Over The Weekend: Fight Night in Denton (14 Bands, One Packed Schoolhouse)

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Fight Night
The Schoolhouse, Denton
September 5, 2009

Better than: shooting bourbon in an actual schoolhouse.

Nestled away from the venues of Denton's idyllic Square and Fry Street's controversy, the Schoolhouse is a deceptively ordinary one-story yellow and white residence.

But Saturday, at around 3 p.m., as a slew of musicians rolled or lugged their gear up a set of pre-cast stairs and onto the porch, 28-year-old tenant Charlie Hunter pulled from a cigarette. "I think this one's going to get out of control," he said.

Established in late July, and named for its classroom-style ceiling tiles, the Schoolhouse hosted 14 bands over 12 hours on three makeshift "stages"--and charged its college-aged attendees the affordable sum of free-ninety-free.

Whether acts played in the dining room, study or attic, the day's tempo came natural and untamed. Beer may have played a role.

Local music blog DayBowBow.net helped promote the event, the largest the Schoolhouse has held to date.

Though "hot and intimate" is a phrase typically reserved for afternoons spent watching reruns of Mythbusters, it well describes the packed attic where Leatherwood let loose with acoustic string-laden vocals. The band had no sooner finished than the crowd slipped down the staircase to find itself charmed by The Hand Combine, a trio singing haunted-speakeasy lullabies.

This was the ongoing model: the masses ping-ponged between rooms as one band broke its gear down and the next finished setting up shop; doing so left just enough time for audience members to hunt another brew or scarf down a hot dog from the spread out back. And the afternoon was not without a dash of spontaneity--a game of something akin to soccer erupted in the backyard at one point.

With the sun dropping, Lazy Native's electric set shook the floors while their tambourine man sprang wild through the crowd. The River Mouth proved legally psychedelic and Hard Times evoked the evening's skull-thumping punk contingent. Young and Brave and Western Giants relieved any doubt about Denton's taste for Americana.

But, of all the day's performances, Giggle Party gave the strongest visual, balls-to-the-wall show. Somewhere between pop-punk and anarchic electro-comedy, this mischievous quartet--and those brave enough to get close--were sodden with cupcake icing, malt liquor, silly string and sweat. The sticker on Jason Reichl's bass read "Sorry About the Mess" and perhaps best articulated the band's aftermath.

"Tell the Observer everything went smooth," Jaime-Paul Falcon of DayBowBow told me after the show came to a close. But, given the circumstances--house party, Denton, relatively fresh and humble acts--everything pretty much did.

Around 2:30 a.m., the Schoolhouse locks clicked tight and the porch light switched off. Some stayed to mingle in the shadows.

Hunter's concern for unbridled chaos or a stern visit from Denton's Finest only amounted to a minor issue over parking. While no major acts headlined this all-day affair and most bands hailed from Denton, some of the 300-plus people in attendance likely walked away with a few good memories; possibly others walked away with a sense that Denton's transitional, incestuous music scene is blossoming despite the Old Guard's reflection on glory days gone by.

Said Leatherwood violinist Petra Kelly: "The spirit is there. Maybe it's just cyclical."

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I'm all for minimalism--but hell, guys, get some color on those walls. Cameras the world over will rejoice.

Random Note: When he's not playing host to rock shows in his living room, Charlie Hunter waits tables at IHOP and chats it up with the Denton PD. This might explain his good fortune.

By The Way: During one of Giggle Party's opening songs, an unsteady soul took a header into the keyboard. Recovery came swift. The band played on.

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