The Mystery of Denton's Music

Summer arts dispatch from Denton, TX

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Bridges and Blinking Lights playing at Hailey's Club in Denton, Texas

You probably haven’t heard of Denton, Texas. At just over 100,000 people, it usually plays third fiddle to its neighbors Dallas and Fort Worth. Still, Denton is hardly a household name. Yet, despite its relative obscurity, Denton has a music scene that would prolific even for a town five times its size.

The acts run the gamut from jazz combos, to experimental art rock, to bluegrass trios. Lots of artists associated strongly with Denton have made it big on a national stage––Norah Jones, Bowling For Soup, Midlake, Neon Indian.

Paste Magazine named it the best music scene in the world in 2008. On any given weekend night, the town square buzzes with concertgoers; from flannel-clad college students heading to Dan’s Silverleaf to buttoned-up yuppies looking for Banter.

I grew up 20 minutes away from Denton. In high school, I’d drive up there frequently to escape the relative monotony of my bedroom-community hometown. In many respects—architecture, artwork, and especially music—Denton blends the Deep South’s sun-drenched languidness with Austin’s unabashed quirkiness and Texas’ penchant for simplicity. But there’s also something else—something I’ve never been able to put my finger on––that makes Denton more than the sum of its influences. This isn’t Austin, and it’s certainly not Brooklyn, or Chicago or Athens or Seattle.

So this summer I’ve set out to find what that is. What is it about Denton that makes it such a vibrant musical community? And what is it about this community that sets Denton apart from every other city in the country?

Matthew J. Watson is blogging from Denton, Texas. His series traces his exploration of Denton's music and culture.

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