This past weekend, Plano celebrated the grand opening of The Box Garden entertainment venue at Legacy Hall. Noteworthy highlights of the festivities include an ethereal performance by headliner Sarah Jaffe, the mixological success of a few fresh concept bars, and a triumphant indoor/outdoor integration with the popular food hall, Legacy Hall.
So what’s a box garden? All curiosity about the venue’s name disappears when you show up and see that much of the exterior design is made of reused shipping containers – literally massive boxes, with gardens planted on the top. One of the “boxes” is even used to farm vegetables that are then used by chefs within the food hall.
The boxes also house bars, bathrooms and food stalls, but you won’t be spending much time in them. The 1,500-person capacity venue is mostly divided between a relaxing patio, a spacious courtyard, and the second and third floor balconies at Legacy Hall.
“Fifteen hundred is a great number for concerts. It’s intimate enough to give people a real experience, and it’s a space that can be filled with big name and up-and-coming acts,” said The Box Garden Entertainment Director Michael Clay. “You go too big and if nobody shows up, suddenly it looks empty.”
Repurposed shipping containers are an environmentally friendly way to put discarded metal to use, but that’s not the only thing to love about The Box Garden. The four-day grand opening celebration served to highlight The Box Garden’s other major contributions to Plano: entertainment, culture, cuisine and community.
Thursday night’s ribbon-cutting ceremony featured delectable barbecue (with brisket that just about melts in your mouth) from the new, on-site barbecue joint Carlton Provisions, and the introduction of a custom summer ale called “Bad Baby” created by in-house Unlawful Assembly Brewing Co. to honor a favorite new track by the weekend’s headliner, Sarah Jaffe. To keep the energy flowing along with the cocktails, The Chris Watson Band riffed out a solid set of funky, jazz rock complete with a saxophonist with skills that would make Bill Clinton blush.
With the opening ceremony came the opening of the outdoor bars. If you love a good cocktail, spirit or craft beer, you are sure to appreciate the highly curated selection offered at one of The Box Garden’s five bar stalls. There’s truly a little bit of something for everyone. Idol Time offered a tiki bar update of the Old Fashioned, made with spiced rum. Being a hops enthusiast, I also thoroughly enjoyed Unlawful Assembly’s Blind Justice IPA.
Friday, the Denton band Tomkat, led by singer Katrina Cain, kicked off the party. After that, it was time for the weekend’s big headliner, the inimitable, the alluring, Sarah Jaffe, who took to the stage wearing what appeared to be a fashionable linen suit one might find on the streets of Tangiers. Hair bleached to chaotic shade of perfect, and full band in tow, she proceeded to rock the house.
Sarah Jaffe’s performance was everything you’d expect out of an artist who has risen in popularity due to a mix of her own honest lyrics and her band’s melodies and electro-pop instrumentals, which blend together like those classic black and white movies that are restored into full color. She is the sort of rock and roll queen who is evocative and refreshing at the same time. Sarah and the band performed tracks across her discography, including the recent “Bad Baby” and “No Worries,” finishing with perhaps her most well-known song, “Clementine.”
The Box Garden is organized on multiple tiers, allowing for concertgoers to watch from the ground level, with standing room only, as well as from the balconies of Legacy Hall. Most concerts throughout the year will be free, but on ticketed events, such as Sarah Jaffe, you’ll need to make sure to get a ticket ahead of time, as the ground level and balconies will only be open to those with tickets.
You can’t talk about The Box Garden without talking about Legacy Hall, the three-story food hall with 20+ food stalls operated by both local and big name chefs. The two are seamlessly integrated, and cut from the same philosophical cloth. For instance, when you show up to Legacy Hall, you don’t have to know what you’ll be eating before you get there to know you’ll end up with something great. The concept is the same for The Box Garden’s ongoing slate of entertainment.
“We’re planning to bring in a mix of new artists and bands that do classics in a new way,” said Michael Clay. “We want people to think, ‘We don’t know who’s playing tonight, but we know it’s going to be good.’”
Michael is no stranger to bringing in hot acts, having managed programming at Glass Cactus nightclub at The Gaylord Texan, among other stages across DFW, as well as spearheading the nonprofit Texas Music Project. Put simply, he sort of emanates rock and roll. He has the charm of Tom Waits, and enough stories from his journey to fill more than a few articles. (As a whippersnapper, he fell in love with rock watching Hendrix stab a guitar through an amp in Houston.)
Another huge coup for Team Box Garden is Gavin Mulloy, a Deep Ellum dynamo who has worked as the creative director for Bomb Factory and Trees, and before that, The Granada. “So many of us come from places where we’ve built up solid networks,” said Gavin, who is enjoying his first month as The Box Garden’s marketing director. He’s already in the mood to talk up some of the more technical features. “Our video [screen] is 300 square feet. And we’ve designed the stage to function as storage also, so we can pull out tables for some shows and clear the area out for others.”
For his part, Michael Clay is excited about the production quality. “The array set is the same that Kendrick Lamar has taken on the road. You really need the entire picture, a great lineup and a great production team, for things to work,” he explained.
The sound systems are designed to deliver the audio to the interior of the three-story Legacy Hall, so that inside or out, you don’t miss a bit of the performance.
On Saturday, the third day of opening ceremonies, a solid lineup of Texas bands played, including local favorites Vandoliers. Later that evening, the venue hosted its first silent disco (just Google it, you’ll get it). On Sunday, a full-fledged farmer’s market took over The Box Garden, allowing locals the chance to shop fresh produce and jam out to Chet Stevens live.
With popular musical acts on the horizon (The Polyphonic Spree, The Bright Light Social Hour), top notch food and beverage and a dedication to the Plano community, it’s easy to prophesy that this will become the new “it” venue in Plano, easily competing with bigger music venues down in Dallas.
I’ll see you soon. Probably at The Box Garden.
More photos from The Box Garden // Emilee Prado and Jennifer Shertzer:The Box Garden Website >