Among a network of underground do-it-yourself, or DIY, house venues in Denton, Texas, The Holding Cell opens its doors to bands looking for a space to play and folks wanting a place to party. Musician and venue operator, Dylan Tarver originally created this space for him and his band to practice but it quickly grew into something bigger.
In Denton’s dense music scene, Tarver’s home gives young musicians a chance to play gigs when they may not be ready or be able to afford playing in a larger venue. As for show-goers, the venue is a place to let loose and express themselves. With a rarely enforced door cover and all ages allowed, visitors are brought under one roof to bask in the music and partake in counter-culture.
Man with the Music
Tarver sleeps, eats and breaths music. He and his house are a reflection of the impact that music has on his life as well as the impact The Holding Cell has on the Denton music scene.
“It’s my outlet and my family. Without the music that I can make with these people I really wouldn’t have any way to show my emotions or show how I feel,” Tarver said.
“I feel pretty awkward in public most times. I don’t really feel that smart or scholarly and sometimes my work ethic isn’t there, but my passion always is. So music and art give me a way to convey that,” Tarver said. “It gives me a sense of belonging because I just don’t feel ‘fit in.’”
Inspired by DIY music in California as well as Denton veteran house, Gatsby’s Mansion, which shut down in August of 2017, Tarver set out to make his own mark on the scene. In fall of 2016, he and his friend, Gabe Thompkins dove in head first, hosting some 40 bands at their rental house for the Free Underage Cool Kids festival. The festival not only left Tarver with beer soaked floors, but by the end of the weekend his house, Fannin House, would be booked out with shows for four months straight.
“I didn’t know what I was really getting into,” Tarver said. “I just really wanted a place for local bands that I like to play.”
The reality of running a DIY venue hit Tarver in April of 2017 after receiving a noise citation from the Denton Police Department. Despite the threat of being shut down Fannin hosted several shows acoustically and asked for donations to help pay the ticket.
They refused to give up on the music.
That summer, when their landlord found out about the legal trouble, he didn’t demand they stop playing shows but rather offered to find them a different house. Once they found their current location, Tarver eagerly traded the yellow house for the blue one and moved in to what is now known as the Holding Cell in August of 2017.