Featured Music: Wednesday, September 1, 2004
The Metrognome Collective, led by co-founder Aaron Bartz, is helping create a ‘scene.’
The Gathering

The Metrognome Collective is fast becoming an underground force in the local arts and music scenes.


Those who think Arlington is a cultural wasteland will get no arguments here. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of serious artists and musicians in residence. But the town’s visual and spiritual landscape of strips malls, crab shacks, and water slides hasn’t exactly been conducive to the gathering of creative minds.

Fear not. The Metrognome Collective is here — in cyberspace, occasionally even taking physical shape with art and music shows and with one music compilation released last year and possibly more to come. “Our goal,” said co-founder Aaron Bartz, “is to build a cohesive network of independent bands, artists, [and] writers to work together to create a community interested in being constructive and original rather than settling into a monotonous lifestyle.”

Bartz and co-founder Patrick Higgins compared bohemian notes while playing together in the band Scenic Lights. Then one day Bartz wrote out a mock mission statement for the kind of artistic community he wanted to be part of. From that, Metrognome became, first, an outlet for Bartz and Higgins’ music (they eventually dropped Scenic Lights and joined Pencil and Black Lights, respectively). News of it spread mostly by word of mouth, helped along by some intensive street-sign stickering. In the past year, it’s become a true collective, with other bands and individual musicians and then visual artists joining in. The group gained its first public notice in March 2003 with the release of the Up Come the Underground compilation.

Bartz said that much of the inspiration for Metrognome came from the Elephant 6 art collective in Georgia, which includes bands like The Apples in Stereo, Beulah, and Elf Power. Arlington badly needed something similar, he said, as a way to allow people to focus on art and music “rather than [on] the world at large.” Part web site (www.metrognome.org, with online art gallery), part promotional tool, Metrognome has watched its roster of participating musicians and artists grow from a couple of locals to more than a dozen.

Arlington’s and Fort Worth’s scattered galleries and music clubs didn’t provide a way for creative folks to get together, Bartz said. Now, through Metrognome, local band members can share ideas or simply chat — even if only via e-mail — and find ways to help one another reach the top. For artists, exhibiting work — even if only via a web site — is what making art is all about. Of course, viewing art or listening to music online is a far cry from experiencing either in person. The art-and-music shows help deal with this. Any spare change that’s gathered always goes back to the nonprofit. “Most of us are broke,” Bartz said. “And it’s hard to ask our friends for money.”

Staying afloat presents challenges, but that’s nothing new to a couple of bohemians like Bartz and Higgins. Forming alliances with other area art associations or communities may help, but Bartz said that other groups are so involved with their specific niches that making a connection is often difficult. “You kind of feel that you have your own thing going on and want to stick with that,” he said, “but what this really boils down to is finding other like-minded folks.”

Members of the collective are beginning to talk about selling merchandise and releasing more music compilations. Those activities could generate some much-needed revenue, but the collective’s founders figure it will always be at least partly dependent on financial contributions from members. They want to continue to reach out to more artists and art and music supporters, and they realize that work will involve personal sacrifices.

The collective — and its reputation — are growing. People are going to Metrognome-sponsored shows, they’re visiting the web site, and they’re talking about the bands. “The future could be incredibly bright,” Bartz said, “but it’s just a matter of people getting out of their caves and seeing that there is something going on in their own backyard.”

Pat Ferguson of the band Birth To Burial emphasizes the diversity of the group’s band roster. “You can have a show with Swirve and Heaven Is A Hotel who are completely different, but people would enjoy the shit out of both,” he said.

Visual artist Matt Hogan said creative folks don’t always have the networking skills to put together shows and meeting places. “When you have people around you to back you up, things run way smoother,” he said.

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