Denton is Not Dying, It's Changing
Denton has had a rough pass at 2016 so far. It seems just as we are picking up the pieces from the last grenade something else is set to detonate. I hate to sound over dramatic, so let me explain.
The year began with Hailey’s Club closing, a venue that saw the likings of Band of Horses, Astronautalis, Why?, Crystal Castles, Nada Surf, and the Arcade Fire in it’s time. Hailey’s had a 12-year run before closing their doors after the final show on December 31, 2015. The space is now a barcade concept called Game Changers that is attached to Dusty’s Bar & Grill. Hailey’s was an 18+ venue.
In March we mourned the loss of Banter Bistro, as it had closed one year ago to the month. Banter served Denton for 15 years as a staple coffee-and-bagel joint right off the square. Not only could you go in for a cup of coffee or a cold beer, you could catch a weekly open mic night or even regularly scheduled shows. The space is now 940’s Kitchen & Cocktails, a restaurant owned by local musician McKenzie Smith. Banter was a one-of-a-kind spot; you’d know it if you had ever been there. Banter was an all ages venue, as it was also a restaurant.
In May I thought I was damn nearly going to lose my mind. Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios announced they would be closing their doors officially in June. And they did. Rubber Gloves opened in 1997 as a rehearsal studio space for local bands to practice and turned into a haven for all of the kids who “didn’t belong” at other venues - the DIY musicians that local businesses scoffed at. Aside from being the local venue to cut your teeth at, Gloves saw some of the biggest names that have ever come through Denton. Death Cab for Cutie, Boris, Modest Mouse, At the Drive In, Vic Chesnutt, and dozens more. Rubber Gloves was an all ages venue.
And now the basement at J&J’s. As announced via Facebook on Saturday, J&J’s building owner Jaime Ham has lost access to the basement portion of the establishment. Even before Joe & Jaime turned an old Gatti’s Pizza into our beloved J&J’s Pizza 15 years ago, the basement existed and presented Denton music heads with a taste of touring and local DIY music. The creaky ol’ basement has been hosting shows since ‘94 and was one of the first places in downtown Denton to do so. J&J’s basement was (and still will be until this Saturday!) an 18+ venue.
That’s a lot.
The venues are dying but the music scene is not. The talent is still here, there are just not enough venues to support the need. We lost half of our town’s music venues within the last year. We are desperate for some smaller but great music venues, especially those that cater to the 18+ crowd.
There will always be house shows, and there has been an abundance of new house show venues popping up, helping alleviate the constant rotation of touring and local bands in need of playing their music in front of people.
Denton will always have music festivals. We know Arts & Jazz and Blues Fest are givens every year and it looks like (hopefully) Oaktopia will be as well. There are always random pop-up shows at different businesses and friends houses, too.
Denton’s music scene will never die because the artists will always be here. The musicians will always be here. The people who make the music, create the art, write the stories, take the photos, cook the food - we are all here. Even if you take some of the key players out, the scene still exists. Even if I leave, you leave - all of our friends leave - the scene still exists. It’s just in the hands of other folks. It is run by those who want to be a part of it.
Y’all remember that fine arts University down the road, UNT? It’s not going anywhere. It’s Grammy winning jazz band won’t cease to exist, the school won’t magically stop teaching music and attracting music lovers to Denton.
Just because the scene isn’t what it was when you were younger doesn’t mean it does not exist. Denton is not dying, it’s just changing, and change isn’t always bad. We just have to be a little more creative with how we utilize our music scene until the venue gods bless us with some more spaces.