“Everything ‘cool’ was once new. Everything new was once weird. And everything weird needed a community to support its growth. And then it became cool.”
Jake Laughlin was addressing a crowd of some 200 Denton musicians and artists at a DentonRadio.com Artists’ Gathering a couple of months ago when he made this statement. I thought, “Wow. That is profound.”
Surrounded by local music scene movers and shakers, Jake’s insightful remark settled in my head through a music filter, though its application is really broad when you think on it. I considered the soundtrack of my life and how events that played out to its music were sometimes tricky because of the soundtrack itself.
On the verge of what my parents would undoubtedly recall as my terrible teens, I fell in love with radio. I listened to rock ‘n’ roll like it was food for my soul. Because it was the AM era when I could pick up the way cool WLS from Chicago late at night, I slept with a little transistor radio under my pillow.
The airwaves weren’t the only waves I rode into adolescence. My musical tastes set the stage for tumult between my parents and me. Mom and Dad did not like my music. We quarreled our way over music into my teens when certain bands were forbidden altogether and records were confiscated from my collection, one particular album even broken over a knee.
I was their first foray into managing a teenager. My parents survived three more behind me, each with their own weird musical fixations. Many years into my adulthood, my mom confided that her dad once broke an Elvis album over his knee during a similar musical storm in her youth.
Then I was the mom. I remember being slightly horrified at some of my daughter’s teenage music preferences, especially when “grunge” prevailed in her young culture.
“That’s not even music! It’s racket!”
I sounded like my parents did way back when. And like their parents did the generation before that. And like my daughter likely will someday with her own kids.
Dad turned 78 years old last month. My siblings and I got him a portable WiFi speaker so he and mom could enjoy creating their own music channels and listening to them in the house or while working in the yard. Helping them learn the ins and outs of Pandora, I was amused that quite a few of their favorite genres are the same ones they abhorred hearing from my teenage bedroom. How did that happen?
It happened because of exactly what Jake so aptly articulated. My music was new and weird in my parents’ ears. Then it was cool and everywhere, eventually palatable to them, the background in a season of life. Now, they enjoy it. The same is true for me with some of the music from my daughter’s era.
The last little piece of Jake’s comment brings it all home. “And everything weird needed a community to support its growth, and then it became cool.” Every era, movement, place and season has its culture that embraces the new and weird things that become its cool bedrocks.
In a May 25th Dallas Observer article titled “Cycle of Venue Boom and Bust Clouds Denton's Musical Future,” several Denton icons contributed quotes about music venues coming and going in the Denton scene. Writer Sara Button makes a significant observation in the piece. “Denton’s music scene isn’t going away; it’s just rebuilding itself.” And I would add…again. The article makes the point that Denton’s music scene, like everything in the world, ebbs and flows. It is a living thing. Its sound, shape, people and places change. It is the way of life.
In his conclusion at the Artists’ Gathering that night, Jake said, “What makes Denton cool is not necessarily all the cool stuff. The reason we have so much cool stuff is because of the supportive community that fosters it.”
Well said! Change is disruptive and rarely comfortable. But Denton has always been the place where different can bloom. New and weird are unique but not our coolest attributes. What makes Denton Denton is the fact that we are original and independent enough to give new and weird the space to grow. The result? Cool happens here.