lines are long. Don’t forget the bar upstairs, with shorter lines and chattier bartenders. 2709 Elm St., 748-5009.
Club Clearview. Part of a complex that includes the Blind Lemon and the Art Bar, Clearview hosts lesser-known alternative acts, with an occasional known commodity like the Plimsouls. Stop in for a sample-if the act doesn’t suit your taste, your cover will get you into one of the other clubs. If they’d only throw in karaoke and some two-step, you would think that Deep Ellum really is turning into the West End. 2806 Elm St., 9394)077 or the events hotline, 283-5358.
Dada. Leans heavily towards traditional rock and blues, with national acts on weekends, when early birds will not only avoid the cover charge, but can catch perennial opening acts Hard Night’s Day and The Dead Thing, offering intelligent covers of Beatles and Grateful Dead songs, respectively. 2720 Elm St.. 744-DADA.
● Texas Blues Cafe. A full-service barbecue restaurant by day and a blues bar by night, this place makes outstanding use of the local r&b talent pool. Sandwiches can be had far into the night, and the cook here is Cole Kelley, one time chef at the Mansion. August bookings include Andrew “Junior Boy” Jones, Dallasite and long-term guitarist for Charlie Musselwhite. 316 Hillside Village (at Mockingbird and Abrams), 824-7600.
● J&J Hues Bar. This durable Fort Worth joint comes close to creating an authentic Texas roadhouse atmosphere. The age-mixed crowd often seems bent on proving the adage that Cowtown folks dance more than Dallasites, although that may be due to lack of seats in this oft-SRO spot. Like most modern blues clubs, this one more than occasionally stages flat-out rockers, so blues hard-liners should check who’s there before venturing forth. J&J’s has recently featured Lavelle White, Gary Primich, and Fort Worth perennial Robert Ealey. Foil-wrapped barbecue is usually available. 937 Woodward, Fort Worth, 817-870-BEER.
● Blue Cat Blues. The only blues bar in town that consistently stages road acts such as Jimmy Rogers and Smokey Wilson. Sight lines in this Spartan space are slightly sullied by a couple of posts. Waitresses are amiable, and the sound system usually gives forth a wall-rattling hum at least once a night. Of late the club has hosted acoustic nights featuring local players, and at least once weekly (usually Sunday) has a killer barbecue deal. 2617 Commerce, 744-CATS.
● Caravan of Dreams. Whether it’s contempo rary saxophonist Richard Elliot pulling out all stops for an SRO crowd or r&b diva Dianne Reeves stilling the house with a timeless bal lad, the Caravan consistently hosts memorable performances. The dark, cozy, 500-seat room is an essential stop for contemporary jazz, r&b and rock road acts, yet small enough that there isn’t a bad seat. Warning: Often seats are sold on a general admission basis, so even with a ticket you Ve got to get there early to get a good seat. Upcoming gigs: Isaac Hayes (Aug. 9), Anson and the Rockets (Aug. 17). 312 Houston, Fort Worth. 817-429-4000.
● Sambuca. The finest local jazz musicians gig nightly at this well-established, still-trendy Méditer-ranean eatery. The beautiful peo-pie flock to this dark, high-ceilinged restaurant as much for the good food (entrées start at $11.95)asforthedistinctivejazz played by the likes of Texas tenor-sax hero Marchel Ivery and pianist-arranger Dave Zoller. 2618 Elm St., 744-0820. The second location features big band jazz on Monday nights, 15207 Addison Rd.. Addison, 385-8455.
● Strictly Tabu. This is the closest we have to a New York jazz club, with its two-tiered, inti mate, candlelit space that overlooks the small bandstand. Patrons come Tuesday through Saturday for the music; conversation is gener ally low during tunes, and folks know enough to applaud after solos. Highlights: Pete Petersen and the Collection, a 20-piece big band that performs each Tuesday; and, of course, the vegetable pizza. 4111 Lomo Alto, 528-5200.
● Naomi’s. The gritty ambience in this tiny dive is just right for hard-driving honky-tonk. Beer’s cheap, and owner Carroll Collyer avidly supports local bands and Texas music, so expect to hear it from musicians such as Donny Ray Ford and Houston’s Mary Cutrufello. Tip: Eat- and use the restroom- elsewhere before coming here. 3001 Canton, 741-0666.
● Cowboys Arlington. A honky-tonk disco with corral decor, built in a cavernous former Kmart site. Most corne to dance rather than listen; national acts like Lee Roy Parnell play here, but there is no seating in front of the stage, just a large dance floor. Wednesday through Sunday and before national acts, Mark Justice and the Law play country hits for the dancers. Look for specials like $1 beer on Thursdays. 2540 E. Abrams, Arlington, (metro) 817-265-1535.
● Billy Bob’s Texas. Say what you will about this gigantic honky tonk, it offers something most places around here don’t: reserved seating in front of the stage. There are two stages here; one small, with the dance floor in front of it, where undiscov-ered Garth Brookses and Alan Jacksons play weeknights and before the name act-say. Waylon Jennings, who’ll play Aug. 17- who starts on the big stage. Sound is loud, especially in the first row of tables. Name acts generally don’t start until about 11 p.m., but early arrivals can explore the live rodeo, gift shops and a small restaurant area serving burgers and barbecue (around $3 per sandwich). 2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth, (metro) 817-589-1711.
● White Elephant Saloon. Yep, there’s a whole collection of white elephants here in this Stockyards institution that’s the site for the bar scenes in “Walker, Texas Ranger,” Also, cowboy hats mosey across the ceiling and down the wooden walls. Skip weekday guitarists and come on the weekend when you might find Gary P. Nunn or Tommy Alverson. There’s also music in the beer garden outside and an upstairs listening room. 106 E, Exchange, Fort Worth, 817-624-1887.
Worth a Listen
Balcony Club (in the Lakewood Theater. 1825 Abrams. 826-8104): jazz trio plays in a classy, relaxed atmosphere.
Barley House (2916 N. Henderson, 824-0306): fast becoming known as a place to hear alternative country.
Muddy Waters (1518 Greenville, 823-1518): unpretentious blues, occasional rockabilly and deli sandwiches.
Terilli’s (2815 Greenville, 827-3993): hot jazz, wicked martinis and italchos.
Woody’s Western Ballroom (1008 McKinney, 922-8255): keeping the Three Teardrops Tavern Texas-music flame burning.