About a month and a half ago, I took my first-ever trip to Denton. Mainly, I just wanted to see what all the big fuss was about.
There was a lot I didn't understand. I mean, sure, it's a college town, so it's bound to attract creative types and young 'uns, but, c'mon, what made Denton think it was so special? I kept hearing about how "cool" its music scene was. Why? If it's so "cool," why don't its acts come down to play the "big city" clubs more regularly? Were they scared of the drive? Were they nervous about trying to crack into a new market? Were they just pretentious assholes who didn't really care one way or the other?
Honestly, I couldn't pretend to understand any of that.
And yet, somehow, in my first trek up Interstate 35, I managed to find an audience. After exchanging a handful of e-mails earlier in the week, I found myself lodged inside Dan's Silver Leaf on a Wednesday night, conversing—drunkenly—with a rotating cast of Denton musicians.
Honestly, I lost count of how many stopped by the table I sat at. But there were plenty of them. And it kind of overwhelmed me: Really? This many people had nothing better to do than to indulge my petty curiosities?
Then we got to talking. Turns out the crowd had their motives too. Specifically, they wanted to know why I was even bothering to inquire about them—seems no one from the Dallas Observer really had in a while. Given that their town's less than an hour's drive north of Dallas, given that it's the home of the storied University of North Texas jazz program and given that it's been cranking out an incredible slew of noteworthy acts of late—Midlake, Ghosthustler and Doug Burr to name a few—they didn't understand why they weren't getting any love from Dallas' print media.
I didn't really have any answers for them. Oh, sue me—I was too new to town at that point to answer.
Luckily, though, they were able to answer some of my questions. Chris Flemmons of the Baptist Generals spoke at length about how his Denton pride kept him content in sticking close to town. Scott Porter of Record Hop admitted that he thought Dentonites had trouble seeing the point in driving an hour just to play to a smaller crowd in a smaller Dallas club. Justin Collins of the Burntsienna Trio spoke at length about the sense of community and support within the Denton scene. Members of Pinebox Serenade and the Big Ol Bastards backed these opinions—all of which contributed to explaining the insularity, which, I guess, to the outsiders in Dallas is exactly what breeds the aura of "cool" around these acts. It's a fact that people are attracted to what they can't have; and since we in Dallas haven't been able to really grasp the gist of Denton, it seems that we're the ones who've placed it in such high esteem—it's not the other way around. This crew, at least, seemed way too modest.
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Over the course of that night, more pieces of the puzzle began falling into place. I hardly got answers for all of my questions—I don't think anyone can really explain the reason for the bursting Denton music scene too well—but in each trip I've taken back to Denton since then, I've come to appreciate it more and more for what it is.
There really is just something about Denton. It does deserve more coverage. And, as a result, you'll find a new addition to these pages this week: A column about the goings-on in the Denton music community.
And, yes, because it can definitely be a pain to drive to and from Denton multiple times a week, we've entrusted a Dentonite with writing the weekly piece. His name is Dave Sims, and, if you've been reading the Observer carefully over the past few months, you might recognize his name; we highlighted it in these pages a few weeks ago. As a freelancer for Paste magazine, Sims has long been turning the higher-ups at the Atlanta-based national taste-making rag on to some of Denton's finer jewels, helping them garner national press along the way. Having him pen this column seemed a natural fit, and we're excited to see what he can uncover for our readers on a more microscopic level.
Will the column, tentatively titled "North of the Dial," truly be able to help us actually understand Denton any better? I don't really know, to be honest. But it will keep us informed about what's happening up there. And given that Denton's consistently been proving itself worthy of our attention of late, that's a start.