North Texas Daily (Denton, Tex.), Vol. 90, No. 36, Ed. 1 Friday, October 28, 2005 Page: 12 of 12
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Page 12 Friday, October 28, 2005
NORTH TEXAS DAILY
'Little D' tries to grow up
Denton's Fra Pandolf performs live.
As Denton continues to evolve, will the independent music scene that
helped put it on the nation's radar be embraced or forgotten?
Story by Lyndsay Knecht Design by Michael Walter
It's a Friday night in Denton and cars
are overflowing from the parking lot
into the street across from Rubber
Gloves Rehearsal Studios. The club has filled
its 197 capacity and a line of concertgoers
grows restless, some college kids just off
from, waiting tables during a long summer
between semesters and a few ex-pats in
town for a night of nostalgia. Shining at
the entryway, a 10-foot tall lower-case "d"
made of foil and boxes towers over the line
Teenagers and 20-somethings file in front of
a stage decorated like Denton's Historic Town
Square, donning costumes designed after their
Beth Marie's, a beloved ice cream shop, and
Denton's skyline-defining Morrison Corn-Kits
building are represented with cartoonish cutouts
slung over shoulders. Winston "Slapbracelet"
Chapman's drum set is camouflaged by an intri-
cately drawn cardboard Courthouse On the
Tonight, Denton quartet Fishboy releases its
latest album on Austin's Business Deal records.
Thick with guest appearances by Denton legends
such as Corn Mo and members of Sub Pop's The
Baptist Generals, the record pays homage to a rare
form of hand-in-hand creative ethos that spans
generations in Denton music. In honor of his town,
frontman Eric Michener named it Little D.
Denton's business climate and aesthetic has
long remained independent among nearby suburbs
such as Lewisville and Flower Mound.
The community newspaper, the Denton Record-
Chronicle, was family-owned untilBelo Corporation
purchased Denton Publishing Company in 1999.
A Starbucks could not be found in Denton's down-
town core until this September.
According to a study done by Leland Marketing
this year, Denton's median age is a mere 27.8, iden-
tifying a population weighed with two universi-
ties' worth of students. Considerably less wealthy
than the rest of Denton County, 32 percent of the
city's household incomes are $25,000 or less.
But Denton's population numbers recently
surpassed 100,000, and city leadership has
announced plans to lure the affluent residents and
upscale retail necessary to sustain the economic
needs of a medium-sized city.
For residents who currently thrive in Denton
because of its individuality and arts community,
the plans raise questions about their own futures
and what will become of the town some residents
still aren't quite ready to call a city.
The creative class
According to the illustrated, 48-page Downtown
Master Plan, amenities like a hotel and performing
arts center in south Denton, jazz clubs and patio
dining in the Historic Town Square could create
the presentation needed to raise residential rents
and, subsequently, attract upscale retail such as
Mayor Euline Brock's proposed Banana Republic.
Though Brock acknowledges that local music-
focused clubs on the outskirts of town like Rubber
Gloves Rehearsal Studios are "where creativity
comes from," she says there's a thin line between
entertainment fit for a developed downtown and
a "seamy" aesthetic that could be destructive to
its own creative space.
"People want to be in that sort of lively, pleasant
environment," Brock said. "And so, we think that
the clubs and the live music is a big part, unless
it just became the kind of rockist club scene that
you see in some places that it mainly is just noise
and people drunk out on the sidewalk."
Brock says her development strategy is heavily
based on Richard Florida's bestseller "The Rise
of The Creative Class," which advocates arts
marketing and development as an integral part
of urban growth. She passed out at least 25
copies of the book
to members of both
the city council and
"As our whole
"What they fail to do, and it's really a
shame, is recognize and acknowledge
the local bands "
Seman and his wife could be considered part of
the creative class Florida writes about. When he
completes his Master of Science degree at NT and
becomes a professor, Seman says, they'll fit the
demographics even closer. But they don't share the
personal tastes of the urbanites Denton seems to
be after. They shop online for vintage shoes, they
buy most of their T-shirts from local bands. Seman
works as a grader for the geography department
and Jenny is the manager of the Cappuccino Cafe
on University Drive.
Though Seman says that new developments
could create much-needed jobs in Denton if
managed correctly he fears the "true creative class"
may suffer repercussions if city leadership does
not recognize its influence. He suggests that Brock
consult people who aren't intrinsically involved
with the citybusi-
as himself, when
planning the new
Dylan Silvers of Dallas' [DARYL] performs live in Denton.
sitioned to a
creative types -- and this doesn't necessarily
mean musicians or painters, but computer gurus
and the Bill Gates types, and those people who
are really advanced -- that's the kind of creative
[cities seek to draw]," Brock said.
