It was the first night of fall in the corner of Bryan and Scripture, outside Killer’s Tacos in an otherwise quiet neighborhood just north of the University of North Texas’ campus.
The place looks like a house with a doorway leading up to a short counter around to two rooms that provide seating during dining hours but were cleared for the night, leaving plenty of space to walk around a small stage.
Through a set of French doors, one finds a small patio with a large backyard area where food lovers and concertgoers convened before the night’s show, seated at picnic tables or along the edge of the venue’s outdoor stage.
With the tagline, “The taco shop that rocks!” Killer’s Tacos serves up beers and, well, tacos from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, but on nights like this Tuesday, Killer’s likes to rock.
On the menu Tuesday night was Fea (pronounced “fay-uh,” the Spanish, feminine form of the word “ugly”) a Chicana punk band out of San Antonio fronted by singer Letty Martinez; backed by guitarist Shelly Webster, former-Girl In A Coma rhythm section player; with Jenn Alva on bass and Phanie Diaz on drums.
Fea is a band steeped in the riot grrrl tradition that sings fluently in English and Spanish. Kicking off a small Midwest tour in Denton, the band is currently supporting their 2019 sophomore album No Novelties, released on Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records.
Denton has always been a great place for bands to warm up before heading out on a larger tour. A newly reunited Meat Puppets famously played at Rubber Gloves in 2007 on a five-stop leg before going on a larger tour with Sonic Youth.
Still, no stranger to raucous clubs in North Texas and around the country, Fea’s stop for a free show at a little Denton taco shop seemed rather out of the ordinary for a band that has toured with legendary bands like Against Me!, Babes in Toyland and Agent Orange, and opened for queercore legends Pansy Division as the band did at Three Links in Deep Ellum in February 2020 shortly before the pandemic lockdowns.
There was not a big turnout on Tuesday. Most of the crowd has been rallied by Wee-Beasties frontman Richard Haskins, who’s been a longtime fan of the band. The rest were a handful of die-hard fans and leftovers from Killer’s open mic night audience — a bold opening act for the night’s headliner.
The band arrived at 9:30 p.m. and open mic wrapped up around 9:45 p.m. Killer’s official closing time was 10 p.m. Fea started playing at 10:15 p.m.
Kicking things off with “Itch,” Fea quickly drew in even the latest of stragglers hanging out in the backyard, kicking out the jams as if it was any other venue.
The audience’s clap in the silence between songs highlighted the intimacy of the night — a mid-level band playing to the smallest of audiences.
“That was a $60-dollar show at least.” – a new Fea fan.
“What a great energy for a Tuesday,” Martinez said smiling while the band revved up for its next bilingual song.
It was remarkable to see the energy a band can bring to even the smallest of shows. It really isn’t about the audience but the energy the audience brings, and the weird collection of energy cultivated for the night was just perfect.
Taking a look around the audience, with its mix of white and brown faces, nodding their head regardless of the language coming from the stage, the amount of love going back and forth between the band and the audience was simply heartwarming.
In short, Fea brought it. Martinez commanded the stage and the audience as though it was an amphitheater, singing to the very back of the audience. Webster shredded for an area, and the band bantered with the audience, making friends with the whole crowd.
One of the best things about seeing a show as big as this in a house as small as Killer’s was feeling the floor shake as the crowd pogo-ed to the fast beat of a punk show. Led by Martinez, it was a seismic connection between band and crowd.
The set wasn’t long, wrapping up with a couple songs, a call to the merch bench and to tip the bartenders. There was also a banger ending with Martinez and Alva on the floor.
It wasn’t much, but it was beautiful.
The encore didn’t take long. Heading into “Sister K,” a song about an abusive nun from Martinez’s past, the crowd immediately started making the floor shake with reckless abandon.
And with that, the lights came up and the band made their exit with whole crowd lining up to the merch table.
“That was a $60-dollar show at least,” one new fan said outside the show.
He wasn’t wrong.