North Texas Daily

A not-so-silent night for a traveling man

A not-so-silent night for a traveling man

March 23
20:25 2016

Matt Payne | Copy Editor


Groups of drunk, laughing people strolled along the sidewalk under luminous bulbs outside McBride Music & Pawn, returning to their cars in the wee hours of a Saturday morning. But one man stopped, his bike in tow, by a lone guitarist stationed outside of the shop.

The passing man propped his bike on one of the walls and inhaled another drag of his dwindling cigarette.

“Looks like you’ve had really good night,” the man said as he assessed the crumpled dollar bills decorating the guitarist’s open case. “Even though I’m buzzed from a couple of beers and don’t usually drink, folks like you and I gotta stick together.”

He continued to make general banter, but stumbled and lost his footing. Ash from the smoldering cigarette in his hand fell upon the fabric of the guitarist’s case, slightly charring it.

The guitarist laughed.

“Yeah, man. It’s the beauty of the open night,” he said, jiving to the strum of his acoustic guitar. “Feel free to take some of that while you’re down there.”

With two guitars and no clear direction, Joshua Cervantes made clear he is a traveling man.

Cervantes has lived in towns across Texas like Burleson, Waco and Dallas, but he doesn’t stay in Denton for college or his career. He enjoys the open night and the welcomed opportunity to strum on his guitars and not be hustled for it.

“Regardless of where you are outside, you can be as loud as you want,” Cervantes said. “It’s a free world. That’s how it is.”

The enclosed entrance to McBride’s Music & Pawn offers a space to perform that is both private and has good acoustics. Matt Payne | Copy Editor

The enclosed entrance to McBride’s Music & Pawn offers a space to perform that is both private and has good acoustics. Matt Payne | Copy Editor

At the moment, Cervantes resides in a one-bedroom apartment by himself, trulymaking him a one-man show. He’s decided to stay in Denton for so long — about a year and a half — primarily because it offers a reprieve from a past of hardship and sketchy experiences.

While Cervantes has taken his talent onto the stages of Andy’s Bar and other traditional, organized venues around town, as a musician who wants no restriction jamming out, he’s taken it upon himself to live a solitary lifestyle and hit the streets.

“I don’t set the nights up, but I’m out here pretty often as long as the weather isn’t horrible,” Cervantes said. “I’ve met a ton of other musicians who I see often, but we don’t even remember each other’s names.”

It’s an approach that’s been the harbinger of trouble on multiple occasions; Cervantes has been mugged and involved in fistfights. It’s common for him to be extremely cautious toward his guitars as, prior to one of his cousins gifting him the instrument he currently holds, he’s had instruments stolen by friends to whom he lent them.

Cervantes is led by his wanderlust to share his music with the masses in public areas. And for the most part, his sentiment is reflected in Denton residents around him, including McBride Music & Pawn owner Cody Garcia.

“As long as [traveling musicians are] not disturbing customers, I don’t really mind them,” said Garcia, whose shop offers many musical services and musical paraphernalia. “Especially since they’re mainly playing late at night.”

Nonchalant toward the influx of street performers Denton hosts on a daily and nightly basis, Garcia noted many are in public settings for ulterior motives outside of serenading those who happen to pass by their performances.

“I only kick them out if they begin to be a distraction,” Garcia said. “Most of them are out here to self-advertise and simply aren’t that good of musicians, anyway.”

Despite Denton’s long-held reputation as a breeding ground for up-and-coming musicians to carve a name for themselves, business owners in the city are cognizant of the detriment that spontaneous “loitering” performances can have on their establishments.

Many of these businesses have had a history of growing alongside the free and sometimes wild habits of panhandling musicians. LSA Burger on the Square has a history of this with open-mic nights and their iconic stage, LSA employee Presley Edwards said.

“Mondays, we try to offer a stage for anybody to take the mic and perform,” Edwards said. “Otherwise, they have to consult with our booking agents.”

For Cervantes, who said he enjoys electrifying audiences on the stage with his electric-acoustic guitar, performing at a venue is a travesty compared to the freedom of strumming and hollering on hard asphalt.

“Personally, I’d never disturb anybody who wants to do whatever the f—k they want to do,” Cervantes said. “I’ll just move somewhere else.”

Featured Image: Guitarist Joshua Cervantes looks towards the Denton Square as he strums his acoustic guitar past midnight. Matt Payne | Copy Editor 

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