Denton's Strawberry Fields is the New DIY Venue of Choice

Strawberry Fields is more than just some small record store near the westernmost edge of Denton; it's part head shop, part anarchist bookstore, part outtake fromHigh Fidelity too. The storefront is a splashy blue, green and red, and the DVD and CD selections are pure film-buff and rock-geek fare, complemented by an array of classic vinyl reissues shelved on the far wall.

On this night, two Saturdays ago, as on most every Saturday night for the past year, the product racks have been removed to a back room to make way for a performance of local music—on this occasion, it's a clutch of hard-core and noise rock bands. The two-man group Geistheistler appears first and begins their search for a musical note—any note—that they plan to annihilate forthwith as the shirtless, single-minded drummer flails away like Black Flag's Robo channeling Keith Moon. The youngish crowd of 40 or so either stare intently or pound their heads to the ever-shifting tempo—no easy feat—and watch as Geistheistler winds up a 10-minute improvised reconnaissance mission in which they may or may not have destroyed the E chord once and for all. From his nearby perch on the album racks, Iggy Pop seems to look on approvingly from the cover of The Stooges' Raw Power.

The store itself is run by Denton residents Chad Withers and Brendan Carroll, who went from booking about one show a month to once a week after the popular DIY venue Secret Headquarters was suddenly forced to close up shop last year. Now Strawberry Fields has quietly become the DIY venue of choice for both up-and-coming bands like Nouns Group and Kaboom, as well as established acts like Brent Best. But Withers says he wasn't that familiar with Denton music when Strawberry Fields first started booking bands.

"We didn't know too much about the scene, except that it was everywhere," he says.

And yet their efforts have been so successful that they now field an average of three booking requests per day—some now coming from out of state. Meanwhile, the business' popular compilation series Denton Deluxe has featured approximately 60 bands, and the owners are taking submissions for a fourth volume through May 31.

"People here make music because they care about making music," he says. "There's a lot of spontaneity, but no pretense, no competition."

Withers says that outside of his day-job alter ego as a public school theater instructor, "this is pretty much all I do." Catch the DIY spirit yourself at Strawberry Fields' next event on Saturday, April 26, featuring The Heartstring Stranglers, Dust Congress, Last Men and Febrifuge.

 
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