News Article | 5/9/2007

Upbeat start

At Tuesday night’s opening of the House of Blues in Victory Park, concertgoers were introduced to a very Dallas version of a Southern juke joint: funky and glitzy all mixed into one.”It’s warm and cozy, but it’s chic and hip, too, which is important,” said 31-year-old Isha Ford, waiting with a friend for Erykah Badu to start her 8 p.m. show – which in typical Badu fashion, began an hour and 45 minutes late.

That balance between the low-down and the upscale was just about everywhere you went inside the 60,000-square-foot complex, the 11th House of Blues franchise to open since Dan Aykroyd and Isaac Tigrett launched the chain in 1992.

Inside the H.O.B. restaurant, under a sign that reads “Praise the Lord and Pass the Biscuits,” some patrons chowed down on baked macaroni and cheese ($4.95) and washed it down with a Shiner while others dined on filet mignon ($27.95) and sipped expensive cabernet.

While Muddy Waters was growling “Got My Mojo Working” on the restaurant sound system, a disco beat thumped inside the 1,600-capacity music hall before Ms. Badu’s set. Some concertgoers sported their Sunday best, while others came in jeans and sneakers.

“You’ve got a nice mix tonight, racially and age-wise,” said Lennotch Taplett, a 34-year-old San Francisco hairstylist who flew in for the show and strolled over from the nearby W Hotel. “It’s real mellow and laid-back – and a bit more of an adult crowd than you see at a lot of shows.”

That’s likely to change later this week at rocking sold-out shows by the Old 97’s and Kings of Leon. But Tuesday’s kickoff was a classy affair, with tickets priced between $65 (for standing room general admission) and $100 (for the best seats in the balcony).

“A hundred dollars is a bit much for a show,” said Irving’s Karen Cox, 48, who showed up at 5:40 p.m. in order to snag a prime spot behind the main-floor mixing board. “I don’t know if I could even pay $100 to see Prince.”

But her friend, Yvonne Williams, 36, had nothing but raves for the place: “I love the vibe – very festive and funky. I’m definitely coming back.”

As the wait for Ms. Badu continued, some fans perused the folk art paintings and the 30-foot-high “God Wall” made up of 72 busts of musicians ranging from Joe Cocker to Elmore James to Ellis Marsalis. Others shopped inside the “Company Store,” where you could buy House of Blues-brand corn bread mix or rubber ducks shaped like Mr. Aykroyd and John Belushi, a.k.a. the Blues Brothers.

On Saturday, the reconstituted Blues Brothers will perform at the official grand opening with actor Jim Belushi sitting in for his late brother. But on Tuesday night, a real bluesman tried to put his finger on the H.O.B. experience.

“I know a lot of House of Blues don’t have much blues, but we’ll try to cultivate a blues market here,” guitarist Anson Funderburgh said before his performance on the restaurant stage. “I’m hoping people will throw back the tables, get up and dance and have fun.”