Music

Andy Wegner and Kyle Feeney

Andy Wegner has lived in Denton for six years, and attended Denton High School where he met Kyle. They sit on a bench facing the courthouse as Kyle scoots his longboard back and the square is a second home for them.

Andy is in the process of becoming a hip-hop artist and under the name Square Rat.

“All we did was party and hang out with each other,” Andy says, “Square Rat is going to bring it back.”

Skating, Arts and Jazz, Denton

“I skateboarded and I hurt it,” Andy says, “My doctor told me I could take of my splint. Then, I went to Arts and Jazz and got drunk and punched some kid in the ribs and fractured it even more.

Andy says he doesn’t have a lot of money but is saving up for a computer to record his music. Now, he has two  songs almost completed and another he would like to add another verse to he says as he begins to rap:

“Say no to dope or hang by the rope of addiction / and lose all ambition trying to handle your condition / But, you’re in the position pick your family and next ___ / And you’re skin like tick, so you don’t feel sick / when you’re gonna kick the bucket, when you’re gonna say fuck it / Bounce back, no shit, sound of whack when your heart’s starting to turn black. / Glass. Chrystal. Crank. / You might think it makes bank / Watch you don’t get shanked. / It ruins people’s lives, / I’ve seen it in my own eyes. / Don’t believe the lies. / Put it down and lets rise / and start realize these guys really aren’t your real friends. / They won’t be there in the end. /  It’s time to comprehend you’re nothing to them. / They’ll use you and abuse you.”

He finishes to a fist bump from Kyle.

“Denton’s beautiful. It’s filled with music,” Kyle says.

“We have the most interesting people in the world outside of Austin,” Andy adds.

“And it’s a smaller Austin. But, we’re raising out,” Kyle says as he looks around the square.

“We’re going to be awesome one day. We’re cooler,” Andy says.

“Appreciate,” Kyle finishes.

“Denton’s beautiful. It’s filled with music,” Kyle says.

“Denton’s beautiful. It’s filled with music,” Kyle says.

Andy says the Denton is the easiest place he can be himself. It’s his home and where he’ll stay until the day he dies.

Kyle is not an aspiring hip-hop artist but he loves the music of Denton and that’s why he sticks around. He says he will probably leave, go to college and come back since he has lived here his entire life.

“It’s one of those towns that draws you back,” he says.

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Denton, Fort Worth, Homeless, Teacher, Nanny, Travel, Hitchhiking, Artist

Transcription of an Interview: Allison Lamb

Allison gave a fantastic interview at Jupiter House in Denton and basically talked straight through without my having to ask many questions. After transcribing the recording, I omitted my questions and extra details that interrupted flow and comprehension. 

I’m just kind of thinking and listening to a book called Hyperion. It’s a science fiction book about, it’s hard to say, it has a lot of different stories in it. It’s just like a setup and character development for the next book really. I like science fiction a lot. It’s my primary genre and utopian novels. I really liked Spin and Brave New World.

I used to be a student but didn’t graduate. I am a nanny for a family, so I clean their house and watch their kid and I am a substitute teacher.

First, I was studying art and got a bad taste in my mouth at UNT because it’s competitive and I’m not competitive and then I moved to TWU for nutrition and dietetics. Then, I had like a bunch of crap happen in a semester and I had to put school on the back burner and my grades fell. I have to have As or nothing. I had Ds. I was like, I’m not ready for this and quit for a while but I’ll probably go back some day.

I still do art and always will. I really like throwing ceramics, its really fun and I like watercolor painting. I like making stuff for people. I have a stockpile of art supplies already because I would ask my family for them at Christmas, like give me some paint. And they’d be like here, have some paint and shut up already. Anything else, my nanny job can kind of pay for.

But yeah, my jobs do well. I live below my means. I don’t have a car or anything. I share a one-bedroom house with my roommate so rent is really not high.

I don’t know what I’d go back to school for, but if I decided to go back to school for money, I’d probably go back to school for a STEM field. You get good scholarships in STEM fields. If I decided to go back to school for something I love, it would probably be for ceramics. I would probably be like a teacher. Sometimes I like substitute teaching. Sometimes it’s really stressful because the kids are bratty or whatever.

But sometimes it’s really rewarding too.

