By Eric Sandler
Photography by Eric Sandler
When the doors open on White Oak Music Hall this weekend with a four-day celebration of concerts, both concert-goers and entertainers will encounter game-changing elements and amenities that include a state-of-the-art sound system, hilltop cabanas, elevated patios and swank green rooms.
Located on the near Northside, the locally-owned venue debuted its outdoor space, the Lawn at White Oak Music Hall, back in April. This weekend its two indoor venues open to the public.
Partners Will Thomas, Will Garwood, Johnny So, and Jagi Katial joined forces on the project, with each drawing on his various experiences in the music industry to create a top notch venue.
Kaital brings the lessons learned from the time his company Pegstar Concerts booked shows at legendary Heights music venue Fitzgerald’s. That accounts for the 1,300-person main hall’s good sightlines and a second story balcony that allows concert-goers to feel close to the performer.
The hall also features an all new sound system created by Clair Brothers with sound design by an acoustical engineer. “We’re shooting for the best-sounding room in the state,” Thomas tells CultureMap.
The 250-person upstairs room will serve as a venue for up-and-coming local acts, comedians, and other performers that are less likely to draw a large crowd. Principle architect Troy Schaum of Schaum & Shieh Architects designed the building. Interior details, including art in the bathroom inspired by famous Houston graffiti, are by the gindesignsgroup (Camerata, Public Services, etc).
Outside, the Lawn has upgraded its amenities since April, too. “Hilltop cabanas” offer premium seating for groups of 10 to 15 people, and patios built into the music hall offer an elevated place to see a show (for a higher price).
Prior to joining the White Oak partners, Thomas worked as a criminal defense attorney, but he’s also spent years playing in bands. As such, he has a unique perspective on what artists want from a venue, and White Oak Music Hall incorporates a number of amenities that are designed to make artists want to return.
For example, the venue includes a manager’s office with a washing machine and a dryer for laundry. Artist green rooms offer comfortable couches, flat screen TVs, and private bathrooms. The headliner’s room even features a private balcony so that acts performing on the Lawn can watch the openers before going onstage (or grab a cigarette).
Since the April opening, Thomas says the group has been working to address neighborhood concerns about security and traffic by hiring additional police officers and closing side streets on concert nights. People are also starting to take advantage of the venue’s close proximity to a METRORail stop as one way to avoid traffic hassles.
Recently, a professional sound study conducted by a third party verified that the venue is in compliance with the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with the Northside Village Super Neighborhood.
That’s good news, considering that the venue plans to host up to 500 shows per year. Unlike Fitzgerald’s, the shows aren’t genre-specific, which means Ghostland Observatory’s funky sound and Morrissey’s sad songs are equally welcome.
Together with next door bar the Raven Tower, the upcoming second outpost of Nice Slice Pizza Co., and other, rumored arrivals including a brew pub and a restaurant, the area around White Oak Music Hall is emerging as Houston’s newest entertainment destination.