From the Trenches

A couple of weeks ago (Scene, Heard, November 22) we told you about the recent closing of Dan's Bar in Denton and what the loss of the venue meant to the city's music scene. Specifically, we said that with one fewer outlet for Denton bands and musicians, the city was left with too much good music and not enough places to hear it. (Yes, yes--we left out the Groovy Mule.) Last week, we received an e-mail from someone who knows the situation all too well, someone who--as a co-owner of the now-defunct and sorely missed Argo--tried to fix it. We can preach all we want about Denton's uncertain future, but we thought it best to let someone who has been in the trenches do the preaching for us. So, Kris Bryan, you have the floor.

"I don't even know where to start," Bryan says. "Maybe the beginning is as good of a place as any. The scene was very much the same in Denton in 1993 when we (Rob Peters and myself) decided to open the Argo. Too many bands, not enough venues. It was very frustrating, to say the least. We all thought that 'surely someone will do something about it.' We were right. We just had no idea it would be the two of us that would end up doing it. Having never owned anything bigger than a lemonade stand, we had no idea of what to expect or where to even start. Let me just go ahead and say that most of what you have heard about the red tape and city bureaucracy is absolutely true. Denton is one of the most liberal cities in the world run by some of the most conservative people in the world.

"We did it all ourselves," Bryan continues. "We had no other choice. We secured an endless number of permits, endured a ridiculous number of inspections and still somehow made it all work out. I say that Rob and I owned the Argo, but really it was the community's. Yes, on paper we were the ones who had ownership and final responsibility, but really the Argo would have never existed if it were not for the way that the local music community came together to help us thrive. We had 'rock stars' working the door, tending the bar, booking bands, even sweeping the damn floor. They didn't do it because it was the cool thing to do; they did it just because it needed to be done. In the end, Rob and I took a bath financially (one that I know we are both still recovering from even to this day); however, I don't think either one of us would ever call it a loss.

"My point is this: If you build it, they may not come every night, but, by God, at least there will be a place to go," Bryan concludes. "Most people will respect that. Most people who love music will support you no matter what (need I bring up the great John Cale rebellion?); the rest will never understand. But, the few who do understand will always be there to support the music scene. The Denton music scene has always been overlooked and underestimated. That is why it saddens me that we have lost another comrade in the fight to keep the Denton scene alive. The time has come for the local music supporters to come together and take charge once again. We can not let the most prolific music community in Texas wither away. Go out and support Rubber Gloves. Go to house shows. Host house shows. Start your own venue. We have all worked too long and too hard for Denton to just dry up and blow away into the frat-rock wasteland that it could become." Denton, you have the conch...

While everyone is remembering the November 22 installment of Scene, Heard, another item we mentioned in that column bears updating: Absalom Recordings' "release" of the Baptist Generals new 3-inch disc, The Crave Annex. Seems that not only will Absalom not be issuing the Baptist Generals disc, it won't be releasing anything; the label has gone teets up, and in what you could describe as the most cowardly fashion possible. "Last week I e-mailed the label asking if we were going to get our discs on time, and I got no response," Generals general Chris Flemmons reports. "Then I went to their site and found the notice they wouldn't be putting out anybody's stuff--they're no longer. So much for returning e-mails or letting the bands involved know a thing or two about label incompetence." The Crave Annex was supposed to be part of Absalom's 3-inch collectors series, available for a $42 subscription fee. Instead, the label will allegedly be sending those who did happen to send in their 42 bucks an assortment of CDs from its back catalog, an impromptu bait-and-switch liquidation. In the meantime, if you did happen to be one of the unfortunates who dropped a few bills hoping to get a Baptist Generals disc out of the deal, e-mail Flemmons and company at [email protected]. Or, "If you bring some kind of proof--canceled check, credit card statement, etc.--to a show, without hesitation, we'll make things right with you on our end--just because that's the kind of guys we are," Flemmons says. The kind of guys, obviously, that Absalom Recordings is not. Expect to see The Crave Annex, in some form, in the area shortly...

Forgot this last week: Armstrong, which features brothers Zach and Doni Blair (better known as one-half of Hagfish), will release its debut sometime around March on Owned & Operated Records, the label owned and operated by the members of ALL and the Descendents. Armstrong just finished the disc in Fort Collins, Colorado, with Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton (of ALL and Descendents) producing. Keep an eye out.

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Zac Crain
Contact: Zac Crain