One day, I was substituting for a special education class and I was trying to teach this 8-year-old how to subtract. I sat there with him and explained it to him and explained it to him and he got it and I was like I was able to teach that kid how to subtract and it was a really awesome moment for me. The little girl I nanny for is great, so sweet. I’ve nannied for other kids before that weren’t but they had some behavioral problems that weren’t their fault really. It wasn’t like autism, but close. This girl, she’s awesome like she paints with me and is really chill and awesome.

I travel every summer. Well, I started it last summer, but I went hitchhiking from here to northern California. When I was in New Mexico, I was sitting on a porch, I was like couch surfing and the people I met were really cool and we were in Ruidoso at night, sitting on a porch, playing music, and this bear walks down the street. It jumps into a dumpster at the end of the block and is like 30 feet from us rummaging through the garbage.

He looks up at us and then goes back to rummaging and it was really cool because I could tell it didn’t cross anybody’s mind to call animal control because the bear was like doing his own thing. Ruidoso is really encroaching upon the animals, so leave the animals be and they won’t mess with you unless you mess with them.

It was also really cool because it was the first time I saw a bear in real life. I wasn’t scared.

Well, I was at first because I had my back to it and the woman who was sitting next to me saw it and was like bear! So I turned around and saw that it was just minding it’s own business. I went from loh god we’re going to get mauled, to wow this is beautiful.

I think I’m afraid of dying and not getting to know the secrets of the universe after I die. I hope that after I die, no matter how it happens, I’m given the gift of knowledge of how the universe works and why, like the meaning. But if I didn’t get that I’d be really disappointed.

My life goal is to be happy and look back on my life and be like, that wasn’t a waste of time. Don’t let societal constructions of norm hinder you from being free.

I was homeless last year for six months. At one point, I broke up with my boyfriend of like three years and I loved and I got really depressed and I moved in with this guy.

He was older.

He was like this ex-‘Nam vet freaking crazy psycho posttraumatic stress disorder like really bad and I had a job at Ace hardware down by Kroger and I hated it. I was like abusing myself because I missed my boyfriend and was just really hating my life and was like I really need to get away from this guy.

He was like trying to getting me to marry him and stuff and treating me like getting all mad and possessive if I didn’t come home after work. I was like dude, I’m 20 years old, you need to back off you old man. But he like proposed it like you can live with me you don’t need to pay rent, no big deal, I like you. I thought it would be okay but it turned really creepy really fast and I tried to move out and quit my job and was thinking I had another job lined up but that didn’t work so I didn’t have a job and had some money saved up.

I met a guy right over there, where the last little building before crossing the street, and he was playing guitar. I had my drum out because there is a drum circle that goes on over there on Saturday nights and they had closed up early and I heard him playing and I came over there and was playing with him and he was like travelling. He’s from like a place in south Texas and was travelling, and he didn’t have any money. He got his money from playing music and I was totally taken aback from that.

I was like, this is awesome. I’m going to do this.

Plus, I already didn’t have a job. I wanted to get away from my roommate, so that’s what I did.

I was like, fuck all of y’all, I’m done and just hung out with him. Me and him and a saxophone player we met started a little band and we played every single night on Fry Street and made like $70 a night and it was so much fun. It was so awesome. Then I was like, I really want to travel. I need to get out of Denton for a while since I lived here since I was 12.

That’s when I decided I wanted to go travelling and I met another guy who seemed like a pretty good travel companion and we went and just started hitchhiking. I went from Denton to Fort Worth to Roswell, New Mexico. We got a ride from Fort Worth to Roswell and stayed in Roswell for a while and it got depressing.

Then we hitchhiked west to Ruidoso, which is an awesome town. It was like probably June of last year and then we bought a train ticket from Albuquerque to LA. We were in Albuquerque for just a few days and went to LA for a few days.

I’ve always wanted to go to Brazil, to like Carnaval. It just seems so awesome to me. We had to spend the night at a train station in LA one night. That was a nightmare but I met this girl who gave me a Brazilian cigarette. She was like, I’m from Brazil and just decided that I wanted to explore California one day and saved up my money to go. I was like, hey that’s what I’m doing. She was like, well cool, if you ever want to come to Brazil, here’s my number. Just call me and you can stay with me. So Portuguese is on my list of languages to learn.

