Coleman emcees Tacos & Tunes in August. Photo by Kathy Tran.

Oak Cliff live-music night brings the teens to the yard

The parking lot of El Taxqueño taquería fills up, and customers begin finding spots on the street. Some park blocks away.

Inside, teenagers decked out in their Forever 21 and thrift store best, form a long line to the ordering window.

One Saturday night every month, customers slam this neighborhood taquería. Some are parents and grandparents, but most of them are teenagers who gather to play music for one another in the restaurant’s huge backyard.

Ben Coleman put together this event, Tacos & Tunes, in June 2016, and it’s been happening on the first Saturday of every month ever since. It typically draws about 100 people.

The 17-year-old Oak Cliff native began taking guitar and singing lessons several years ago from singer/songwriter Jacob Metcalf, who helped him discover his own talent.

“I really like performing music in front of people,” Coleman says. “There are other open mikes, but there aren’t really any specifically for teenagers.”

So he made his own.

Ben’s mom, Kristi Coleman, says that once her son had the idea to produce a backyard show, he built a small stage out of wooden pallets and crafted a backdrop from part of a broken trampoline. He mowed lawns to raise $550 for a sound system.

The audience of friends and family sometimes numbers as many as 100. Photo by Kathy Tran.

They expected about 20 people to show up the first night, but 80 people came.

Between six and eight kids perform two songs each. There are a lot of Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel covers. Guitarist Emma Kitto, 18, covers “Mermaid Song” and performs an original piece that she wrote about a breakup. There’s a rap duo as well as a trio singing in three-part harmony that comes together nicely in the second verse. Everyone gets the chance to show their stuff.

“It’s a safe environment for them to perform and know that it’s a really supportive environment,” Kristi Coleman says.

Ben emcees the show, and between acts, there are games. For the Hawaiian-themed party in early August, there was a hula-hoop contest and a balloon toss. There also was a homemade slip-and-slide for the little ones. He keeps the schedule on a run sheet, and he hurries about the venue, constantly tugged for questions.

He credits his parents and his 20-year-old sister, Corrie, with hauling everything to the venue and doing most of the setup.

Word of the live-music night for teenagers in Oak Cliff is spreading via social media, and kids are coming from all over the Dallas area.

“It feels so good to have an event, and you see people you don’t know,” Ben says.

His best friend, Benja Daniel, comes from Arlington. He backs up Ben on the drums, and he performs solo on his main instrument, guitar.

“Just this idea of having the community come together,” Benja says. “There’s nothing else like it.”

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