With all the breast-beating and rending of garments that one periodically hears regarding the state of “the scene” here in the Fort, it’s worth remembering that DIY venue 1919 Hemphill has been in operation since 2002, making it the longest-lived DIY music spot not just in Fort Worth but in all of North Texas. Divorcing art from commerce (or more to the point, live music from the selling of alcohol) might not seem like a recipe for long-term success, but after seven years, the plucky little Southside room is still standing tall.
Run by volunteers, hot as a blast furnace in summer, cold as a meat locker in winter, with a parking lot the size of your ass pocket, it’s a place where you’re likely as not to get panhandled by a gentleman with a really cute dog but also likely to hear music you won’t hear anywhere else in the city. Bands from all over the nation clamor to play there just to be able to say that they have. If Woody Guthrie were a young man today, he’d be playing spots like this one.
And the 28 tracks on this comp —- all contributed by bands that have played 1919 in the last four years — attest to both the diversity (activating pop and folk as well as punk pleasure centers) and overall quality of the acts that have blown up against 1919’s graffiti-emblazoned walls.
San Francisco’s Onion Flavored Rings recall hometown elders the Dead Kennedys. Denton’s Bleach Boys play Dick Dale-inflected punk polka, while their homeboys ANS rage full on. The Shortest Distance wrestles acoustically with the dilemmas of a consciousness-raised urban dweller. L.A.’s God Equals Genocide purveys a raucous folk-punk. Baltimore’s Abiku does a nice line in ’80s synth pop. Trifle Tower’s track is dark, moody, and metallic. Connecticut Yankees the Can Kickers provide a reasonable simulacrum of Appalachian folk. Brooklynites Halo Fauna play folk-based punk with an angsty edge. Now-defunct Nouns Group plays arty indie-pop. Buffalo, NY’s I Object kicks out the jams with angry femme-vox. Little d’s Heartstring Stranglers dance a twisted waltz. Former 1919 “house band” Brick Fight lives up to its name with a pop-punk anthem. Japanther lays down a clangorous minimalist din.
Recently split Drug Mountain puts down their saxophones to unleash a corrosive blast of spleen. Homespun Hoosiers Ghost Mice play a heart-on-sleeve manifesto. Another band from Buffalo, Lemuria, offers winsome pop-punk wonderment. The Pharmacy’s track is wobbly Westerberg-ismo, while Jubilee’s pits screamo vocals against melodic-but-wired guitar chording. Artsy Philadelphians the Extraordinaires sing a Kinksian ditty about an archetypal punk pad. Houston’s O’Pioneers churn out a breathless post-punk racket. No-wavish locals Orange Coax conjure memories of early Lydia Lunch, while Best Fwends sound like paint-thinner-huffing warlocks. Teenage Cool Kids enjoy a little jangle with their crash and thump. Prizzy Prizzy Please sounds like a modern-day Trashmen (of “Surfin’ Bird” fame). Mid-Cities denizens High Anxieties party like it’s 1984 all over again. Philly’s Hulksmash sound like they ought to record for Southern Lord. Temple’s Boogdish runs Grease (or maybe Rocky Horror) through the ’80s punk filter. The 29th track contains testimonials from show attendees.
How Y’All Doin’ Tonight? is the kind of compilation that invites repeated spins because there’s so much variation from track to track. The only way you’re going to get a copy is by going to a show, so you know what to do.