It’s really hard to be homeless in LA because they were like you can’t sleep on the beach you have to sleep on the sidewalk or buy a hotel. We were there during the tourist season and didn’t think about that when we got there so there were no hotels and I didn’t really want to sleep on the sidewalk so we ended up dropping $200 on a hotel room for a night. It was a nice hotel but I was like, I can’t do this.

So then we caught a bus to San Francisco and went north with some people from San Francisco into the Redwoods and camped in the Redwoods for a while. That was really, really awesome.

Then we went back to the LA area to long beach because there was a guy form couch surfing. He seemed really, really cool. So we went back there to hang with him for a few days and by then I was really homesick and ready to get back.

We went to Oklahoma because I have some family there, lived with my dad for a month, and worked where my dad works. It’s like a juice packing factory called Whitlock and the pay pretty well, you can get tons of overtime. I made enough money to move back to Denton and establish myself again.

So then this summer, the guy I met in Ruidoso, his name is Mustang Jack, we’re going to go to Europe together to backpack and do the homeless thing over there for a while. It’s more accepted over there I think to go walking and backpacking and they have a better bus system. I’m also trying to learn German, a little bit of French, just some common languages. I feel like if I can just learn a little bit, I’ll be more accepted.

I don’t really like hitchhiking because I hate asking people for stuff and I don’t really like that about playing music on the street because I don’t like bumming money. I’m not the kind of person that will hold up a sign on the side of the street that’s like, give me money. Though sometimes I got so hungry I felt like that’s what I just had to do.

Dry Heeves

Dry Heeves, a Lubbock band that labels themselves “dirt surf rock” plays at City Tavern in downtown Dallas. Dry Heeves got a promotion group in Los Angeles to send their CDs across the country to college radio stations. Ryan Ulm, the bassist, hopes that something picks up soon.

Dry Heeves were lucky to play at City Tavern about three months ago after Arpi visited with his parents and networked with one of the bartenders. The performance was spectacular and they were invited back on their way to Mardi Gras to play. Mardi Gras will be the furthest they’ve had to travel for a show.

“I’d say getting out of Lubbock is the hardest thing we struggle with as a band,” Ryan slurs. “It’s a bubble in the middle of nowhere where it’s five hours to any of the nearest big cities”

Arpi Grann from Arlington plays guitar. He’s the only one band member that’s not an original and has been with the band for nearly three years. The other band members are from Post, Texas and met Arpi after moving the band to nearby Lubbock.

It’s hard for struggling bands to travel and go on the road to play big shows. The biggest show they’ve have played is Choppa Fest in Lubbock. It is not actually a festival but a tribute for a friend of the band who passed away. Local artists got together and had a benefit concert where nearly 400 people attended.

“It was more of a community thing,” Arpi said as Ryan nods his head more in reverence than from the alcohol swimming in his stomach to calm his nerves.

Arpi work at Texas Tech painting and doing simple maintenance but Ryan does not have a job right now. Ryan tried music classes at Tech but it never really took. Singer and guitarist Dylan Davis and drummer Anthony Merrell also have jobs to play the bills- but the band sustains itself for the road and promotion.

Arpi and Ryan hope they can start playing more shows. It’s the most fun they could ever have and want to be able to travel, partying with people from all over the world, while they do it. Getting people to go out and have fun with them is a struggle worth fighting for a band that had a blast choosing their name by putting together gross words on a white board. When they’re not performing, Dry Heeves find pleasure by going hard and practicing.

“I guess our communicating with other people and between ourselves and get on the same page is the hardest thing we’ve had to overcome,” Arpi says as the two walk away to begin their show.

The band has been called an angry Beach Boys and have been together almost six years.

Jenny

Niko Red Star was driving one day and saw an accordion player on the side of the street.

“She had her case out and she had a little forlorn look in here eye,” Niko Red Star says. “I was like you know what? I’ll see if she’ll play with my band.”

Niko Red Star starts packing away his double-bass as he looks over at her.

“Jenny’s been a musician around the area for quite a while. That’s Jenny’s buddy-friend Kent,” he says as he points to the young man standing next to her. “They come together as a package deal and he plays guitar.”

Niko Red Star walks out of City Tavern to finish packing the instruments. Kent stands behind Jenny, texting as she leans against a post, still swinging with half-closed eyes.

“We’re more or less a package deal on a personal level, I mean we’re dating,” she says.

