Music floats through the twilight approaching the Square in Downtown Denton. It’s as if a radio is scanning channels; a new song plays every few hundred feet.
Panel discussions plop down in restaurants and bars, sparking talk of social issues and lending business advice to creatives. The Instant Film Society leads Polaroid users through town for an instant picture workshop.
North Texas hasn’t seen the likes of 35 Denton for two years. This weekend the independent-music festival returned.
It reminded us why communities exist—to bring like-minded people together for entertainment, for support and for achievement of a greater goal.
“Back to the Music” was the theme of this year’s festival, and its objective.
A curve of lamps without shades backlit a duo equipped with electric guitar and bass. The lights flicker in time with the music. Passersby forget where they’re heading when they notice the pop-up show on a corner of the Square. Some show off dance moves on the sidewalk as they watch The Kickstand Band share a mic on the grassy, makeshift stage.
The Detroit band’s surprise set is just one of the striking moments that 35 Denton helped cultivate.
Capsula was another band that captured the spirit of this year’s mantra. Singer and guitarist Martin Guevera coaxed the crowd to creep closer.
He encouraged onlookers to put down their phones and to enjoy the reality of live performances. He beamed and beckoned for those sitting to get on their feet, pointing out they will have the rest of the week to be on the couch and watch Netflix.
Throughout the set, Guevera used his guitar as a prop: playing it behind his head, hanging it from the scaffolding of the stage, even jumping into the crowd to hand it to unaware festival volunteer Kate Jewett-Williams.
He whirled the microphone around his head like a lasso. He played a maraca off the hats on the drums.
The crowd chanted, “Uno mas!” when Guevera announced the last song. Capsula gave its fans two more songs in return.
Blaire Alise and the Bombshells also performed a high-energy set. Blaire Alise had rich, ’60s-esque vocals.
The overall sound, surfer rock meets a rockabilly temperament, called for shimmying and swaying. Viewers eagerly met Blaire Alise at the band’s merch stand.
Legal Tips for Creatives
The festival offered panel discussions alongside its musical bill. These included a DIY Panel, which gave insight on building a festival, and a “Cherry Bombs” panel, which explored the roles of women in today’s music scene.
“Will Play for Tips: Legal Tips for Artists, Musicians, and Songwriters,” a panel consisting of legal experts Megan Carpenter, Evan Stone and Kevin Harrison, shared with Sweetwater’s patio the basics on copyrightable material, a few of which we’ll share.
- As soon as you create something and fix it to a medium—write it on paper, post it to social media, record it on Voice Memo—it is copyrighted.
- If you register your work before it is used without permission by another party, the judge will issue you statutory damages as well as attorney’s fees, i.e. the lawyer bills are paid by the perpetrator. (Stone said his fees recently went up to $275 an hour.)
- It’s $35 to register your work online. Stone offers a free walk-through of the process, “because it’s that important.”
- Copyrights are a federal issue, thus issues in Denton would have to be taken up in a Dallas court.
- Play in bands with people you trust and want to be around to hinder the onslaught of artistic crises.
- Songs have two forms of copyrights: one that protects composition and one that protects individual sound recordings.
A Plea to 35 D
While 35 Denton is back to the music, it may have lost sight of how to get its crowd back to the festival.
The ease of getting in and out of venues is much desired, however, the meager crowds sometimes dampened the mood. Musicians will feed off the energy of their audience, and struggle if it is a scant one.
Ghosts of 35s past have taught us that fun branding, such as tagging a VW bus or the side of buildings promoting the event, will encourage community engagement. So will holding “Date Shows” where couples can win free passes. Hype is important to ticket sales. Another solution may lie in booking more well-known bands. The bands on the lineup were phenomenal, yet obscure. With accompanying big names luring in the public, the local bands could have received more exposure.
Other items on the 35 Denton 2016 wishlist include bike racks and more food trucks.,
Still and all, the South by Southwest spinoff festival continues to be the spring-break-kickoff for DFW audiophiles.