Monday, April 30, 2007

Denton Rock City

Props to Largehearted Boy for linking the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's recent article on Denton's music scene. The gist of the story: is Denton's scene about to be the biggest and most influential spot in Texas? The how's and why's are discussed, but something I've always wondered about is what makes the town's music scene so special. To me, you don't move there thinking your Creed knock-off will get big. If anything, you're there to further explore sounds that aren't mainstream or predictable.

There is something about college towns: they have their own self-contained music scenes. Given the location, a big metroplex is usually far away. So, instead of pining for scenes like the ones in LA, Chicago or New York, a different kind of vibe comes out. Of course you have those cheese rock bands that play at sports bars and frat parties, but you have all these bands that are nothing traditional. In the case of Denton, the 40-minute distance between Dallas makes for a completely different world. Plus, having a liberal arts college in town is a major catalyst.

I didn't go to UNT, but I've known plenty of people that have and/or currently do. UNT brings in all kinds of musicians from all over the world, but it doesn't strike me as a place that's like Julliard or Berklee. Meaning, the abundance of jazz musicians is the key difference. Playing real jazz (no, not the safe, "shopping music" kind) requires a mindset that is not locked up in tradition. Couple that mindset with rock music and you have something not coming to a Top 40 radio station any time soon. And that's cool.

Great music can come from anywhere, but there are definitely certain areas that foster and spread it around to a larger degree. When you're not being wooed or compelled by rock stardom, you're less likely to play music that is easily pigeonholed. You're not holding out for an A&R rep to come to your local bar. You're not intending to "make it." If anything, playing is a part of who you are whether you make any money at it or not. While I've met plenty of people like this in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston, Denton definitely frequently attracts this type of mindset.

Now, does this mean Denton will be on top of the Texas music scene chain? I doubt it, but seeing what I've seen come out of there in the last nine years, it's not going away any time soon. And that's fine by me.

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