North Texas Top 40

by | May 14, 2008


The New York Times sent a travel writer to Midlake’s hometown, Denton, Texas. The writer found more than Midlake.

At last count, more than 100 bands were polishing their sound in the city’s dive bars, rooftop spaces and fraternity basements. Even the local record store, a converted opera house called Recycled, has a section devoted to Denton bands. The bin dividers read like a Lollapalooza T-shirt: Lift to Experience, Centro-matic, Jetscreamer, Vortexas, Robert Gomez, Stanton Meadowdale, Mom, Mandarin, and Matthew and the Arrogant Sea, to name just a few.

Not bad for a college town of 110,000, prompting more than a few music industry insiders to call Denton the next Austin.

“There’s this combination of artistic fervor and small town naiveté said David Sims, a music columnist for The Dallas Observer. “Artists here don’t know they’re not supposed to be Bob Dylan so when they start a band, they shoot for the moon.”

The more I hear about this place, the more I want to hop on a plane to Dallas and experience it first hand. When I do go, I hope Dan’s Silver Leaf is in full swing.

The hub of Denton’s unplugged music scene is now Dan’s Silver Leaf, a colorful dive bar in a former radiator repair shop decorated with Texas longhorn skulls. On a breezy Saturday night last March, the bar was packed with 20-somethings with straggly beards, ponytails and vintage T-shirts. They sat in stone silence as Sarah Jaffe, a 22-year-old transplant from Dallas, belted out a heartfelt ballad reminiscent of Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah.” Local music watchers were already calling her the town’s next Norah Jones.

“People get kind of jaded because we literally have some of the best musicians in the world play here,” said Dan Mojica, the club’s silver-haired owner, who was holding court at his usual spot at the backyard bar. “We’ve set the standard so high that locals are expecting that all the time.”

MP3 Offering: “The Man in Me” by Matthew and the Arrogant Sea