Jenny and Kent freelance for The Southland Swing Band and tonight is his first show with them. She has played the accordion for a few gigs. Kent, a jazz student at UNT, performs in rock groups and fusion groups.

“He is incredibly talented and has his own groups and performs a lot around the area,” she says.

Jenny started taking accordion lessons when she was seven. Eventually she started taking piano and voice. Jenny, from Fort Worth, started playing on streets, stages and festival stages since she was 11 or 12.

“I got a business degree in college. I didn’t study music,” she says. “I’ve just been taking lessons and performing all my life so. This is what I do.”

She’ll teach private lessons every so often, but is primarily a performer.

“I’m a songwriter,” she says. “There are a lot of different ways I get out there and do my thing, you know?”

Jenny has been on many tours and in countless instances where she did not have a place to stay the night. People at the venue will offer her to stay with them. The coolest place she has stayed was with a friend in the Los Angeles area.

“We stayed at his place one time on tour and he has this incredibly interesting house and a yacht and took us out on the water, it was really neat,” she says. “The whole band was just having a great time and he took us to some neat places in town it was a great, bizarre experience, like we’re sitting on a yacht tonight, okay!”

There have been other times when she hasn’t felt welcome at various gigs. One time, someone even shorted her money.

“That was maybe one of the worst things just because I typically have I do just have a lot of faith in people and humanity and venues,” she says.

It doesn’t happen often, but one time it did and it really hurt her personally, as an artist and someone working with the venue. There wasn’t anything she could do except brush it off and say “okay that happened but I’m not going to let it get me down next gig.”

“And maybe you just choose not to play there again,” she says. “That’s really the way it goes.”

The Southland Swing Band, Dallas, Swing Dance, Swing Music, Dallas Jazz, City Tavern

Niko Red Star

When he’s not acting in, producing or writing horror films, Niko Red Star is the bass player and band manager for the gypsy jazz, swing and Dixieland playing band The Southland Swing Band. Tonight, instead of packing away costumes and camera equipment, he packs up instruments after an incredible performance-ending rendition of “It don’t Mean a Thing” by Duke Ellington.

“Duke Ellington has a special little place in my heart,” he says. “I love his compositions. You can swing the crap right out of them. It starts getting people shaking their booty’s, getting drunk and it’s a lot of fun.”

Niko Red Star has been playing upright bass for nearly ten years, since around the time he arrived in Dallas.

“I’m from a wee little country town smack dab in the middle of California,” Niko says, pressing his thumb and forefinger together to emphasize the size after finishing casing the bass. “I guess fate and destiny brought me out here.”

The trained musician is multi-talented, receiving a scholarship at SMU where he completed a degree in classical music. Now, he has had The Southland Swing Band together for around two years. Niko Red Star and his band swing their way around Dallas as much as they can with a small band and large band. Tonight, Niko brought out his small group.

“At times we actually have a full horn section with three horns, a saxophone, trombone and clarinet,” Niko says.

Their audience is generally very receptive. It’s good music and makes people happy. People want to dance to it and so do they, though tonight the small crowd seems preoccupied and few people are dancing.

“We get a lot of swing dancing because this is all time drinking music,” Niko Red Star says.

Denton Music, Denton Square, Denton, Street Music, Acoustic Guitar, panhandling

Myles Wood

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday,” Myles Wood belts uncannily resembling Paul McCartney.

Apart from being a beautiful song, The Beatles hit has sentimental value for the street musician. Myles loves that he can do it well enough that people can actually recognize it. But what’s the most important, to Myles, is “Yesterday” is one of the songs he grew up listening to his dad play. He smiles at the thought that he didn’t realize it was a Beatles song until he was 15.

“My dad played the guitar since he was 5-years-old so I literally had guitar in my life –in utero as they say,” Myles says. “And so I was able to pick it up pretty easily, never took lessons.”

One day, in high school, Myles found a song he wanted to play he was really in to at the time. A friend was learning to play guitar and he decided to dabble to see what it was like.

“He walked in the room and was like man you really suck,” Myles said. There was something about that shook him up, so he practiced until he reached his first milestone- to outplay his friend.

“Like I’m better than he is! Fuck that, I’m going to show him,” Myles said. “From there, I just couldn’t put the guitar down afterwards even after he moved on and just quit all music altogether I was like I’m going to stick around with this and try to find some other music friends.”

