Fort Worth's 1919 Hemphill may not be old enough to hang with the cool kids who can buy music with the "Parental Warning" stickers on them. However, they still can attract the attention of bands and musicians who need a welcoming place to play.
The performance art space opened its doors back in 2002, running purely on private donations and volunteer support. Eleven years later, those doors are still wide open and the space is still filled with people looking to put their finger on the pulse of the local music scene. Tonight, they celebrate that anniversary with a special two-day series of live shows.
Friday's show will feature an all "hardcore and metal" lineup with Humanerror, The Sentenced, Big Fiction, Pulled Under, Night Crimes, Deadtooth and downpour followed by a "Poppy/Twinkly Stuff" show on Saturday with New Science Projects, Innards, Two Knights, Not Half Bad, Half Truths, Anger House, Genius Party and I'm Clark Kent. The shows will also offer "new merch" to raise money for the space as part of their annual fundraiser as well as many other "funtivities" that are still in the works.
Over the years, the space has not only become a safe proving ground for new bands who need a place to play live, but it has also become a hub for volunteers looking to build up DFW's music scene in a constructive and fulfilling way. Christopher Cotter started going to shows at 1919 Hemphill more than six years ago back when he thought "listening to Ben Folds and The White Stripes was unique."
He said the first live show he saw there opened his eyes to a catalog of bands and shows he never would have discovered on his own.
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"The first performance I ever saw there was Space Beach, Star Commander, Two Nights and there was another band called Those Damn Kids that played," Cotter says. "That was the first show I ever saw and what immediately happened was that I began releasing endorphins or whatever and I really liked it. I thought it was pretty tight. I would go back periodically, like basically when my friends played, and I found a favorite band that played there, Two Nights. They started playing more shows in their house and it kind of grew on me. It was a place of my own. That place was somewhere that no matter what was going in my life. I could always go to Hemphill and have a good time."
Volunteer Eric Castel described his first venture to 1919 Hemphill as "nerve-racking" at first but he found the place to be very warm and welcoming, which was quite a change from the Cannibal Corpse-playing venues at the time that seemed to dominate the Deep Ellum music scene.
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"[1919 Hemphill] was the complete opposite," he said. "I would go and see Stymie and the Nitch Pickings and once I saw those two bands, I fell in love with the place and knew it had so much to offer so I'd try to encourage other people to come out and show their unique bands."
Cotter said there's no big secret to 1919 Hemphill's longevity and success. It is a music venue that puts the focus where it belongs: on the band.
"The coolest part is that it's so communal. I think organic is the proper term," he said. "[The bands weren't] playing to get girls or free drinks at the bar. They were selfish. They want to play for themselves."