Vice Palace Tapes Brings Warehouse Rock to Denton

DIY label Vice Palace Tapes is coming to an end, but the spirit of Arthur Peña’s personal project will live on to fill any 4-walled space with the sound of expressive music often ignored by mainstream interests. The first (and last) VPT show in Denton wasn’t without its quirks, but it served as a reminder that rock 'n' roll will exist wherever this town demands it exists.


On Saturday November 5th, Brick Haus was sparsely populated as Dracla and his band took the stage to present gloomy garage rock. Their music presented an open invite to commiserate in the sadness of Vice Palace’s so-called doom as the warehouse was kept in nearly complete darkness. Dracla maintained a moody character as he yelled, “Silence!” as the applause rang out after the first song.

Dracla is currently traveling with a fellow St. Louis counterpart called Shitstorm. The crowds poured in late during Shitstorm’s set which was the talk of the evening after they finished a rocking set of post-punk music. They’re destined to come back through Denton and find a comfortable spot in a more traditional venue. There is something special about them that's hard to define with pretty words.

At this point, minimal lighting was provided through 2 LED lights that were not kind to any eyes that looked at them directly. Shitstorm frontman Matt Stutler joked that he was seeing blotches after accidentally looking into one as he stepped up to the mic. The dimness didn’t matter to the videographer diligently getting his shots in for what could turn out to be a documentary on the Vice Palace experience.


The rest of the evening was reserved for local bands Pearl Earl, ABACABA, and The Dead Mockingbirds (of Dallas). After experiencing the Dead Mockingbirds' performance for the first time, I can’t imagine there being any way I skip their set when they come back through for F.U.C.K. Fest next weekend. They’re the kind of band that makes you wonder why the fuck you're standing still at a rock show once you see how much they enjoy their own music. 

Also, if you care about the lighting situation, the Dead Mockingbirds played with the warehouse lights on. Everyone has their own preferences to lighting, right?

The desired treat of the evening was the opportunity to buy the split cassette tapes featuring a live recording of Pearl Earl and ABACABA at Aqua Lab Sound Recording. Unfortunately, the first run of 25 tapes was accidentally sent to Pennsylvania. Peña was happy to take orders for when the shipment is corrected. Eventually, 50 more tapes will be produced and distributed evenly between the featured bands. 

As disappointed as one may have been about not having one of those tapes, it was more than worth it to see each band continue rocking out Brick Haus late through the night. Daylight Savings was coming up and there was no reason to let up. ABACABA was playing with a fresh new drummer still getting used to knowing the parts of their songs. However, their performance included the iconic image of the night as frontman Ben Copeland stepped behind the band to allow his shadow to appear giant against the back wall. The shadow was a reminder that even when things die, the spirit of what is established lives on to influence the creative scene in the future.

The evening ended with the superheroes of Denton, Pearl Earl. The two main lights turned troublesome again as there was some difficulty with being able to see due to the lights being placed on the floor. They played with the lights on and powered through a set that by now should be observed as one of the greatest experiences in Denton. They’re one of those bands you catch every single performance because you can’t see them enough times. 

Vice Palaces Tapes will have three more shows to celebrate the end (the final one is Nov. 18th). As Vice Palace goes down, Arthur Peña promises he’s working on a groovy new project that continues to reinforce the underground art and music scene in the Metroplex. This reviewer strongly recommends you catch a show to buy any remaining tapes and shirts. Vice Palace is a great thing to have happened in Dallas because of how the tapes document what Speed Levitch calls, “the ongoing wow that is happening right now.”

Pearl Earl
The Dead Mockingbirds

Photos by Mateo Granados
Header image designed by Brittany Keeton