For anyone even remotely interested in art or music, Saturday offered an overwhelming array of choices. With the annual Art Car Parade and a Justin Bieber concert happening downtown, some might have missed the debut of the White Oak Music Hall, Houston’s newest concert venue.
Located in the near northside neighborhood just north of downtown and east of the Heights, White Oak Music Hall sits on a five acre tract that contains three performance venues and the recently opened Raven Tower ice house.
On Saturday, the venue debuted its 3,000-person outdoor lawn concert area with a sold-out show by French electronic act M83. The band’s high-energy set that drew heavily from breakthrough album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming as well as the recently released Junk had the crowd dancing from pretty much start to finish.
Beyond the music, the concert gave attendees the opportunity to assess White Oak’s future as a performance venue, and that experience went well, too.
By the time gates opened at 7:00 pm, a long line snaked from the entrance gate to a pedestrian bridge over White Oak Bayou with people eager to snag either a prime spot to stand in front of the stage or a choice spot on the lawn-covered hill. Once attendees moved through they line, they found approximately 15 stands for purchasing beverages (wine, beer, cocktails, water, and soft drinks) as well as two food trucks (Waffle Bus and The Burger Joint).
Prices are reasonable, at least by concert standards. Beers only cost $6 to $8, cocktails are $8, and wine is $7, which is far below what a venue like House of Blues charges. Lines moved relatively swiftly, as long as people kept ordering beer. They could bog down if, say, a couple of people in a row ordered four cocktails each to take to friends. The resulting lines for the porta potties moved a little more slowly, natch.
More than the amenities, the venue served as an excellent way to attend a concert. Sight lines offered a clear view of the stage, and the sound arrived clearly without being overwhelmingly loud. Listeners who paid attention (as opposed to those who talked through the show) could distinguish vocals and individual instruments. With a slight breeze and pleasant spring weather, the concert offered the fun atmosphere of a summer festival without the risk of heat stroke.
Despite the neighborhood’s concerns, parking didn’t seem to be much of a challenge for most people. The venue offers both close-in paid lots and a slightly farther away free lot that patrons could access via a foot path. Entrepreneurially-minded property owners charged $10 to $20 for cars in nearby surface lots.
Getting out was a more time-consuming process, of course. The number of cars trying to leave the venue mixed with an influx of Uber drivers to create a bit of a quagmire. Perhaps stationing officers all the way to I-45 to keep traffic moving would help improve flow. Taking METRORail and walking over from the Quitman station is another possibility, as is waiting for traffic to die down at the Raven Tower.
Overall, the White Oak Music Hall made a very successful debut, and it’s reputation will surely grow once the two interior performance spaces are completed. The neighborhood’s concerns about parking and noise will have to be managed, but the venue certainly feels like a place Houstonians will be partying for years to come.