Snacks, Beer, and Rock Shows
Snacking on zebra cakes in between sips of the cheapest craft beer you could afford. Reverberating off the wall are the garage-rock sounds of your friend’s band as you wonder if there is merch you can buy to keep supporting local. This could be you on a weekend night at Midway Craft House, one of the “oddball” spots daring to be an anti-venue when it could purely be a convenience store.
In the beginning of 2016, manager Shaun Tapia was open to experimenting with the Midway Mart’s second location on Hickory and Welch. On the recommendation of Rahim Dewji, shelving was removed to accommodate a space that could host bands looking for a place to play. At the time, J&J's Basement and Rubber Gloves were diverse venues willing to support the creative community in Denton. By the time they closed, Dewji was running full steam ahead in booking shows at MCH.
No PA and no prior experience in booking shows? No problem. Dewji is a lover of music who is promoting the growth of an inclusive venue through sheer will.
Dewji fondly recalls the ‘90s, when bands had several places to play amongst the Fry Street bars and restaurants (rooftop shows at Cool Beans, anyone?). That was the decade when Fry Street Fair’s music experience grew rapidly as they were able to book Built to Spill in their prime while catering to various levels of homegrown bands. Dewji was there in the thick of it getting to interview Reverend Horton Heat for NTTV (UNT’s TV station), and asking to help carry equipment for the Toadies.
If you don’t know who those bands are, that’s okay. That’s why Google exists (search “Mexican Hairless” for The Toadies).
It’s not just about being a place for bands to play. When Midway Craft House has a show, it’s a place for people under 21 to hang out. Denton isn’t lacking in bars and family-friendly experiences, but it is seriously lacking in safe hangout spots for adolescents and young adults who aren’t of age to drink alcohol (or for those who may prefer a space that’s full of sober people who haven’t left their wits in the bottom of a bottle.).
“I remember when I was underage and it was hard to find things to do in this town. Not all the shows were all-ages. I’d be sitting in the dorms with my friends and we’d get bored out of our minds,” says Dewji. They can’t buy beer, but there is plenty of soda, juice, and snacks for those kids to buy. If the band happens to be in the way of a product that someone wants (they do play by the condom section), they’ll be happy to hand over whatever a customer needs.
Thin Skin drummer César Velasco is a big supporter as both a musican and a fan of local music. Velasco says, “What the Craft House is doing that other venues around seem to lack, at least in my eyes, is their willingness to foster and listen to the needs of a community that has been a strong supporter of their business.” Velasco sees a staff that is attentive to everyone who comes into the store, whether they're an artist or not. He recognizes the effort carve out a respectful space that is open to any kind of person. MCH has also been open to almost any genre, so long as the performers aren't the kind that will wreak havoc on the store's items. They've hosted rock, jazz, blue-grass, hip-hop, comedy sets, and spoken word.
Dewji is making this happen without much experience in talent buying. He has a genuine love for supporting the artist community. Velasco adds, “He [Rahim] has such a great touch with everyone he meets… The first thing you notice about him is that he remembers almost everything about the last conversation he had with you! He is full of ideas and loves his community.”
Dewji says, “Without the community, there is no Midway.” He’s a regular guy in town, not a businessman. Thanks to him and the support of Midway Mart management, they are steadfast in proving you can succeed with an open-minded approach to music bookings.
Photos by Mateo Granados, Michael Briggs, and Emily Cline
Video by César Velasco
Header image design by Jason Lee