15 Denton Bands to Keep on Your Radar in 2016

Shaina Sheaff

Shaina Sheaff

February has started off with a bang, and we want to make sure your local music selection is staying fresh. Regardless if you’ve been in Denton for 30 years or just 3 months, you have to try pretty hard to avoid the live music scene here. In a town brimming with talented musicians, how can you keep up? I mean, how can you.. please share your secrets.

Between the cyclical DIY house show venue circuit, OG venues and the newer ones too, all the music festivals, secret shows, random buskers, and even the random-ass food venues now hosting live music, too - I’d say Denton’s music scene is on fire. One might even say, it’s the place to be right now.

We’ve compiled a list of 15 Denton musicians (in no particular order) that should be on your playlists, radars, and schedules to see live as soon as possible. Buy their albums, mixtapes, merch, whatever you can get your hands on right now.


Wesley Jensen
Wesley Jensen has not only music running through his veins, but also beer. Well, metaphorically of course. Son of a beer distributor, he knew he’d eventually be pulled into his family business. More than that, though, Jensen is a musician. His 2007 EP Pirates and Cowboys  eventually led him touring with Texas band Eisley. Jensen has also released two other full length albums since. Jensen left his rad beer job, sunny California, and he & his family packed up and moved to Denton. Thankfully he has brought his musical offerings along with him. The California transplant, husband, and father of three was recently featured on Paste Magazine with one of his new songs from his upcoming 2016 album release, Memos. The album was appropriately titled, as he wrote most of the songs on the ‘Memos’ app on his phone. Sara Button

Jessie Frye
Jessie Frye has a been a staple female musician in Denton for years, and this blustering beauty has so much in store for her fans in the year to come. Her live shows are like no other -- imagine a high energy, gothly-clad powerhouse pouring all of her emotion into each song she delivers. When you’re at a Jessie Frye show, you damn well know it. This woman lives and breathes her work, and we don’t expect anything less than fabulous for what's to come for her in 2016, which has  started off with a beer endorsement from local brewers, Noble Rey Brewing. Boss Bitch is a pecan porter, fermented with raspberries and cherries. Uh, yes please. She’ll also be playing this year's Thin Line Film Fest (the music part, duh) so don’t miss her on February 21. SB

Heavy Baby Sea Slugs
Noisy, sludgy, drone, metal are all words that could be used to describe Denton's very own band of aliens, the Heavy Baby Sea Slugs. Formed in 2013, HBSS recently wrapped up a two week tour in Japan. Their latest album, 1950DA, is ultimately 60 minutes of crushing emptiness and their live shows are smoke fueled and driven by crushing riffs. Do not expect to see Denton's world travelers playing many shows around town in the coming months, so if you randomly happen to see them on a bill – don't miss it! You can purchase their music at Recycled Books and on their bandcamp as well. Jessica Edecker

AV The Great
If AV the Great isn't already on your radar, we’re not sure where you’ve been. Currently nominated for “Slept On Male Artist of The Year” by The SCM Awards (voting is still open), we can't think of a more appropriate award for this innovative hip hop artist who's been working tirelessly to help make a name for the Denton hip hop scene for years. After flying to NYC to accept an award for Best Southern Underground Rapper from the Underground Music Awards, receiving a nod from Timbaland, and being asked to work with well-known producer Velly last year, we're just waiting for that moment when the rest of the world loves him as much as we do. You might know him as Chris Cole over at K104 or recognize him from his work with Thin Line Film Festival as a talent booking agent for their expanding music offerings, but it's the raw energy of his live shows that you'll never forget. "I'm a motherfucking fighter" he spits on "Lucille Cooper," and it's true. This lifelong Dentonite is one of the most driven, dedicated, and genuine artists we've ever met. Catch him during Thin Line this year. Shaina Sheaff

Criminal Birds
If you haven’t checked these guys out and are in need of a resolution for 2016, we’ve got one for you: download or livestream all of Criminal Birds’ material and proceed to have a psyche-dynamic day. This Flower Mound grown and Denton-based 4 piece is popping with some of the most intricately executed tunes we’ve come across these past few years. With vocals on par with Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala and infectious melodies that hang around the old cerebrum for days, you simply can’t, or won’t, shake these guys off your radar any time soon. Danielle Longueville

Gas House Smitty
Gas House Smitty is a rapper from South East Denton, and he’s been staying busy since his last mixtape Gas House Bunkin hit Denton last October. Smitty definitely has the crowds going ‘Rambo’ when he’s on stage, and it seems he’s been going pretty ‘Rambo’ himself because the rapper be dropping a new mixtape on March 4 called Tha Re-Up. You can hear a lot of his music on Soundcloud, and I’d personally suggest following his Twitter to find out when he’s playing next.  SB