For Denton to retain the professionals it needs
to create a business climate with higher-paying
jobs, Brock said, there must be a shift in the demo-
graphic downtown serves.
"Those people look for a certain kind of envi-
ronment to live in, and so now people who are
seeking to establish businesses are looking for
N What community will attract and hold the kind
of people that I need to hire to be successful?"'
Both Brock and Downtown Development
Manager Julie Glover said the city strives to
avoid problems like those on Austin's Sixth Street,
where the broken bottles and street graffiti Glover
refers to as "urban wildlife" cause problems for
the downtown's image. Sixth Street is home to a
mixed entertainment district
Brock said Eric Hill, owner of Hailey's Club
on Mulberry Street and the restaurant Hannah's
across the street, has succeeded by attracting 30
to 40 year olds with more pop and jazz-oriented
shows, sustaining the family-style aesthetic of
The true creative class
Master of Sciences student Michael Seman
became driven to prove independent rock music's
legitimacy as an agent for urban development when
he watched swanky retail and skyrocketing rents
firewall the once-modest sector of Hollywood
where he lived for seven years. As the guitarist
and vocalist for art-rock outfit Shiny Around the
Edges, Seman and his wife, Jenny, played clubs in
three indie-rock entrenched Los Angeles neigh-
Just as its multicultural vibe and network of
progressive musicians beckoned him and his wife
to move closer to their creative home base, the
community's rising rents turned them away.
"Here we were, trying to live in a neighborhood
that allowed us to be artists, and we couldn't,"
The couple moved to Denton in 2002, endeared
by its small-town vibe and relatively cheaper rent.
But Seman, who studies applied geography within
the science department, says the city caught his
and his wife's attention.
"It had a tremendous music scene," Seman said.
"There were many places to play and the nature of
bands we were familiar with was very eclectic. It
was an area which would develop one's creativity,
and if it does that in music, that's a good sign that
that same ethos will be in other areas, whether it
be education or work."
Culturally savvy and technologically skilled,
Owner, Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios
The bar at
didn't come without a price for owner Josh Baish.
First surviving as a bring-your-own alcohol estab-
lishment from its opening in 1997 until the bar was
added four years later, Rubber Gloves' first priority
was to pick up where the Argo left off.
Combating a resurgence in "frat-boy" bands and
money-minded promoters and venues in Denton,
the Argo swore by a DIY, or do-it-yourself, code,
playing host to more eclectic local bands that
weren't driven by monetary guarantees. The Argo
closed in 1997, and Rubber Gloves expanded its
practice spaces and operated as a sort of collec-
tive, hosting shows on its outdoor stage with no
complaints from city officials. When Baish offered
to help Jayson and Memory Wortham acquire a
beer and wine license for Rubber Gloves a year
later, he had five years' experience tending bar at
Rick's Place and a mission to create a home base
for independent music fans in Denton.
The city noticed parking and building viola-
tions when Rubber Gloves applied for the license
and nixed the outdoor shows soon after. Still, the
venue continues to oust the best of Denton's local
bands with spots opening for national acts.
Although programs at NT are celebrated with
reason, Baish said, there's a wealth of creativity
beyond NT that isn't valued by the city.
"What they fail to do, and it's really a shame,
is recognize and acknowledge the local bands,"
Baish said. "'The kids' is how they view us. Rubber
Gloves is not viewed as a legitimate business,
even though I have to pay my taxes, and I have
to follow all the rules."
The specific private business partnerships being
discussed by the Denton officials have yet to be
disclosed to the public. Economic Development
Director Linda Ratliff said the city has commis-
sioned Paris Rutherford, director of the RTKL
Planning and Urban Design Developments, to help
advise the city council as to how much the proj-
ects will cost and whether certain private entities
will express interest in the partnerships.
"Maybe you buy them out and you build some-
thing else where their business is, or maybe you
partner up with them," Ratliff said. "It could be
a number of things."
Ratliff assured students that the new down-
town would provide a "life after six o'clock" for
the Historic Town Square and the core of down-
"I definitely think that places like Rubber
Gloves and Dan's Silver Leaf are kind of the
funky places that students like to hang out in,"
Ratliff said. "I definitely think that were going to
expand downtown into their areas. Hopefully
you'll see improvements that will go in a ripple.
Think of downtown as where you're dropping
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North Texas Daily (Denton, Tex.), Vol. 90, No. 36, Ed. 1 Friday, October 28, 2005, newspaper, October 28, 2005; Denton, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth145274/m1/12/: accessed August 12, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.