Monday, March 16, 2009

Metrognome Collective to Open New Venue

After quite a long hiatus, the resilient, Ft. Worth based non-profit Metrognome Collective has returned with a new venue and some exciting plans for the Ft. Worth independent art and music community.  Perhaps most importantly, the group, which ran a high profile DIY space in Ft. Worth in 2006, will be taking over the Firehouse Gallery at 4147 Meadowbrook Dr. and transforming it into a live music venue and new visual art gallery space.  The group plans to set up two PA systems on two stages in separate rooms, and will present "quick" shows (featuring 2-4 bands per) in which one band will play on one stage while another band sets up on the other stage and begins playing immediately following the previous set (much like the set up at The Smell in Los Angeles).  

Metrognome is aiming for an April 1st opening date, and will retain the name "Firehouse Gallery" for the venue while making improvements both inside and outside the building.  They will also be working closely on the project with two non-profit groups, James Watkins' Tolstoy House and Q Cinema, Ft. Worth's long running gay and lesbian film festival.  Details, along with a new Metrognome Collective website, are forthcoming....


Anonymous Anonymous said...


NX35 Festival, Chris Flemmons, Quakertown Park, Denton music scene

At its worst, it was inaccessible, self-indulgent and pretty boring.

Now, in the days following the event, the most appropriate summary of this three-day QuakertownPark/Denton square affair lies somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, with a healthy lean to the "worst" end. And the blame mostly lies with that whole "self-indulgent" thing. We'll get to that again later on.

First, let's discuss the positive aspects of NX35, because there were plenty of those. From a sheer numbers standpoint, at least, the festival was quite a success. Consider the following: Parking spots were minimal along Carroll Avenue, sidewalks were busy and cries of "wait—what's going on here this weekend?" were easily overheard. So were the country-fried rhythms that brought nose-in-the-air cowboys by the hundreds to this little intersection just outside of Marietta Park. Business was good in those parts on these nights. Rare is the night when Hailey's, the Boiler Room, and Rubber Gloves each enjoy a steady flow of patrons; rarer is the night when they're able to do so as music venue J and J's and art gallery Banter draw crowds too; rarest is the night when each has a crowd and doesn't take business away from the area's other non-participating hangouts (The Loophole, Andy's, and Sweetwater). That alone is a notable accomplishment.

A few other notches on NX35's belt, according to one-man festival organizer Chris Flemmons: the fact that Art 6 was approached numerous times over the weekend about hosting upcoming local art exhibits; the fact that reunited-for-NX35 local act The Valentines has decided to stay reunited; the fact that out-of-town artists brought in to play the fest approached Flemmons, inspired to host similar DIY-type festivals in their own hometowns; the fact that Dallasites walking the streets became aware that a place like Quakertown Park, where their breed of eccentricity can often be embraced, actually exists in Denton; and the fact that people had smiles on their faces all weekend long.

And then there's the number of thank yous Flemmons received over the course of the weekend. "There were a shitload," Flemmons says. He's especially proud of those.

Want more positivity? OK. Take Spune Productions—who books and partially owns Hailey's in the Hannah's Section of Denton, which hosted the all-ages third day of NX35—and the number of bands they learned about in the seven or so hours in which the festival ran on two stages in their venue. As the day (and night) wore on, bartender Rocky continually took notes on the acts performing throughout the day, finding at least six he planned to invite back to his stage.

"I'm appreciative of what's happened here," he says. "My eyes have been opened. I can't help but believe that others' have been opened too."

Flemmons is right there with him.

"I did the impossible," he says. "I made Denton cool."

A little pompous-sounding? Sure. Flemmons concedes as much, expressing regret upon the moment that sentence leaves his lips. But, to his crowd, yes, he did just that.

And that's all fine and good. Great, even.

But let's figure out exactly what this all means, because I'd venture to say that, no matter how fun or eye-opening an experience NX35 may have been to a certain set, it's not going to amount to a thing in the end.

Re-enter the whole "self-indulgent" matter. Sure, people came out. Sure, bands came from Dallas and Fort Worth and Austin and New York City and Los Angeles and Israel to perform because of their allegiance and ties to Flemmons (who, it should be pointed out, went into pretty serious debt in order to put up his festival). Sure, Flemmons ended up breaking even (or coming real close to it) on the whole thing.

But here's where things went wrong (and it was evident pretty much from the start of the festival on Friday night): The Flemmons-thanking was egregious. It came fast and it came furious, evident at every turn, especially from those onstage:

"Can we just take a minute to thank Flemmons for putting this on?"

"Let's hear it for Chris!"

"Thanks, Chris!"

It's not that Flemmons wasn't deserving of thanks. It's that the adulation started making him out to be a Bob Geldoff-like martyr—an observation only bolstered by comments such as "I made Denton cool," by adamant claims that there will be no more NX35 festivals and that this is Flemmons' "goodbye gift to Denton" should he leave the city within two years, as he's planning to do. Worse, though, was the insight it gave on the audience at NX35. Everyone knew Flemmons. No one turned to the people standing around them in the wake of those shout-outs and asked who the hell the band members were thanking.

This wasn't a crowd of Denton music fans or scenesters. This was an audience of Flemmon's 400 closest friends.

And that's where this festival loses steam and where comments from Flemmons start to ring especially poignant.

Like how he rejects the suggestion that maybe it should have been called the Chris Flemmons Festival, not the NX35 festival: "No," he says. "It's the festival of someone who has been paying attention to the [local music] scene for the past 15 years."

Like when he admits that his festival isn't for everyone and that it's "left of country": "Ninety percent of the acts here are not for public consumption. This was for the die-hard, the Wilco lovers."

Like when he describes how he went about selecting the bands to play the bill: "I invited all my friends to play a show."

No, this wasn't a festival at all. It was Chris Flemmons's bar mitzvah. He's finally a man.

Mazel tov. Except, you know, not really.

Offering a presentation of his friends' bands to a crowd of Flemmons' friends and an audience of listeners already familiar with these sounds—what's the point? What does this offer Denton in the long run (discounting the merits of being considered "cool" for a weekend by the Dallas arbiters)?

Nothing. And that's a shame.

Because, were this not a one-off in Denton (Flemmons held similar festivals in the early 2000s in Austin), it would have some merit. It would allow the word-of-mouth praise for this event to expand beyond a crowd of maybe 30 newbies to this scene. It would allow the at-times interesting and educational experience of this festival to ripen a bit.

Then, maybe, over time and subsequent festivals, NX35 could have been a bigger and bigger draw. It could have helped ensure that the Dallasites who came this weekend return to Quakertown Park. It could have helped these kind of alt-country shows to continue to draw crowds in the future.

It could have excused the self-indulgence of this first go-round at NX35 in Denton. It could have kept NX35 from being forgotten in eight months. It could have meant Flemmons actually accomplished something with all the effort he put into the thing.

12:56 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home