Myles notices a man standing there, only moving to let people pass, appreciating the music. “I’m going to play something I haven’t played in a while,” Myles says. “On bright beautiful days like this it’s just appropriate.”

He adjusts the strap on his shoulder and looks up, squinting into the sun as he tries to remember the chords. He smiles and starts to strum the intro to a song immediately recognized by his audience. “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1” by The Flaming Lips is a fun uplifting song about overcoming hardship.

The man can see it makes him happy to play it and starts nodding his head to the beat, making Myles smile more.

Myles regularly plays mostly Beatles tunes- preferably when he can sing like Sir Paul.

“I got a small repertoire of the Beatles I can use pretty often,” he says, “then James Taylor, easy listening kind of stuff then any kind of rock and roll kind of stuff I can play on the acoustic guitar, I can try and make that work.”

Myles comes out to the square three times a week mostly for the love of the music, but if he can make any money on the side, it’s a plus for him. It’s the one town where he can actually play and not be harassed. He hasn’t had any panhandling problems, and a number of times, police come to chitchat or hear him play.

“They’ll never throw in money,” he said, “but at the same time they don’t harass me saying I’m panhandling or anything like that.”

Myles tries to be respectful to the people shopping on the Square. If you want to look at something in the window behind him, he’ll move out of the way for you.

“I think that was one of the things the cops have seen,” Myles says, “is that I don’t cause trouble I’m really just out here to have fun for the most part so they’re cool with it. I see a lot of musicians out here and if they get stopped, they get pissed off and are like I’m trying to make some money here.”

Myles thinks the point of playing street music is to get to know the people maybe even get some inspiration for songs. Many times, people who do not pay are the ones that appreciate it the most.

“The just thoroughly enjoy the music,” Myles said. “That’s what they’re there for and they don’t feel like they need to do charitable work for the day tossing some change in.”

Myles recounts the coolest thing that has happened in his time on the Square.

“I had a couple gentlemen come up to me because they noticed my guitar and they liked the sound of it and they asked me what I could play,” he said. “So I started playing the Beatles for them and these two gentlemen jumped in and started singing harmony with me.”

The next thing he knew they had their own crowd of random strangers, when a group of 3 to 4-year-old girls started jumping around, twirling and dancing, laughing and having a great time. It was a culmination of everything he loves about music in one moment.

“It made my entire day- my entire fucking year at that,” he says.

To Myles, there are two very different worlds and he’s still not sure he wants to go into the profession world. In his career as a musician, Myles has never actually played any real venues or paid shows. He was too shy about it and didn’t think he had enough to put himself out there.

“So that’s why I started playing on the street,” Myles says. “Someone had started suggesting it to me over and over.”

“When I went out there so it was really just bad timing to start college,” Myles says. He ended up dropping out and “kind of doing the drifter thing” for a while figuring out what he wanted to do.

“One thing I’ve gone back and forth on,” he says, “is making a living with music sounds really cool but at the same time I don’t think it would have the same kind of effect as this sort of free performance stuff I do on the street.”

There was one guy who came by and we decided to do some freestyle collaboration and that’s the best part about it, just some random collaboration with people.

“I’m not as much of a lyricist as I don’t feel like the things I write sound good in any way, shape or form,” Myles said as his new friend Poe comes up to talk to him. “It feels contrived when I try to write words and lyrics and stuff but at the same time nobody wants to just listen to an acoustic guitar.”

Every now and then, Myles will try and bring out a few songs. Right now, he has partial lyrics for one song that he wrote and he’ll play on the square– but he usually ends up repeating the same verse and chorus until he decides to end the song. It’s enough, and for the most part, people can’t tell.

Occasionally he’ll just play some instrumental piece he’s working on.

“Some people like it,” Myles said. “But for the most part, they want singing or something else on top of that so that’s what leads me to cover songs instead of write most of the time.”

Myles and Poe start to chat for a while about a possible collaboration in the future, with a natural lyricist and a natural musician as Poe will have music behind all his stuff, whether it’s the guitar, piano or violin, or just two other instruments all mashed up together.

“I just never really get too deep into it because even though I’m not showing it to anybody it’s not good enough for me,” he says as Poe strikes up a tune and Poe walks away. “It’s the perfectionist aspect of an artist I guess.”