Opening night: It teeters on the dangerously thin railing between triumph and disaster. After finally opening following a nine-day delay, the Pavilion at the Irving Music Factory — stealthily renamed Toyota Music Factory — felt growing pains as seats were filled and amps were cranked for the first time.
I can’t be the only one who breathed a sigh of relief that the first concert even happened. The venue suffered construction delays that had Irving passersby wondering for weeks if the highly anticipated venue would make its rescheduled debut. It was worth the wait.
And it felt appropriate. In late August, the opening-night act was originally supposed to be comedian Dave Chappelle. He’s great, but he’s not a musician; and the venue, by its own claim, is a “music factory.” So Texas legends Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band ZZ Top and new Dallas resident Alejandro Escovedo as stand-in openers christened this new venue with searing Lone Star rock.
Billing itself as a “convertible,” the venue at Highway 114 and O’Connor Boulevard next to the Irving Convention Center was set up in its indoor theater formation, which meant large doors were in place behind the 300 section of reserved seats, closing off the lawn seating in the back. If you picture the bottom half of the seats at Grand Prairie’s Verizon Theatre or a smaller version of the reserved seating at Fair Park’s Starplex, you have an idea of what the new venue looks like with the back doors shut.
Sightlines were clear from every corner, thanks to a massive stage, angled seating sections and giant video screens on both sides. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone in the rear getting too envious of those near the front.
As for testing out the strength and clarity of the theater’s sound system, both guitar-driven bands were more than obliged to see if this suburban joint had sonic integrity. Peter Buck of iconic band R.E.M. joined Escovedo’s touring band, making this opening night an impressive grouping of genuine rock gods from beginning to end.
Lines for alcohol and food were short and efficient with what seemed to be one bar for every five attendees. That’s not a bad thing, of course, but it’s safe to say that staffing will be adjusted moving forward so as to avoid bored bartenders. Prices for beer ($4-$16, depending on style and size) and cocktails ($12-$17) were on-par with other venues in the area, and the easily navigated corridors made it safe to juggle an armload of drinks for your crew back at the seats.
But the pesky unpredictability of opening night manifested most unfortunately when a plumbing issue quite literally stank up the east side of the pavilion.
As a few bathrooms were placed out of order, maintenance crews employed large vacuums and industrial squeegees right in front of some concessions cashiers, in the hopes of vanquishing the stinky surprise. The glut of full-bladdered patrons on the west side of the venue engaged in cranky chit-chat while the line for the men’s bathroom stretched unimaginably long.
Unlike the standard stadium chairs with arms and some cushioning in the 200 and 300 sections, the seats in the 100 section of the floor were all folding chairs. Granted, they had more cushioning than the average metal folding chair, but with no arm rests and little backing, the chairs were uncomfortable and shoved together. You’d easily hit your head on the chair in front of you if you dropped your phone (guilty), then rub your knobby, hairy knees against each of the strangers on either side of you (also guilty).
Never before have I so easily read the Facebook feed of the person next to me before a concert began. (I felt guilty for spying at first, then saw him peeping my phone a few minutes later.)
At 9 o’clock on the dot, a thunderous motor-revving filled the venue as people scurried to their seats and Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard walked out on stage. Probably the biggest rock band to ever come from the Bayou City, ZZ Top crammed the pedal to the metal from the start with “Got Me Under Pressure” from the group’s mega-selling 1983 Eliminator LP, an album that rightfully belongs in any discussion of Essential ’80s Rock Records.
There were some kinks that need to be worked out and, with a packed docket of shows coming quickly, the staff will have ample opportunity to smooth them out.
At the very least, on its debut night, the Music Factory lived up to its name by offering up a scorching set of tunes crafted right here in Texas.
Presented by GuideLive, September 10, 2017