Daniel Gould had only been getting into PG-13 movies by himself for a year when he booked his first music show in Denton.
The then-14-year-old was in a band whose members wanted to play in front of an audience. The problem was finding a space that would let teenagers in.
"I thought it would be a fun thing," Gould said. "I found J&J's [Pizza] and they let me play [in the basement.] Then I just kept booking shows."
In a few weeks, Gould will turn 17 and be able to get into R-rated movies by himself. More important, though, is his new job as a talent buyer for Third String Productions, a company that books mostly emo and punk shows in places like Dallas, Austin, Arizona, Utah and California.
"He's been very persistent about everything," said Gould's mom, Lisa. "He knows what he wants to happen and then he just makes it happen."
That persistence has paid off over the past three years as Gould splits his time between Denton High School and Denton music venues. Most of the shows he's booked around town have been at Killer's Tacos and J&J's (before the pizzeria's basement music venue closed last year), but he's moved on to staging shows at places in Dallas' Deep Ellum, including The Door and The Prophet Bar.
Gould said his busiest show to date was when Minnesota-based band Household came to play at Killer's.
"That was a good night," he said. "There were 117 people who came and paid. It's really stressful, but it's really fun."
His shows eventually got the attention of Third String Productions founder Mike Ziemer, who also got his start booking shows in the Dallas-Fort Worth area when he was in high school.
Ziemer saw something in Gould and sat down with his family to talk about a job. Once everything was finalized, Ziemer gave Gould his own Third String email address and made him the head of operations in Denton.
"Daniel reminds me so much of myself when I was in high school (only he started sooner)," Ziemer wrote on Facebook. "Daniel's passion for booking shows, playing shows, supporting local music, and growing the music scene is beyond impressive. I am so excited to bring Daniel into our family and continue guiding him and learning from each other."
Even though Gould found a mentor in Ziemer, he's still learning the ins and outs of the business.
At first, he was worried about the timing of the shows and losing money if not enough people came. Though he said that has happened before, Gould has gotten the hang of it as he puts on more shows.
Gould said a lot of people didn't take him seriously when he first started and wouldn't respond. He kept reaching out and eventually carved out his space, even though he said it's difficult to book shows in a city where all-ages spots are disappearing.
"I've got limited venues, and if the artists on tour can't do that one date for that venue, then I just can't do the show," he said. "That's the worst."
There's also the issue of late nights at shows and early mornings at school. Lisa Gould said her son maintains between an A and B average at school, but she and her husband did have to lay down some ground rules.
"We always have to have a ticket to the show and we try to limit him to one non-local show per week," Lisa said.
But being a young talent buyer living with his parents has its perks. The Goulds have housed several touring bands and Lisa has met other "band moms" at shows.
"Some people just don't get it," she said. "They say, 'What? You let him stay out how late?' But he tells me all the time, 'Mom, I know what I'm doing.' If he has the confidence in himself, then I've got confidence in him."
Once Daniel Gould graduates, he said he wants to make his job into a career. He wants to book more shows in the area and also move into planning tours around the country.
For now, though, he's focusing on his upcoming festival, Trouble N' Texas. The festival is in its second year and will feature several hardcore bands on Jan. 27 and 28 in Deep Ellum with a pre-show on Jan. 26 at Killer's Tacos in Denton. Gould will announce the lineup Monday on the Trouble N' Texas Facebook page.
With the closure of beloved venues like J&J's basement and Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, along with the recent migration of the Oaktopia festival to Deep Ellum, some critics think Denton's music scene is on its way out. But Gould disagrees and hopes he can play a role in its revival.
"It's not dying," he said. "People say it's dying, but they're just part of the problem. There's bad things in everything, but you just have to keep going."
CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.
FEATURED PHOTO: Denton High School junior Daniel Gould stands on the outdoor stage at Killer's Tacos, the all-ages venue where the 16-year-old books music shows. He recently got a job with Dallas-based Third String Productions as the head of operations when it comes to booking shows in Denton.