By Josh Watkins
The newest venues to hit the Houston entertainment scene are White Oak Music Hall (WOMH) and Raven Tower, a pair of sister projects that have been in the works for almost three years. OutSmart caught up with the venues’ managing partner, Johnny So, to discuss the exciting new spaces.
Consisting of three separate venues, White Oak Music Hall is a live music complex located just a mile north of downtown. These spaces include the Lawn, the Downstairs, and the Upstairs. Feeling a “need for an iconic, centrally located outdoor venue,” the Lawn at White Oak Music Hall was created. Houston possesses nearly great weather year-round, so the thought of pairing that with exceptional outdoor music events made perfect sense.
White Oak Music Hall Downstairs is a large, two-story music hall. It’ll play host to many national touring plays. The Upstairs, on the other end, provides a “more intimate setting for smaller shows.”
With plans to have over 500 shows in the upcoming year, White Oak Music Hall predicts options for live music almost every night of the week.
Neighboring this music complex, one will find Raven Tower, a bar that also functions as a small venue. Raven Tower was converted from an old metal warehouse into a bar and concert pavilion. The actual “tower” has been retained to provide a unique lounge space, awaiting a re-opening in November.
“There is truly nothing like the Lawn at WOMH in Houston,” So says. “What we’ve done is constructed a giant sloping hill that provides excellent views no matter where you are or what your height is.”
Premium viewing areas will be found at the top of the hill, complete with Hilltop Cabanas, exterior balconies, and a roof deck. “Breathtaking” views of the stage and the downtown Houston skyline are up for grabs here.
The indoor venues are to feel spacious and comfortable, yet simultaneously intimate. White Oak Music Hall achieves this with a wide viewing area with clear sight lines to the stage and by keeping the balcony as low as possible without compromising openness.
Raven Tower acts as one of the most exclusively unique venues in town. With options for both indoor and outdoor experiences, architects Schaum/Shieh have been able to achieve “one of the most architecturally striking live music venues in the country.” This has mostly become evident through the incorporation of geometric archways, which transformed the mundane warehouse.
Many concerns with a new venue revolve around the music genre that is most catered to. Pegstar Concerts are the booking partner for White Oak Music Hall. Their “bread and butter has always been alternative and indie acts,” and that’ll be reflected in many bookings. Pegstar is very flexible though, adding many country, hip-hop, metal, punk, and EDM acts to the schedule. White Oak Music Hall has been fortunate to have Pegstar bring major, internationally known talent to the venue almost every week.
The musical “compound” has also scheduled many events inspired by the LGBT community. These events include a “Stilettos & Sandwiches” picnic brunch—to be held every Sunday in August and to be hosted by local drag queens Titanica de Barge and Veronica Strutts. The brunch is envisioned as a “fun, welcoming, and spontaneous way to extend the weekend!”
Since the inception of White Oak Music Hall, a goal to create a live music “institution” has existed. A vision to be the “kind of place that fans will remember for years, and that artists will specifically remember as an extraordinary place to play.” To achieve this sort of goal is by booking great talents, making the venue musically diverse, and “focusing on creating a concert environment that acts as a teleportation machine, moving you to a place where art, music, and positive vibes come together for a few hours every night.”
White Oak Music Hall and Raven Tower have got almost too many killer bookings to name. A wide range of shows are lined up, from up-and-coming names like Alessia Cara Kaleo, to The Kills and Crystal Castles, and musical legends like the Pet Shop Boys and Morrissey.