The latest trend to reemerge is indie sleaze. If you aren’t knee-deep in several different internet niches, you may not be familiar with the specific term, but you undoubtedly remember the subculture whether you knew the name or not. The original iteration lasted from 2006 to about 2012 — the hipster heyday: A post-millennium patchwork of cherry-picked elements from ’60s and '70s trends mixed with modern influences from the digital era.
Indie sleaze was characterized by thrifted outfits, skinny jeans, PBR, winged eyeliner, the seductive melodies of Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung’s Peter Pan collars and rolling at the club to an Amtrac remix of a Two Door Cinema Club song. It was raw and unabashedly DIY. Rock and electronic music went hand in hand, and everyone had a leather jacket and a matching striped shirt. Social media was still in its infancy, not yet overtaken by overly curated lives.
Indie sleaze was reflective of the larger social climate of the first decade of the new millennium, marked by a sense of disillusionment and dissatisfaction with mainstream culture, particularly in the wake of the great recession. It was a resistance to the slick and sanitized music and fashion industry, a bold statement about artistic integrity and personal expression. Perhaps that explains why kids today have taken an interest in the bygone era. The hope and change thing didn’t go very well, and now we are all stuck trying to present the best version of ourselves to the internet just to feel something. So, yeah, the carefree and fun spirit of indie sleaze is truly something to be missed.
So, now that you're feeling nostalgic (even if you weren't there), put on the Born to Die album and start hitting the bars. Maybe you’ll find your very own cocaine cowboy sipping fireball and smoking an American Spirit. Luckily, Dallas has a few of these havens catering to your indie sensibilities.
Here are the best Dallas bars for an indie sleaze night.
1404 N Riverfront Blvd.
What can be said about dance club Double D’s that hasn’t been said already? It’s magical. A perfect blend of the kind of stylized Americana that is deeply intertwined with the indie sleaze aesthetic. There’s also a touch of uniquely Dallas debauchery; it's a rare microcosm of the city, consistently packed to the brim with a great crowd of all different types of people. The drink menu is unique enough yet familiar, and everyone basks in the glow of pink neon. Yes, the line is definitely worth it.
Dallasite Billiards4822 Bryan St.
An East Dallas institution that has been around for 35 years, Dallasite Billiards is weathered, it's dark and it exudes nostalgia. The interior is charmingly gritty and vintage, and there isn’t an espresso martini in sight. If you squint, you can almost see a drunken Pete Doherty at the end of the bar. There’s pool, a dartboard and a patio cat. Interesting characters flow in and out, and you won’t even want to pick up your phone and post about it. It’s an experience that every Dallasite needs to have, even if it’s just for the plot.
Round-Up Saloon3912 Cedar Springs Road
Arguably the best gay bar in the city, Round Up is all the cowboy with none of the bigot. The collision of urban hipsterism with the freedom and romanticism associated with the Wild West is a key element of indie sleaze. So, get up to Dolly Python, get yourself a pair of vintage cowboy boots and hit the dance floor. And straight people, make sure you respect this place and don't ruin the vibe with voyeurism and no-vibe clothes.
Charlie’s Star Lounge
4319 Main St.
Quite possibly the epitome of indie sleaze, Charlie’s is not to be missed. If you were in on the original trend, you will certainly be in good company here. If you’ve been in Dallas long enough, you may remember that this bar used to be the Starlight Lounge. The new owners kept the spirit of the old while managing to inject it with new life. Now the place is a haven for local musicians, artists and every type of hipster in between.
Chase Place1724 E. Belt Line Road, Richardson
You know when Lana Del Rey sang, “Watching all our friends fall in and out of Old Paul’s”? The imagery that the line conjures is the aesthetic of this bar. It’s not glamorous, it smells like cigarettes and it’s in an old strip mall. It might be a tough sell to your friends, but it’s a justifiable trek to the burbs. You will have an unpretentious but fun time; there's even a karaoke night if you want to go all out. And hey, it doesn’t hurt that Free Play is next door if you get tired of inhaling smoke fumes from 1978.
Cosmo’s1212 Skillman St.
A classic and beloved Lakewood establishment, Cosmo's has an interior that's colorful mid-century, and you can play as many songs as you can afford on the old jukebox. Zooey Deschanel would love it here. There is always an array of friendly faces and entertaining bartenders. The Vietnamese-inspired food is can’t-miss as well. Eclecticism is an indie sleaze hallmark, and you’ll find plenty of it here.
Parliament2418 Allen St.
Founded shortly after the Indie Sleaze movement ended, Parliament remains true to the spirit while managing to be timeless. Dimly lit and adorned with vintage decor, it's a place where the echoes of the distant past mingle with the same sort of raw and edgy energy of the early to mid-aughts. The vibe here is always unmatched, and the cocktail menu is classic yet fresh and fun. It’s hard to beat this place on a warm summer night.
It’ll Do4322 Elm St.
This may be the only remaining indie sleaze dance club in Dallas from the indie sleaze era. It's been renovated since its original opening in 2012, but it’s still just as good. Stepping into this dimly lit sanctuary, you're greeted by a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, swirling smoke and a sea of widely-ranging fashion. You’re likely to even catch one of the old DJs you danced to while pouring sweat and chewing gum, vaguely aware of your surroundings.
Lee Harvey’s1807 Gould St.
Here, authenticity reigns supreme, and there’s also the obvious historical irony baked into the name — nothing more hipster than that. Lee Harvey’s is laid-back, mostly outdoors, and there is usually a live band playing on the patio. It also has a swim club right next door where you can sip fancy cocktails on a comically large pool float. Extra points if you have one in the shape of a pizza, or a mustache.
Double Wide3510 Commerce St.
You really can’t beat this bar. Its aesthetic draws inspiration from the unconventional beauty found in the fringes of society, embracing the rawness and unapologetic nature of those who defy societal norms. It incorporates trailer park imagery, vintage Americana and a touch of punk, creating a visual tapestry that speaks to a longing for freedom and the celebration of individuality — a true bastion of the spirit of the indie sleaze movement. Poetic, right?
Mike's Gemini Twin1906 S. Harwood St.
A hidden indie sleaze gem deep in The Cedars, Mike Gemini's Twin has a dimly lit room with big checkered floor tiles beckoning you to play The Strokes on the jukebox and order an Old Fashioned. You'll find an array of well-dressed strangers, and probably some friends too. Just try not to get a grease stain on your new $80 vintage tee from the hotdogs they sell at the bar.
Texas Theatre231 W. Jefferson St.
Indie movies were a vital part of the indie sleaze movement, the gritty aesthetics, the clothes, the attitude, Jason Schwartzman. Texas Theatre provides a warm, charming, historic venue to see old and new cult classics and yes, there's a bar!
Lakewood Landing5818 Live Oak St.
Cosmo's' neighbor exudes indie sleaze of a different sort: It's the kind of place you might go if you existed in an alternate Garden State universe. It's like adult summer camp, with alcohol and corndogs (it also famously has a great burger). There's nothing like sitting on the patio of Lakewood Landing reminiscing about how good Coachella used to be.