DALLAS For a few hours Wednesday night, one corner of Dallas felt an awful lot like Austin.
The scene was Vagabond, a new bar and restaurant which opened in January on Greenville, and its inaugural ticketed evening of music.
The venue hosts singer-songwriters each week on Wednesday, but the pairing of troubadours Jimmy LaFave and Parker Millsap marked the first time patrons could pony up a few bucks and snag one of the barstools lining the perimeter of the cozy room.
While Vagabond billed the experience as an opportunity to hear these artists in a “listening room” setting, the vibe is more AllGood Cafe than Kessler Theater — there’s an appreciation for the artistry (Millsap was given a standing ovation when he wrapped up his hour-long set), but hushed reverence isn’t a primary concern.
The noise level never overwhelmed the music (an impressive feat, given the front patio doors were opened so the music could filter outside), but those attending in hopes of unblemished silence should adjust expectations.
Still, Vagabond, under the guidance of musical director Eric Nadel, conjures a feeling of watching a song pull somewhere off Sixth Street or South Lamar in Austin — an intimate, inviting space where everyone is enjoying performers of considerable skill.
LaFave’s laid-back, country-stained rock — he was joined by a strong quartet of players on keys, drums, bass and guitar — was ideal for a mid-week show, full of feeling and performed with unhurried skill. LaFave’s distinctive, pinched voice threaded through the music, capable of delicate balladry or rollicking, up-tempo rowdiness.
It’s easy to take artists of LaFave’s caliber for granted, as his understated and terrific performance proved.
As solid as LaFave’s performance was, opener Parker Millsap came exceedingly close to upstaging the headliner. Thanks to his full-body emoting — Millsap often seemed like he was standing on a downed power line, twitching and clawing at his acoustic guitar, his contorted face dripping sweat — and fulsome songs (culled from his self-titled debut), the Oklahoma native left a mark on the audience, and delivered one of the most impressive showcases I’ve seen this year.
Hopefully, he’s back before too long, and sitting atop the bill.