Whether Even They Know It, Fort Worth Has The Best Punk Scene In DFW.
As recently as two years ago, Denton had arguably one of the richest punk scenes in the entire country. In 2010, bands like the Marked Men, Wax Museums, Bad Sports, Fergus & Geronimo, High Tension Wires, Teenage Cool Kids, Drink to Victory, Uptown Bums, Old Snack and Mind Spiders could be found playing in Denton clubs and house venues nearly every weekend. It wasn’t just a secret known only to this region: Between 2003 and 2011 the Portland-based label Dirtnap Records released a total 10 albums from Denton punk bands. Furthermore, on their 2011-released label sampler album, Denton bands were responsible for four of the 11 tracks. For further proof, take into consideration the balloting from the last three Dallas Observer Music Awards. Of the 18 bands nominated in the “punk” category, 10 hailed from Denton and eight came from Dallas.
Oddly enough, no Fort Worth bands were nominated for awards in that category during that period. But things change drastically in Denton from semester to semester. Band members graduate and decide between getting nine-to-fives or moving back to their hometowns.
In some cases, bands such as Fergus & Geronimo moved to the greener pastures of New York. Others, such as Bad Sports, saw portions of the band move to Austin, while at the same time finding enough success to be considered more of a national band, anyway. So, yeah, times change. A couple of weeks ago, when the 35 Denton crew held their fall Hot Wet Mess event, it was interesting to discover that one of the most talked-about after-parties to be held that night — a four-band punk bill at Rubber Gloves — didn’t feature a single Denton band. Even more remarkable, though, was the fact that three of the four bands — Doom Ghost, War Party and Fungi Girls — hailed from Fort Worth. Funny thing is, though, if you ask any of the members of Fort Worth’s growing punk contingent about the growth of their punk scene, even they seem oblivious to it — or at least adamant about the fact that none of what’s going on really constitutes as quote-unquote punk.
“I would say the punk scene is pretty much non-existent in Fort Worth,” says Bitch Bricks bassist Jennifer Rux. “I can’t think of any real punk bands except Stoogephelia. War Party and Doom Ghost along with Bitch Bricks are considered punk by most around here, but I’m not sure that we are punk. Fungi Girls have some hints of punk.”
Adds Bobby McCubbins of Skeleton Coast: “There’s more wizard rock, stoner metal, shoe gaze, [and] psychedelic going on than punk.”
But under the broader umbrella of what the term “punk” is applied to these days (which includes garage rock, lo-fi, and several other subgenres heavily steeped in DIY tradition), Fort Worth can undoubtedly be proclaimed as the richest punk scene in the Metroplex at the moment.
“I think Fort Worth’s counter culture is on the rise in many ways for many reasons,” says the Longshots’ frontman, Joey Gorman. “I would definitely describe Fort Worth as the current main contender in the DFW/Denton punk/garage/DIY scene.”
One thing currently setting Fort Worth’s punk scene apart is a closeness and willingness between the bands to work together.
One gets the sense that the bands in the Fort Worth scene genuinely dig each other’s music.
And not only that, but that they are supremely confident that what they’ve got going on stands completely separate from whatever’s going on in other parts of the Metroplex.
“We certainly have a heavily stacked batting lineup,” Gorman says. “We are lucky to have a scene built upon such positivity. Everybody is down to share a bill with everyone else, any time, not only due to close friendships or a good time, but also due to the faith we all have in each other as musicians and performers.”
As far as War Party, Doom Ghost and Bitch Bricks are concerned, Rux adds: “All three bands are part of Lo-Life Recordings, so we stick together and help each other out. The [Fungi Girls’] bass player lives in our garage apartment out back, and the drummer is my nephew. I recorded and produced their last album and seven-inches in my apartment, and their Pitchfork video was filmed in my alley. So I would say the ‘punk’ scene is very tight knit.”
It certainly helps that the city is home to one of the longest-running DIY venues in the country in 1919 Hemphill.
“1919 Hemphill really is the only venue where anything remotely punk happens in the city,” says Spacebeach frontman Torry Finley. “It’s nationally recognized as a place you have to play if you’re a punk band coming through the South.”
More recently, Hemphill got a second punk-friendly venue. Opened in 2010, the semi-DIY venue The Where House has seen its fair share of well-attended, and often rowdy, underground shows as well.
“I’ve seen shit at The Where House that you won’t ever get in Granada or Dada — people climbing rafters, drunken 3 a.m. dance parties.” Skeleton Coast’s McCubbins says. “When there are 200 people crammed in there, it starts to get intense, especially when the music is loud.”
In other words: Whether or not the bands involved realize it is happening or are even willing to acknowledge its existence, Fort Worth’s punk scene is growing rather rapidly. And other parts of the Metroplex are slowly but surely beginning to realize as much.
For their part, Fort Worth will be well-prepared for that acknowledgment to come.
“This town is done with being insular,” McCubbins says. “We’re ready.”