Published on January 11th, 2017 | by Brittain Thompson0
The State of Oxford Music: A Conversation with Local Drummer Jace Hughes
Jace Hughes, member of local hard rock bands The Heard and Bad Dates, has been an Oxford resident now for a decade. In that time he’s seen the town’s decline of punk rock in the early 2000s, the coming of Dent May’s Cat’s Purring collective, and the lull that is now Oxford’s music scene. Hughes sat down with us to talk shop and his experience making music in Oxford.
“It was a while before I played with anyone here really,” said Hughes. “I didn’t have my drum set and didn’t really know anyone who wanted to get together. There were some late nights drunk jamming, but I didn’t know how to get in the bar scene.”
The bar scene, then, consisted of a different musical landscape than we have today on the Square.
“When I first started listening to bands around here it was the Hill Country Blues kind of stuff and soft piano, love making stuff…and that was good but once that went away the only thing that was more hardcore was like Tyler Keith and The Cooters, and those are rare [now].”
For years the music scene continued to be a fragmented front.
“It really seemed like right around the time The Heard came up that like 10 bands popped up out of nowhere. Overnight there was a scene,” said Hughes. “I was talking to Landon [Boyte] about it and it was like everyone was trying to help each other and at the time we had three venues to play at.”
The comradery everyone felt then combined with the amount of venues made putting together shows a breeze.
“If you couldn’t get a show then someone else would help you get one or they’d get one and put you on the bill,” said Hughes. “Every weekend, every other night, there was a show with a three band bill and it was $5. It was awesome. We were all going at the same time. Everyone was making an EP at the same time.”
This golden age of music in transient Oxford was not meant to last however.
“Just like it started overnight, it ended overnight,” said Hughes. “People moved out of town, bands broke up or they just got uninterested. It sucked. Brian [Hatch, bass player of The Heard] and I were talking the other day about how we miss it. We miss when there was a scene.”
Along with the musicians departing many of the fans and friends and went with them.
“Now it’s like if you play Rock and Roll and play at Larrys’, unless you already have a big following like And The Echo, it’s tough to get people out. I feel like there’s not enough people left who want to listen to Rock and Roll. They want to listen to other things, which is great, it’s just a shame that it feels like no one wants Rock and Roll.”
Hughes second band, Bad Dates, are currently on hiatus. The primary reason for their break being that despite being well received in Oxford, the shows just weren’t filling out for them.
“I have to ask myself the same question about me and Brian working on new The Heard material,” said Hughes.
While it is true to say that Oxford has lost much of the scene that, largely, orbited around the late Cat’s Purring Dude Ranch, there are still talented musicians playing in town.
“There’s a lot of good bands [in Oxford], but I couldn’t tell you any of them,” said Hughes. “The only one I still know that’s stuck around is And The Echo. There are these newer electronic bands that I do like, but I don’t know if there’s really a scene around them. Maybe that’s just me being detached though.”