"Do you wanna hear some Slayer?" a very disappointed Craig Welch says, queuing up the next track at his turntable setup. Pumping his fists, palm up (indicative of frustration), Welch is engrossed deep into a combination of disappointment of the U.S.-Portugal game result and general agreement with the heavy metal reverberations echoing throughout Dan's Silverleaf on this particular Sunday night, June 22.
Every four years, various media outlets seem to pander to the idea that we Americans are mere World Cup novices, continually running beginner's guides a la informative and introductory articles outlining the most epic sporting event this side of the Olympics. And that may be true to some extent: We are generally a nation of football, not fútbol, enthusiasts. However, the near-capacity scene at Dan's proved this is not entirely the case.
For the duration of the remaining weeks of the World Cup, Dan's will continue to host free watching parties, which include live music and an unabashed love for soccer revelry amongst U.S.-flag-toting peers.
"People believe in this shit," Welch says, still wallowing in disbelief over the last seconds of the heartbreaking draw that Portugal managed to sweep away from what was almost an assured U.S. win with a very literal last-minute goal.
"Four years ago, when the U.S. played Ghana, it was sort of like this. But today was special."
The soccer tournament watch parties at this beloved Denton venue incorporate these two complementary forms of cherished entertainment pastimes quite favorably. Not only are you taking part in arguably the most-watched televised events on earth, but local musicians play a few sets in between. Not bad for the free price of admission.
The World Cup is celebrated in such ways all over the world, and the energy within the humble walls at Dan's reveal that American fans aren't necessarily always jumping on the bandwagon of whatever current sports championship is happening. These fans were admirably engaged in every moment of action. Not a far cry from the usual scene at your average sports bar. Yet this type of environment yields a homier vibe.
It's more or less a grandiose version of attending a pay-per-view event party at the house of the only neighbor willing to spring a few bucks for the good of the rest of the block. And they invited their musician friends from work over to play a few crowd-friendly ditties in the backyard.
Earlier in the afternoon as the Boxcar Bandits tailored to the subtle energy of the cool and composed afternoon crowds on the patio, the near standing-room-only congregation inside was aflutter with the buzz of pre-game anticipation.
The shoulder-to-shoulder gathering of adoring fans of all ages gradually and proudly joined the televised audience in unison for the national anthem. Banners waved. Beer glasses were raised. Admittedly, the sometimes fleeting sense of national pride is a joy to rekindle in these little pockets of fandom and camaraderie.
All two scores by the U.S. team were received with thunderous applause, something that Dan's is presumably accustomed to. All two scores by Portugal as well as every flash of soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo's irritatingly smug good looks on the big screen were met with uproarious boos and the appropriate amount of middle fingers, something that Dan's may not be accustomed to.
Not too surprisingly, the U.S. matches of this World Cup series are, so far, the most attended. As Welch notes, during the week, most non-U.S. matches draw only meager numbers in attendance.
However, the future of these parties, while somewhat hinged on the U.S. team's advancement in the tournament, still promises to be a great twist on the watch party standard. Denton is the little city that was once centered around DIY business ethics and an assembly line of new bands challenging the state of local music in DFW. These parties are a reflection of how much a town that prides itself on a sense of community can come together for a game that prides itself on a sense of nationalism. Even in the event of a tie.
As Hares on the Mountain take to the outside stage after the upset, fans trickle out as frustration dissolves naturally into kindred spirits. Their energetic set wafts the general good vibes into the cool evening that this crowd probably welcomes after such a dramatic ending worthy of those epic final moments of dozens of sports movies — except for the whole happy ending part.
Now, within the opening minutes of their opening songs, Welch's fists rotate sideways (an indication of suggestive enjoyment), and pump with vivacious spirit along in rhythm. His adoration for the most religiously followed sport on the planet remains intact.