This past Friday, the William Faullkner statue on the Square was surrounded by crowds of people holding red solo cups. The vibes were similar to Double Decker Weekend, with delighted people and good music. Unlike Double Decker, there was no stage and no SAA-sponsored concerts blocking North Lamar.
The ecstatic crowd was gathered to see Dent May, a LA-based musician who began his musical career here in Oxford, perform his first live concert since Covid from the The End of All Music’s precarious, decorative balcony.
Live music filled the Square, and Dent May’s good-feeling music and comical stage presence provided plenty of smiles across the audience.
The concert was the third in The End of All Music’s “Balcony Concert” series.
May answered some questions about his return to Oxford to play from his “favorite record store in the world.”
Can you tell me about yourself and the time you spent in Oxford as a student? Do you think you changed the Oxford music scene?
I was a Southern Studies student working at Square Books when I started writing songs and sharing them under my own name. I burned my first E.P. A Brush With Velvet onto CD-Rs and gave them away for free at the bookstore. I was super inspired by the literary community here getting to know people like Barry Hannah and all the great writers the bookstore brings through town. The cool thing about a college town like Oxford is there’s a constant influx of interesting, talented people both living here and visiting. I don’t feel like I changed the Oxford music scene. I feel lucky that I was able to find this community and play a small part in the long tradition of creative things happening down here.
I have heard the legend of Cats Purring Dude Ranch and how you got Grimes, Whitney, and Vampire Weekend to perform at house parties here in Oxford. Are these stories myths or real?
Cats Purring Dude Ranch was a big house on the outskirts of town where I lived and made music with friends like John from Bass Drum Of Death and Cole from Dead Gaze. We hosted dozens of concerts from touring artists like Grimes, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Youth Lagoon, Real Estate, Empress Of, DIIV, Bleached and so many more. Whitney filmed a music video there. In my early touring days I played a lot of DIY venues in houses and unconventional spaces, and I was inspired to try something like that in Mississippi.
How have you coped with Covid-19 as a musician in California, and did you find it strangely relaxing?
Covid was tough on everyone, including the music world. Some of my favorite venues have announced they won’t be re-opening. People I work with lost their jobs. All things considered, I stayed pretty busy. My recording studio Honeymoon Suite put together some livestream events that were really fun and I wrote a lot of songs.
Describe your feelings of getting to play on the porch of The End of All Music for your first live concert in over a year.
I can’t imagine a better place to play my first show in over a year. It’s my favorite record store in the world. David is one of my best friends, and to bring it all full circle, my dad was co-owner of Duvall’s, the menswear business in the building that now houses The End Of All Music. It’s a unique way to play a show, overlooking downtown Oxford from a balcony. I felt a bit exposed and self-conscious about the random passers-by, but it felt great to be a part of a gathering where a lot of people were seeing each other for the first time in a while.
What does the future of your career look like from here? Touring? More music? Different musical direction?
I’m doing a lot more songwriting and producing with other artists. I have collaborations coming out soon with Eyedress, Paul Cherry and more. I started a recording studio business with two friends called Honeymoon Suite. I don’t have any grand plans, just writing and recording music for the rest of my life. I’m not sure when I’ll tour again, but when I do it’ll be with a band behind me. See you at Proud Larry’s later this year or in 2022.