Cat's Cradle Aims to Revive Fayetteville's Hardcore Music Scene

A microphone stands in the performance area of the venue Cat's Cradle on Aug. 22. Cat's Cradle is a DIY music venue in Fayetteville that allows for people to perform shows in an intimate environment.

An orange cat named Clementine strolls between the legs of music lovers at Cat’s Cradle, a converted two-car garage turned music venue. The aroma of home cooking for visiting bands mingles with the smell of sweat from concertgoers cooling off in the backyard.

With freshly installed hardwood flooring and wall decor made from old T-shirts, the venue fosters artistic activity in a homemade hub.

Located right off Dickson Street and Fairlane Street, Cat’s Cradle opened its doors in April and is the brainchild of manager Cory Jensen. Since their inaugural show in May, Cat’s Cradle has hosted six events. The price of admission varies according to the performer, but donations are always welcome, Jensen said.

Jensen has no intention of limiting the genre of those who perform in his space, but he hopes to rekindle Fayetteville’s old hardcore music scene.

Hardcore music is subgenre of punk rock that emerged in the late 1980s. Early pioneers of the genre include bands like Black Flag and Modern Threat, Jensen said.

“For me, the genre is defined by the bands that started it as well as the ones that carry on the torch today,” he said.

The genre has a reputation of violent crowds at shows, but Cat’s Cradle is quite the opposite, Jensen said.

“All of my friends from this area have always talked about the old days of the Northwest Arkansas hardcore scene and how it used to be wild and great. I want to bring that back,” he said.

Eric Dorothy is a local musician and was a former member of the hardcore band Sick Tight during the hardcore music scene’s heyday. Fayetteville’s hardcore music scene began in 2006, and until 2013, fans could attend a show every weekend at various home venues similar to Cat’s Cradle, Dorothy said.

The scene began to die off in 2013 as performance spaces disappeared and the motivation to create more went with it, Dorothy said.

“I remember the last big show. Everyone could tell it was the end of an era,” he said.

Graduate student Joshua Gregory said Cat’s Cradle is different than other venues in Fayetteville because it is welcoming, much like a home. People talk to strangers more readily in this space compared to others like Backspace and Nomads, he said.

“It feels more like a house show than at other spots around town,” said Keefer Roach, guitarist of the local rock band Hazemaze.

Jensen takes the idea of working from home to a new level. Cat’s Cradle doubles as Jensen’s bedroom. When artists come to perform, he moves his bed out of the way, he said. Local and touring musicians can always use the venue’s sound equipment, which is always set up and ready to go, Jensen said.

Cat’s Cradle’s atmosphere exemplifies the comfort and accessibility of a home, and Jensen’s enthusiasm and warmth puts people at ease, Dorothy said.

Before moving to Fayetteville, Gregory was part of the hardcore scene in Oklahoma. He said he remembers playing shows in Fayetteville when the hardcore scene was at its best. He said he is excited about the effort Jensen is making to revive the scene.

“I usually have to drive an hour or two to go to a [hardcore] show. I am happy that there is a space like Cat’s Cradle in Fayetteville again,” Dorothy said.

Jensen’s first hardcore show booked was on July 19, and he considers it to have gone very well. The hard rock bands booked were the Short Leash from Michigan and Iron Mob from Georgia. Around 10 people were expected to attend. The turnout was surprising for a show with only two bands, especially on a Monday evening, he said. Nearly 30 people were there.

“We even had people come from the Little Rock hardcore scene to support us,” Jensen said.

The first show at Cat’s Cradle was headlined by Hazemaze and included many other artists in an array of genres, including a bluegrass set and spoken-word poetry.

“It’s a [do it yourself] space so it’s kind of, like, play whatever. Music is music,” Roach said.

Cat’s Cradle plans on having different UA poetry students read their work in between musical sets, said David Brunson, a poetry student and co-manager of Cat’s Cradle.

“We're really looking to foster community through various forms of art, so when we have a group of people gathered to hear live music, it's only natural that we'd mix in poetry readings as well,” Brunson said.

Cat’s Cradle does not have any future shows booked, but once they do, show dates and venue information can be found on the group’s Facebook page.

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