Occupying his porch and armed with a clove cigarette, platinum-haired Cade Bundrick sinks back into his lounge chair. He gets to take it easy today, as his home sits silently. Behind him stands a headless mannequin wearing a blazer adorned with buttons, as if standing guard at the door. The house itself — the location of which is kept carefully guarded — is recessed in a nook off the road and holds no hint that on the right day it transforms into a haven for the Denton punk scene.
Bundrick is the sole original tenant of Gatsby's Mansion, a DIY punk house venue in Denton that hosts, in Bundrick's words, three to 15 shows a month featuring local and touring acts. The other four tenants of the five-bedroom house have rotated since the venue's inception about a year ago.
The DIY part means that when Bundrick and his roommates host a show, there's zero profit being skimmed off the top. Any charges at the door go into the pockets of the touring band to support their travel and living expenses. All the tenants of the house foot the bills for the electricity and air conditioning, which Bundrick says can escalate quickly, but they never take money away from the bands playing.
The whole ideology — although Bundrick is leery of using that, or any other, label — centers around the fact that touring bands just want to play shows and get by. The community of punk music and all related genres emphasizes camaraderie and abstaining from using shows as a means of making money off one another
"People come here to meet people," he says. "Regardless of what kind of music they play, we get to meet bands who just aren't from Texas. We've met tons of people and made friends just by having this place for people to come."
Resources like DoDIY.org connect bands and venues like Gatsby's, with the tacit agreement to generally be decent people and respect the venue. In addition to giving bands a place to play, Gatsby's also provides a place to crash for the night and at least one meal during their stay.
The inside of the house is unassuming. It looks like you'd expect a house with five twenty-something guys living in it to look like — until you find the door to the garage. The door and the actual garage itself have as much padding as an insane asylum to keep it all as soundproofed as possible, and it currently houses various pieces of gear from Bundrick's band the Earth Dies Screaming, which just finished up a tour.
As far as noise complaints, Bundrick says they've had about 10 shows shut down and had a few warnings, but they're more cautious now than they once were. He makes sure that shows wrap up at 11 and he even does decibel readings from a distance outside the house to make sure they're in the clear.
The venue hit its stride after hosting Gatsby's Winter Ball, a makeshift festival that used the house's garage as a main stage and living room as a second stage. There were 18 bands that played across the two stages and Bundrick said it brought a full awareness of what Gatsby's could be.
In helping run the house and meeting hundreds of bands, Bundrick realized that what's happening at DIY shows is unlike anything else that's out there. "When people talk about the 'underground punk scene,' 20, 30 years ago, this is it," he says, pointing to the house. "It's about harboring a community with everyone around you, with the people that you know and the music that you love."
Bundrick says he's even seen people who were homeless or living on the street for two or three years brought back to their feet through living with friends, playing shows and getting day jobs. "These guys get in my garage and they put on a show," he says. "It's for people who want to play music."
Bundrick says that what he's seen and experienced in Denton isn't just catering to locals. "I've heard the spirit and the emotion that comes out of my friends, I've heard the music these people can make," he says.
The house has hosted bands from all over the U.S. and even far-flung corners of the world, including Japan and New Zealand.
Touring bands that come through do so because they've heard about Denton's scene and its support for DIY bands and events. "I know that it's good outside of us knowing about it," he says. "There's a lot of great things happening around here. Especially in Denton."
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The venue's namesake is less of a literary allusion and more an homage to Bundrick's giant, fluffy dog, whom he named Gatsby more for the liking of the name than the character. When he was home in Houston during Easter break, Bundrick went to help his father with work for the day, and when he came back he was horrified to see Gatsby had drowned in the backyard.
Bundrick says his dog was kind and always took to anyone who approached him. In that way, naming the venue Gatsby's Mansion was more than fitting, and Bundrick employs a similar welcoming nature to anyone who plays or wants to hear music to come together at the house.
Though his current home is an adopted one, he says that Denton has accepted him and his friends in their music, and he hopes to continue turning it around and doing the same for others.
"I've been living here. I make music here. I plan to live here after college," he says. "I think that what happens here in Denton is really special. And I'm lucky I got to meet the people to get this started."