Let’s take a moment to review the things that makes Fort Worth, Fort Worth: Billy Bob’s, the stockyards, the Fort Worth Zoo, Bass Performance Hall, Amon G. Carter, the National Cowgirl Museum and a well known culture of independent music.
Did you catch it? One of these things is not like the other.
And in an area like Dallas/Fort Worth, where the cities could be hardly more different, this should come as no surprise: The independent music scene is more centralized in Dallas, considering the environment. But let’s not count out TCU quite yet.
Tiffani Rodriguez is a junior criminal justice and sociology double major here at TCU, which in itself entails copious amounts of time and studying, but not so much that she can’t plan her way through whatever live shows she can get in her time off. From what she says, you would likely find her at the Granada Theater in Dallas before you would find her two-stepping, trading in a pair of cowboy boots and hat for combat boots and a fedora.
“I’ve been to pretty much every music venue in Dallas,” Rodriguez says. “I would say I’ve been to, at the very least, 20 concerts, and that doesn’t include the festivals I’ve been to.”
Rodriguez considers herself a big proprietor of indie music, saying she takes whatever chance she can get to make CDs for her friends to get them interested in lesser-known bands, or doing her best to convince them to go to yet another show with her.
But living in Fort Worth, finding other TCU students at those same shows is not a regular circumstance.
“I think Fort Worth’s main focus is the Stockyards and the rodeo and cowboys and Billy Bob’s,” Rodgriuez says. “Fort Worth, even downtown Fort Worth, isn’t really a place where there’s much room to have [indie] shows.”
And she could have a point – Fort Worth is known to its core as “Cowtown,” the place along the Old Chisholm Trail where millions of cattle were driven northward to market in the 19th century.
Visitors come to the Stockyards downtown on a consistent basis to learn more about the country western history of the city. Every Thursday night, hordes of TCU students brandish their boots for a night of two-stepping at Billy Bob’s.
If you want to see an artist or band outside of the country genre, you’re going to have to venture eastward.
BATTLE OF THE VENUES
In Dallas you have the House of Blues, Palladium Ballroom, The Door, and endless other small, intimate venues like Club Dada and Trees that will give you more than enough choices of which indie artist you’ll see that day.
Fort Worth used to be void of any “big name” venues until the Ridglea Theater returned over the summer, thanks to the tireless efforts of now-owner Jerry Shults saving the historic building from demolition in 2010.
Ridglea, which originally opened in 1950 as a classic movie theater, played host to its first live music show in two years on Oct. 25, when Australian indie rockers The Temper Trap took the stage.
But does this mean Fort Worth is beginning to put up a battle of indie music venues in the metroplex?
“Having Willy Nelson or someone play at Billy Bob’s, and then having a band like The Killers down the street wouldn’t really work with the Fort Worth vibe,” Rodriguez says. “But I feel like it’s up-and-coming. Fort Worth would be a good place for folk rock because it’s a good mix of country, rock, and alternative. It would be cool to have a place where all of those can come together at once.”
And perhaps Ridglea Theater can be that very place, where fans of country and alternative and indie and electronica can come and not feel out of place.
“It depends on how Fort Worth represents itself,” Rodriguez continues. “People need to promote Ridglea more, and [Ridglea] needs to bring in acts that people know so Fort Worth can be back in the competition. It’s good to have the local bands and singer/songwriters, but you have to have the big names to really draw people in first. If [Fort Worth] brings in Red Hot Chili Peppers or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, it would make an impression on people, and they would come. That’s what Dallas gets. Even Denton has festivals and that kind of ‘hippie vibe.’ Fort Worth needs some kind of vibe like that.”
In the battle of indie music venues, Fort Worth’s right hook could be utilizing that country history in conjunction with the growing indie music scene to capture the attention of TCU students and music fans alike.
“I don’t think Fort Worth will be as big as Dallas in the indie scene for a little while because Dallas is set with that already,” Rodriguez asserts, “but Fort Worth can start to bring it in with bands like Mumford and Sons who are folkish, but also indie and are sill kind of big with people.”
Mumford and Sons’ most recent full-length release, Babel, which came out in September, has seen significant radio play and album sales in the short time it’s been available, which Rodriguez attributes to the album’s hype over the summer.
“My Facebook feed since the album came out has been ‘Mumford, Mumford, Mumford,’ she says. “I think bands like them and Florence and the Machine, Of Monsters and Men, and Imagine Dragons have really gotten people at TCU to open up and start talking about [indie music]. You might not expect it from some people but Facebook is a good way to influence other people through music.”
Even online music streaming stations like Pandora and Spotify are good ways to turn people onto different, lesser-known artists, Rodriguez says, since social media allows friends to see what others are listening to, piggyback off of their choices and even discover similar artists. And then there’s always the traditional “word of mouth” method.
“In a matter of two weeks, I heard an Imagine Dragons song, told a friend about it, and then he bought the CD not long after and is now going to the concert,” Rodriguez laughs.
SMELLS LIKE INDIE SPIRIT
With everything Rodriguez suggests about Fort Worth’s steady rise in the indie music world, Austin City Limits comes up as a foundation.
And rightfully so – ACL is arguably Texas’ most anticipated and celebrated live music festival every year, and Tiffani says she’d been looking forward to ACL 2012 since not long after ACL 2011. This year will be her first time going to Austin for the festival, but she seems to already know it’ll be nothing short of amazing.
“It’s exciting to see these bands live, because all I do is listen to them every day,” she says.
“It’s a spread out environment and ACL has that variety of different kinds of music that really completes the experience. Fort Worth City limits wouldn’t have the same impact, because automatically I would think, ‘Oh, a bunch of country music,” she continues. “Austin already has that atmosphere and spirit that indie music has. It’s kind of like a remake of Woodstock.”
But she says not to discount Fort Worth from the indie scene quite yet.
“It’s not as big as the country scene or top 40 around here, but there’s an underlining of people who like indie music or have some idea of it,” she says. “You just have to get people to open up and start talking to them about [indie music] and it’ll grow from there.”
So let’s ultimately call it a draw in the battle of the metroplex music scenes, and continue to foster that Cowtown spirit with some Wrangler boots and a pair of horn-rimmed Ray-Bans to go along.