Russel Gardin
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W2 Development Partners principals Will Garwood (right) and Will Thomas (left), Photo: Provided by Will Garwood.

Leon casino,  

The Houston music scene is constantly in flux; which is a good thing. Venue openings and

closings seem to be a regular occurrence in the competitive field of hosting live music. But

one particular, new venue will open its doors this year and has the potential to become

another fixture in the local scene. Will Garwood, a leading managing partner of both

the soon to be unveiled White Oak Music Hall, and it’s neighbor — the recently opened

Raven Tower, was gracious enough to cover a few topics about his new venues and what

else is on the horizon for live music in Houston.


What inspired you to get into the music business, specifically what concert made

you know you wanted to get into this business? 

I have always loved the escapism of live music. It is like a drug that transports you

away from the weights of the day-to-day and infuses you with the energy of the

performance. Some of my favorite music experiences have come outdoors and that was

something I drew on as my inspiration for developing a new venue in Houston. Seeing

shows at the Greek in Berkeley and Stubbs in Austin made me want a place that is

tucked away within our Houston community, where we could all just let our collective

hair down and jam out to good music.


How did this beautiful, scenic property become an opportunity?

I found the property in the late summer of 2013 and the downtown views, natural

topography, and proximity to the bayou all seemed to be conspiring to tell me I had to

pull the trigger. There wasn’t any real imagination required to see the potential as an

outdoor gathering space, it was all there laid out in front of me. Me and my real estate

partner Will Thomas were just fortunate that we were able to tie up enough adjoining

property to make the whole project work, even after adding the 18,000 SF indoor venue

as well.


Tell us about the job fair White oak Music Hall will be hosting in the working class,

Hispanic area near Northside, and how do you see White Oak fitting into the


We have done a ton of work with Super Neighborhood 51 to make White Oak Music Hall a

partnership with the community. We have heard they want a more walkable, safe and lit,

commercial corridor along N. Main. We believe White Oak Music Hall can be an anchor for

this. We have adopted the City of Houston Pedestrian corridor standard (rebuilding all the

sidewalks in the process to make our section of N. Main mirror what has happened along

the rail downtown. In practice this just means wider, landscaped sidewalks and meeting

certain aesthetic criteria for building facades. We are also working with Harris County

Precinct 2, the Houston Parks Board, and the Riverview Foundation to study and build a hike

and bike trail connecting White Oak Bayou and Woodland Park in the Heights to Moody Park

in the Northside via an alignment along Little White Oak Bayou.


The Northside has a powerful current of musical heritage and talent that we hope will help

propel us. We have worked with Eric Jimenez, former band director at Jeff Davis High

school, to support the local music community and are hoping to collaborate on some actual

shows at White Oak here in the near future. For those who like to connect dots, we happen

to be just a block away from the recording studio of world famous Tejano rocker’s La Mafia.

We are proud to have been accepted by the Northside and want to honor their support by

making sure we recognize the talent around us. Check out the paintings of resident artist

Luis Gonzalez in the Raven Tower and the craftsmanship of Kuehn Construction- who moved

their offices to the Northside this year and who have hired many of our neighbors to

perform the work- in the bar building below. As we hire more security, concessionaires, and

other personal for White Oak we will post those openings through a job fair.


What are you currently listening to right now? Any hopes into who will be coming

through to playing White Oak?

This is such a fun question. First off, Jagi and Will T would be making fun of me the minute

I started to answer this. I am always loud and proud about what I love, it’s all over the

map. My core is kind of jam and progressive bluegrass bands: I love Railroad Earth, The

Revivalists, Greensky Bluegrass, Moe, and Trampled by Turtles. My Spotify is also heavy

with Americana/roots rock stars like Jason Isbell, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Drive By

Truckers, Sturgill Simpson, Anders Osborne, Brandi Carlile, and Nicki Bluhm. I also

developed into a big fan of both classic reggae and dub reggae/rock. Surf traveling in

Central America in my twenties infused Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear, Slightly Stoopid, 10 Foot

Ganja Plant, SOJA, and John Brown’s Body into my permanent rotation to name a few.

Finally, as a native Texan I must say my roots are always with country, and I am still never

happier than when outside listening to my some of my favorite music legends like George

Strait, Randy Travis, Merle Haggard, Don Williams, and Robert Earl Keen. I’ve even been

known to dive into a mid-90s country wormhole and tear up to select numbers from Billy

Ray Cyrus and Doug Supernaw.


Really I just love music and I have no idea what sells or what is at the forefront of the scene.

I just enjoy hearing people turn emotion into sound. I have an amazing partner in Jagi who

is out there every day with artists and agents cultivating the music experience at White Oak

Music Hall, so luckily I get to sit back and enjoy the show. I hope all of you will be there with me.