Monday, September 27, 2010

Live Feed: RIP Doom Special

As you may have heard this weekend, the Majestic of Dwelling of Doom, the most prominent Denton DIY venue of recent memory, found itself in a difficult spot. After two years of booking independent, genre-bending acts from across the world, as well as showcasing up-and-coming local artists, the operators have been forced to suddenly close the doors for good, an inevitable yet heartbreaking end to a venue that has more than outlasted the expiration date for an operation of its kind. So what exactly happened that night to change the course of the local music scene, leaving it with a gaping hole that Doom had so successfully filled? The answer is not much, but it was enough to bring an end to it all.

The night started off great, and I can’t think of two better acts to close out the Dwelling’s run than Cuckoo Byrds and Dharma; both representative of one of the most important segments of the North Texas musical community that often does not receive a platform-- the weirdos; the music that defies classification and does not fit easily onto any pre-packaged bill. Doom was the kind of place where experimentation and artistic exploration could always be found and expected from the performers, which was refreshing-- in recent times the DIY venues that were once prevalent throughout Denton have been closing their doors with very few replacements arising in response. This has left much of the slack rested upon Doom's shoulders, which they have more than enthusiastically taken upon themselves.

After two great performances that evening, I exited the basement and found myself greeted by what I always dreaded facing after a performance at Doom: an influx of drunk people. I did a quick sweep of the land, talking with some folks and becoming increasingly nervous as the party-goers edged closer and closer to the street. “Get away from the fucking street” flew every minute or so from concerned guests upon deaf ears.

It was at this point I ventured inside one of the neighboring houses (rented by Doom friends) to take a leak and find a corner to hide in until the next act, Sir Name and The Janes. When attending shows at Doom I very rarely would stand out front in between act,s because I found it to be a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere, due to the fact that large amounts of people in one place make me feel more socially awkward than I normally do, and also because there was always the feeling that 'tonight would be the night' that someone, anyone, would do something ridiculous in a fit of inebriation or mental instability that might garner unintended consequences, and this night would be that night.

I was away from the party maybe 15 minutes, and once I returned back into the masses the atmosphere was not the same as the one I had escaped from earlier. After picking up on the bad vibes, I made a bee line for the basement where I searched for shelter from the flashing lights of multiple squad cars to seek some answers.

So what happened? After countless nights of peaceful congregation (with a few isolated exceptions) something had snapped and a tussle broke out. Of the pieces that I have been able to assemble from firsthand accounts, it breaks down like this: some folks were attempting to encourage people to step away from the street for obvious reasons. The tact used by these folks might have been unconventional and involving plastic weaponry which for whatever reason provoked another patron to attempt an engagement in fisticuffs. While this initial brawl was one-sided and quickly dissolved, it sparked another much larger brawl to break out in the street. Before you know it most of the perpetrators had fled and the cops had arrived. No one was arrested, but Natalie the Doom ringleader was given a stern warning that if another show happened on the property she would be going to jail and fines would be issued, so ending the long run of 781 Texas St.

Before the space became Doom, the leaky basement on Texas street had served the same purpose under previous management, first as Eighth Continent and then later as Wisconsin. So as we mourn the loss of Doom we also reflect on the memory of those that came before it.

So there you have it, a senseless act of violence brought a great venue crumbled to its knees. It is easy to point fingers. Why not at the police? Well the police really were doing their job. They were not busting up the party because people were having fun and that's not allowed, they did what they had to do and there is appreciation on the side of the Doom toward the intervening which took place. The real blame is to placed on those who needlessly provoke-- the way I see it, when you have a large group of people together, especially when they are young and alcohol could be involved, something stupid is bound to happen sooner or later. C'est la vie. While the town and Doom patrons mourn the loss, it is important to remember that while unfortunate, this is one of the unavoidable side effects of success.

So if you are stunned by this announcement and are thinking about starting a house venue of your own, I have come up with the these five handy tips that might help you last longer than you really should. These tips apply only to Denton, sorry DFW I don't have anything to help you.

#1 - END YOUR SHOW AT MIDNIGHT - This town has a terrible habit of never starting things before 11pm which ads a lot of risk to your venue. For one, as long as your guest and venue is not too unruly, the police have better things to do at these hours, and will largely avoid any type of intervention. Once midnight comes the carriage turns back into a pumpkin and the police go on the prowl. This is understandable because post-midnight people have had plenty of time to get nice and fucked-up with nowhere else to go. Most touring acts will be fine with an early set time cause they want to hit the road anyway.

#2 - OUT OF SIGHT OUT OF MIND - When choosing a space to open for patronage, be aware of the area you will providing for congregating. Keeping your patrons far away from the street and watchful eyes of the general public is a sure fire way to keep police or noisy neighbors away. Draw a line in the driveway, put up chains or a velvet rope. Whatever you have to do to keep people out of the street.

#3 - CHARGE MONEY - As a DIY venue owner, cover charges will never make a dent in the amount of monetary compensation for time and effort spent, but it can help with purchasing cleaning supplies. Beyond the fiscal dreams, charging at the door, no matter how small a rate, insures that the people at your party are there for your party and have a vested interest in being there. This may sound silly but it will detract the riffraff just looking for good times from crashing your place.

#4 - LIMIT THE NUMBER OF SHOWS HELD, WEEKDAYS ARE YOUR FRIEND - When the scene around town is at its peak, you could book five desirable shows a week easy. This can weigh on the operator's free time and also give the public the impression that your place is the place to hang out and drink for free. By varying the days of week shows are held, as well as the frequency, you take away that consistency factor, which will help in attracting guests who are there to see music and not just loiter.

#5 - START A CO-OP - This is the least realistic step even though it is really the only way to achieve a sustainable DIY space.


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