In the dull roar of a post-homecoming crowd at Crooked Crust in Denton, Garrett Gravley has his dining choices mocked. The perpetrator, Albert Louis, scoffs: "Dessert bread sticks and beer?" To which Gravley explains, "He's always making fun of how I eat."
This is the makeshift office space of Who Loves the Sun, a Denton booking entity that's been putting together shows for almost a year now. Gravley and Louis reach out to bands in the area and beyond, enticing them to play in Denton and Dallas at staples like the J&J's basement, Club Dada and, of course, Rubber Gloves. The two meet here once a week to flesh out upcoming shows, map out bands to contact and make jokes about Guy Fieri.
Gravley takes a pull from his Shiner and proceeds undeterred by Louis' judgmental jest. "We're trying to revitalize Denton and show what it has to offer," Gravley says.
The duo plays a pivotal role in determining the music scene of Denton, figuring out which touring bands to book and local acts to bill together. They've booked acts like Ringo Deathstarr and Alison Weiss, and even had their own day dedicated to book bands for the annual Rubber Gloves Free Week.
Gravley and Louis met while working with Parade of Flesh, and the two ran into each other at UNT after Gravley had parted ways with the organization. He had been booking shows in Denton at houses, and after talking to Louis they decided to band together to create Who Loves the Sun. The process of running it has been largely self-taught, some of which is still daunting to Gravley.
"We only make agreements if we're sure we can go through this," he says. Louis added that the two are learning more each month: "I think we're really getting the hang of it."
The accounting end of it involves figuring out how much it takes to book a band and how they can (hopefully) break even at a show. Getting the right shows involves a mixture of shooting emails to agencies and having a solid working knowledge of the bands in the area to put together gigs.
So far they've maintained success by sizing up the risk of booking certain bands and accepting the possibility of a low show turnout. Gravley says he also keeps the bands in mind throughout the booking process, ensuring that they're treated properly in the booker/band relationship so they want to come back to Denton.
"We want to be as fair as we possibly can," he says. "I don't have kids, I don't have a lot of bills to pay or anything like that, so I'm not just going to give a band a few bucks and say good luck. They need to make it to their next show, and we've always made sure to treat bands right."
Gravley adds that he's also heard the horror stories of promoters taking an expensive risk on a band and falling hard when the turn out ends up being subpar.
Adding to that risk is the tendency for the student-heavy population in Denton to be wary of spending money at a show. Even a $5 cover at J&J's will turn people off from going to a show because the college demographic is spoiled by free house shows. But Gravley says that if you book the right band at the right point in their career arc, people will do anything to come out and see them.
"That's why convenience fees and ticket prices for festivals are so crazy," he says. "If you have the bands, people are willing to overpay if they have to."
The perfect example of this was Thee Oh Sees playing at Hailey's this past weekend, put on by talent buyer Blackbox. When booking the show, the band's agents insisted on picking Denton over Dallas, and as a result a huge crowd was willing to make the trip from far-flung areas to fill Hailey's.
Hailey's, arguably, is one of the largest venues in Denton, but still only holds about 300 people. During the last 35 Denton in 2013, the festival turned a warehouse into new venue The Hive, where Mac Demarco performed. The venue held about 1,000 people, and the festival was hoping to use its momentum to launch The Hive into a full-blown venue. But the cost of opening it proved too daunting and it fell into obscurity.
In the range of venues in Denton, Gravley says a larger venue like The Hive holds huge promise, but he's not sure if there's enough interest in the venue to make it worth the commitment from a prospective investor.
"It would be kind of a mixed blessing, because it would be a huge risk but it would be huge if it was successful," Gravley says.
When asked what their dream show would be, the pair each crack a smile and have an immediate answer. "We would want to book Smash Mouth to play a set that's just 'All Star' 18 times," Louis says, laughing. Gravley adds, "Or we even just Guy Fieri singing it. That'd be good too."
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In the coming months, Gravley and Louis are looking to try different methods of creating shows, even jokingly suggesting to do "Who Loves the Sun Sun Sun Fest." But above all else, Gravley says Who Loves the Sun most importantly employs the mullet strategy.
"Business in front, party in the back," Gravley says, laughing with Louis. "That's us."
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