Gas Monkey Bar 'N Grill, Where a Reality TV Star Hosts Metal, Honky-Tonk and Plenty More
This past Saturday night, the Gas Monkey Bar 'N Grill in Dallas lived up to the name of the television series that features its owner: car repair reality show Fast 'N Loud. With full sets scheduled from Austin's Hank Senior-recalling, honky-tonk hero Wayne "The Train" Hancock (on the venue's indoor stage), and an outdoor, main-stage set by stoner-metal giants The Sword, the night was packed with myriad Texas flavors, sounds, sweat and vibrant energy. Honky-tonk and metal might seem like strange companions, but on this night, what seemed like a thousand people taking up the three main areas of the sprawling venue would disagree.
Owner Richard Rawlings and GM Alex Mendonsa
The Gas Monkey opened in mid-2013, taking over the old Firewater space near the I-35 and Northwest highway interchange in Dallas, just a few miles east of the Las Colinas business district. And in appropriate fashion for a venue named for an auto garage that performs almost magical auto transformations, it's almost impossible to tell the place used to be the generic Firewater Bar and Grill that closed a few years ago. A rustic redesign with a variety of woods and chain-link fencing creates an industrial, yet still comfortable vibe throughout. It surely would've been easy, and perhaps understandable, if owner Richard Rawlings and his crew had decided to simply go for a full-on themed restaurant and cover the place in mufflers, girlie-posters and auto signage, given his show's popularity on the Discovery Channel (now in its fourth season).
There's a gift shop where one can buy all sorts of Gas Monkey Garage merch, but the place stands on its own. Even the venue's website doesn't focus on the venue's attachment to the hit show, instead focusing on the varied shows they have on the roster in the coming months: Against Me!, Cody Canada, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, Tab Benoit and Scott Biram, among others.
On Saturday night, a thick swarm of humanity filled the venue, and the place swelled with a party vibe and electricity not found when visiting a Hard Rock Café with your family on holiday weekends.
The indoor show with Hancock, which took place on a stage in the back of the restaurant section with a big, bright TEXAS lit up behind it, started after an impressive opening set by Gas Monkey server Jessica Gordon. She stuck primarily to covers, but did so with a voice that was plenty sweet, touched with a bit of character-lending ache to it.
By the time Hancock hit the stage with his three band mates wielding an electric guitar, pedal steel and a massive upright bass, dozens of people were dancing at the stage's front, completely blocking the view of the folks sitting at tables near the stage. An hour before, they might have thought they had the best seats in the house.