“Best Music Scene.” It’s a slightly absurd claim and unprovable to boot.
But before you fire off that missive defending [insert your city here] as more vital and creative than Denton, allow me to refine the argument: Denton, Texas, is simply the paradigm of a healthy music community.
Denton is overrun with artists. With 100+ acts and only 62 square miles
inside the city limits, that’s more than one-and-a-half artists per
square mile. The Grand Pooh-Bah of Denton bands, Brave Combo, is in
many ways the template from which all the rest are cut: eclectic and
artistically ambitious, with a high degree of musicianship and a strong
Denton is a town where artists can live cheaply and refine their
creative intuitions. Midlake had played together for seven
years—redefining its musical vision many times—before breakthrough
album The Trials of Van Occupanther. And you can hear Record Hop
guitarist Scott Porter’s jagged deconstruction of Jimmy Page riffology
slowly materializing from the straightforward metal punishment of his
former band The Fabulous Badasses to its full, staggering maturity on
his current group’s new Steve Albini-engineered album. Doug Burr’s
masterful On Promenade came after years of soaking up Dylan, Blind
Willie Johnson and Greil Marcus. Denton is a music community that
incubates talent rather than ratcheting up market pressure.
But none of this would be possible without the music enthusiasts
who devote countless hours, often pro bono, promoting gigs, organizing
festivals, putting together house shows, running labels and managing
studios. Thanks to Mwanza Dover’s Melodica Music Festivals, venue
owners like Dan Mojica and Josh Baish, production companies like
Gutterth, venues like J&J’s Pizza and Strawberry Fields record
store, community-minded studios like The Echo Lab—DIY is not just a
hackneyed acronym in Denton—it’s an ethos of community and hard work
that’s been sustained for over two decades.
To help you begin exploring this fertile scene, we’ve compiled the
following list of 10 noteworthy Denton bands and solo artists:
The Baptist Generals
Somewhere in the vicinity of Daniel Johnston’s
bedazzled innocence and Jeff Mangum’s death-haunted poetry lies Chris
Flemmons’ shambolic, surrealist folk.
The Baptist Generals on MySpace
Reborn from the remains of Slobberbone, Denton elder
statesman Brent Best’s ensemble pulls cowpunk, power pop and a heavy
dose of Crazy Horse into a paint-peeling wall of sound.
The Drams on MySpace
Ashley Cromeens’ menacing feminine howl creates a subversive
tension with the rhythm section’s low-end ballast. What Joe Carducci
called “The Heavy,” Record Hop has bottled and kept locked in a closet
near its rehearsal space.
Record Hop on MySpace
Ryan Thomas Becker drives this duo with slashing, blues-inflected,
post-punk guitar work, propelled by Grady Don Sandlin’s MG’s-redolent
RTB2 on MySpace
In a town as DIY as Denton, Ian MacKaye had to make his
musical presence felt somewhere—Last Men carry the Minor Threat/Fugazi
torch with tightly controlled dynamics and larynx-shredding pride.
This band’s smart, winsome, infectious power punk sounds
something like The Ramones fronted by Babe the pig. You heard it here
Fishboy on MySpace
Kansas native Issac Hoskins landed in Denton five years ago
to save “Texas Music” from itself, and he may actually pull it off. The
Heelers’ muscular rhythm section puts a Bob Mould-y edge to Hoskins’
The Heelers on MySpace
Like fellow Texan Jolie Holland, Jaffe is blessed with both
a trenchant lyrical pen and a vocal instrument perfectly suited to
mainlining her effortlessly crafted, heartbroken tunes straight to the
Sarah Jaff on MySpace
The best track on Burr’s 2007 release On Promenade is always
the one you just listened to, but if you want a chilling experience,
read up on the Graniteville, S.C., train disaster while listening to
Burr’s song about it.
Doug Burr on MySpace