Claire Morales
This folky babe from Denton delivers thoughtful songs and has been for some time now. Morales has recently linked up with local artist Daniel Markham to record their project, Harmonies in Hell that came out last Halloween. Her debut solo album, Amaranthine came out last February as is a tranquil tracking of musing ditties. She will be releasing another collaborative project later this Spring with Jena Pyle, called Wrong Ones. SB

Thin Skin
Thin Skin began playing live shows over the summer and word of their quirky, feminine, punk rock sound spread quickly among show goers and organizers alike. Since diving into the Denton music scene, Thin Skin has performed all over the DFW, as well as taken on an entire West Coast tour. Katie Reese (guitar), Ashley Givens (bass), and Cesar Velasco (drums) are a high energy trio with a powerful punch and lyrical content driven to face sociopolitical issues head on. Thin Skin's next show is on Valentine's Day at Pink Cactus in Denton. JE

Elijah Heaps
Experimental artist, Elijah Heaps’ EP Sleepytime Soliloquies came out late last spring and is full of 6 quite unique tracks that helped introduce his music on a larger level to Denton listeners. Heaps is constantly creating music. In fact he has been working with Nikolai Rya on recording a couple tracks. He does all of his own recording, mixing, mastering, and he makes his own beats as well. Heaps is currently working on a new project that he says is neither a mixtape nor an album, and is due to release at the end of February, called The Efflorescence.” You can catch Heaps at the “Fuck Love” show at Sprocket's Bicycles & Coffee Shop on February 13th. SB

Dome Dwellers
Math rock never sounded so good, y’all. They may not be new to the scene, but their eccentric instrumentation sure is. With every erratic, percussive flow, every distorted pang of hand-crafted stylizing, Dome Dwellers are constantly throwing unique sounds our way and we just can’t get enough. Lead vocalist Michael Slack is a man of innovation with vocal and guitar styling that remind us of earlier Animal Collective, but with a secret ingredient curated through collaboration. Though they’re fresh off their first West American tour, we can only hope to catch them at a show sooner rather than later.

Also, someone please tell Don Cabo to come back and make it official, we miss all fifteen of their beautiful faces. (see: David Gore, drummer of Dome Dwellers.) DL

Fun Button
Fun Button exhumes this air of Sad Boy meets sweet Rock n Roll meets Weezer meets...you get the idea. Their genre isn’t fixed, and for these guys it’s a great thing. With countless shows over the past year and a multitude already set for 2016, these guys are truly some hard working son of a guns with a passion for playing and a reputation of excellent showmanship. Their lyrical content is swoon-worthy, so ladies – and gents – prepare yourself. Come for the music, stay to meet some musicians who won’t turn their nose up to a new fan. DL

Kaela Sinclair
Coming out of a super-progressive 2015, Kaela Sinclair’s 2016 is already off to a viral start. The dream-pop vocalist and pianist recently recorded a cover of SOHN’s “Artifice” on her phone and posted it to her Facebook page to get no less than approximately five billion views (read: currently at 206,800+ views). In 2015 Sinclair released a couple new singles from her upcoming 2016 summer release, but plans on dropping a couple more singles between now & then for our listening pleasure. SB

With barely a year of performance time under their belt, this band of prog rock compadres has already laid some pretty solid footwork in the DFW music scene, including not one, but two sets at local festival Oaktopia, and recently one of the first metal shows to pass through the doors of normally low-key Dan’s Silverleaf. Their sound is rampant with empowering riffs and even heavier vocals, heavy enough to rouse a deaf baby at the bottom of a cave. Yeah, that heavy. Grab their debut album Voyager online on Spotify, iTunes or Google Play and proceed to rage. DL

Slackbeat is a combination of experimental no wave, spoken word, performance art, and skronk guitar. Their live performances are fun to watch and they will enslave you with their unique sound. Between Denton, Dallas, and Austin, Slackbeat are regulars in the live music circuit. Catch them this weekend at Crown and Harp in Dallas, or when they play 1912 Club in Fort Worth on February 12. JE

Masa Lopez
Masa Lopez is a hip hop artist from Denton with two projects under his belt, Blindsided and Breaking Bread, with a new mixtape currently in the works. Masa Muzik is set to release later this Spring and he plans on touring the upcoming album as well. Lopez collaborated with several artists and has recently worked with Rasheed, an artist from South Park Mexican’s label Dope House. SB