In Retrospect: Denton's First Music Town Hall

In the wake of so many venue closures, Dentonites have been collectively stewing (whether publicly or privately) for months. Last night, Christopher Kent Cotter of Ft. Worth’s 1919 Hemphill hosted Denton’s first music town hall: an informal town hall-style meeting where citizens and visitors alike were encouraged to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas about the increasingly distressing venue shortage in town.

Photo by Ed Steele

The meeting began around 6 PM at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center. Cotter organized a formidable panel for the discussion, including Chris Flemmons (Founder, 35 Denton); Michael Briggs (Civil Recording & Macaroni Island); Robb Buttrum (Local activist & member of FILTH & Terminator 2); Josh Baish (Owner of Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios); Dr. Michael Seman (UNT Economics Research Group & member of Shiny Around the Edges); Eric Pulido (Paschall Bar, Barley & Board, and member of Denton-based Midlake); Dallas Guill (GDAC); Matt Farmer (Booking for J&J’s Pizza); Keldrick Scott (Owner of Gitmo Music); and The Dentonite’s very own Sara Button. Panel members gave short introductory statements and shared their personal opinions on the venue issue.

For the next three and a half hours, Cotter busied himself with passing microphones to concerned attendees. The topics of conversation were varied and wide-ranging, but much of the meeting’s focus centered on the importance of a DIY scene for local youth, the issue of rising real estate costs and property values, perceived City Council cronyism, and the possibility of DIY-friendly/all-ages venues on the horizon. Citizens were given the majority of the available speaking time while the panel diligently answered questions as they came forth. 

Several folks had ideas and suggestions. Dr. Seman suggested the formation of a Music Council to meet with our City Council on a semi-regular basis. He suggested that a council similar to the Austin Music Commission could be formed. Their website describes the Austin Music Commission as a group that "advises City Council on local music industry and development issues. Duties are advisory and include: studying the development of the music industry, assisting in the implementation of programs to meet the needs created by the development of the industry; and review matters that may affect the music industry in Austin." We would like that very much, please and thank you. 

Neal Smatresk, President of the University of North Texas, was in attendance and talked about UNT's Collab, an innovative space that will be opening in 2017. The Collab will inhabit the space that Sack & Save formerly occupied. "It was going to be called the Collab Lab, but now it will be called the Collab," Smatresk said. "It will have pop-up restaurants and do a lot of other fun things. A big arts scene and what I hope for—and what I think will provide—a fusion of creativity and technology. I'd suggest that it, at least on a limited level, is another place for freedom of expression. Something for bands, groups, and creative energy to meet."

Andi Harman introduced the new co-op she is working with, called HEARD. Per a Facebook post from their page last night, the founding members of this group are Jasmine Blake, Kat Boyer, Elle Frejyalune, Andi Harman, Sashenka Lopez, Jade Wells, and Petra Wilde. "HEARD is a small cooperative of women/non-binary arts & music activists in Denton, Texas working to amplify your voice and give you a space in the community," the post says. "HEARD is anyone who feels like they can't speak up." 

There were two deputy voter registrars in attendance last night who helped register 13 Denton residents to vote. Thank you to Paulo Castillo & Jennifer Lane for encouraging our citizens to get out there and vote!

Photo by Ed Steele

Despite some speculation online regarding the town hall’s efficacy, the meeting was a very productive event. After everything wrapped up, the remaining attendees chatted and made plans to organize further at a later date. (There were even a couple of laughs, especially when Fishboy’s Eric Michener pretended to usurp Cotter’s role as moderator by temporarily stealing a microphone.)

During his closing statement, Cotter asked the crowd whether these meetings should happen on a semi-regular basis. Such an opportunity seems very likely, and—if last night’s turnout was any indication—necessary.

We were Live Tweeting throughout the meeting last night, and a lot of people joined in the discussion online! Check out the feed below and keep the conversation going. #DentonMusicTownHall

The Dentonite provided a video coverage of last night's event via our Facebook Live feed. Here is the first of three videos. :

Eight minutes during our technical difficulties.. hehe

And the last 2 hours..