By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Two things integral to the fabric of a city that is both a college town and a music town are pizza places and small music venues. J&J's Pizza, located on the Square, is an old Denton haunt where you can see 5-year-olds eating pizzas with their moms, local musicians and producers on their lunch breaks or, depending on the time of day, a basement full of sweaty young Dentonites watching their friends' band play.
For years, J&J's as a music venue has had a reputation as a place that didn't have the greatest sound.
"Before, the PA used to cut out and you could never hear vocals," says Dallas Shaheen, guitarist for Denton's Stymie. "I remember playing and I could hear the crowd singing louder than the vocals."
The previous sound system consisted of one old Custom speaker hanging from the ceiling, pointed toward the center of the room.
"The bands didn't really like it, I guess," says Niles Conditt, who has been in charge of sound at J&J's for the past three years. "With the speaker how it was before, we had a lot of issues because the microphones would feedback real easy."
Fortunately for the venue and all the bands that play there, a new era of sound has come upon J&J's. Mere weeks ago, Conditt was finally able to talk the owner into getting a new PA system.
"I was getting really annoyed with the feedback issues, and I finally told the owner, 'Hey, you should probably get new speakers,'" Conditt says. Soon thereafter, McBride Music & Pawn next door provided them a good deal on two brand-new 15-inch Peavy Black Widow speakers.
The upgrade doesn't necessarily put the venue on par with a sound system like Hailey's, but it's a far cry from a single old PA speaker pointed back at the stage.
"Now we have a speaker on the left side and the right side of where the band plays, and they're facing forward," Conditt says. "It sounds a lot clearer and more full, and I can get it louder without feedback issues."
Another positive result for the venue is that with improved sound, more bands are willing to play there.
"I think people like it a lot better—they've noticed the difference," Conditt says. He says he has already noticed an increase in the number of bookings as word of the new PA system spreads, and he's already heard praise for the improved sound.
Shaheen, who played at J&J's on November 23 and also the previous week, says the difference is noticeable. "I did notice a difference because I could actually hear everybody singing."