What The Hell Is Happening With The Denton Music Scene These Days?
Festival goers shivered and sought shelter under the tents of various craft breweries at the Canned Festival in Denton this past Saturday.
The day could've been great. Instead, it was just kind of OK.
Saturday was no better. With a high of just 59 degrees (Anchorage, Alaska, by comparison had a high of 48) and a harsh downpour of rain, Mother Nature ruined the day once again.
Worse, there were actually two festivals going down in Denton on this day: In addition to the Canned Festival's two-fer offering of melodic indie music and craft beer taking place just off the square in the Wells Fargo parking lot, a separate, more red dirt-inclined affair called Fry Fest was going down over off Fry Street on Avenue A.
The Canned Festival, an offshoot of Spune Productions' ingenious Untapped Festival brand, was actually fairly charming, with its quaint, Denton-centric twist. Listen: Any type of get-together that features 37 craft brewers and seven bands, including local favorites such as Hares on the Mountain plus Pitchfork darlings including Menomena and The Helio Sequence, is kind of a no-brainer in this town; it's seemingly as surefire way as exists to get hordes of Dentonites and surrounding-other-town-ites to come flocking to this college town with a taste for the bubbling-under. And, to be sure, the Canned Festival did actually draw a large eclectic mix of people (well, in terms of age) to its affair, held right in the heart of everything and anything artsy in Denton.
Fry Fest didn't fare nearly as well. It yielded a very modest attendance. Mostly, heads just kind of peered out of the bars, and a couple of people watched from the pit area. It was a mostly prosaic display. Quite the shame, too: Once upon a time, Fry Street was the music center of this city. These days, in the wake of the Fry Street Fair briefly migrating to Deep Ellum in 2003 and 2004 before going belly-up altogether, it's mostly a dead spot for music reception.
And the future looks even bleaker: Rooftop shows at Cool Beans are a distant memory thanks to the Sterling at Fry Street Apartments, and though there are indeed open mic nights and small acoustic shows hosted at The Garage from time to time, hardly anybody in Denton actually seems to go to The Garage.
Worse, the music scene in Denton as a whole, just isn't wildly exciting these days.
Middling bands from all over the country visit Dan's Silverleaf and Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios from time to time. And Denton's most prized bands — acts that very much deserve the minimal attention they do receive, even if a number of them merit significantly more — play at these venues, too.
35 Denton is awesome, sure. But it's taking the year off in the wake of its main organizers and lead financial backers bolting earlier this year. Meanwhile, though Oaktopia, a new festival upstart set to make its bow in November, looks fairly promising, it too is existing on a fairly small scale in its first year.
Really, the most interesting bills happening in Denton these days come by way of Gutterth Records head and Violitionist Sessions mastermind Michael Briggs' Macaroni Island, whose home plays musical Clark Kent and turns into a venue at night. There's potential promise coming down the pipe thanks to The Hive, a new music venue boasting a 1,000-person capacity, but that venue's new website says it won't be ready for opening until at least early 2014.
There's a desire here — or there seems to be. That we know. This town has long taken pride in its musical identity. And Canned and 35 Denton both seem to further indicate that the city's residents yearn for bigger, more exciting acts coming into town on a regular basis. But ask around and you'll find that, despite the love it receives in the regional press — and it does receive plenty — there are still plenty of folks who have no clue what the hell a 35 Denton is. And year off or not, that entity is arguably be the town's biggest nominal export.
So let's just be frank here: In this immediate snapshot of a moment in 2013, things aren't going too great in the Denton music scene. And the weather? That's just a scapegoat.
Only those who actively seek the laurels of live music are finding it.
I don't really know what the answer is to righting this issue. That, I readily admit. But the first step toward fixing an issue is acknowledging that it needs fixing in the first place.
Well, here goes: In 2013, it appears as if the Denton music scene's in need of some fixing.