By Natalie Gempel
The 35 Denton will return from its hiatus to lurk in the shadow of South by Southwest (SXSW) once again this March 13 to 15.
The festival took a year off in 2014 after losing its creative director and its main financial backer. This year, in a delightfully ironic twist, the revived 35 Denton will be headlined by 1960s rock group The Zombies.
The festival has a history of picking out up-and-comers before they are on the radar, but this year’s lineup includes more unknowns than usual.
While there is no use in comparing the unassuming 35 Denton to Austin’s mega-festival SXSW, 35 Denton was slowly establishing itself as a festival season staple before its disappearance. In its former life, 35 Denton pulled through with a couple of inappropriately big artists each year. This time around, the festival is living up to its name and drawing heavily from Denton’s rich pool of talent.
With the frenzy of activity in the blossoming local music scene, this new less-is-more approach might just be to the festival’s advantage.
“From what I understood … they were trying to bring it back to be more local bands again, and to be something that other bands from around here had the opportunity to be a part of it as opposed to … just like a ton of national acts,” said Chris Johnson of the Fort Worth-based band Telegraph Canyon.
While the festival has certainly lost some wide appeal with its smaller bands and smaller budget, that is not to say that the quality of the music will suffer the same loss.
“I think it’s a really personal festival, it always has been that way,” Johnson said. “Denton has this huge popularity around the globe as being this place that great music comes out of, and I think that frankly, the people around it and involved in it always knew that it deserved to have this festival because of that. I’ve always been glad to be a part of it.”
Mixing up the local roster, a decent number of national and international bands will bring a little extra hype as well.
“Maybe it’s not super well known nation-wide, but at the same time it’s got some really big names without forgetting about really small names also,” said Julio Sanchez of Denton band Black James Franco. “So I think it’s cool in that it kind of brings people who otherwise wouldn’t come over here to see some really well known acts and it also gives them the opportunity to check out some really local bands.”
35 Denton Festival’s director of social media Andy Odom spoke similarly on the subject.
“The idea was thouse the local scene that was already here and the creative culture and the creative economy that was already here and build on that,” Odom said. “That’s why we always wanted to book national acts as well. A lot of them can get some extra attention from some media or some press, and when people start seeing all of these articles pop up on all of these blogs, that ‘all these bands are on their way down to South by,’ or something like that, they’re hitting Denton, and things are really happening in Denton.”
35 Denton seems to be fulfilling its slogan, “BACK TO THE MUSIC.” While it lacks the big names that SXSW boasts, at least at 35 Denton you don’t have to watch thousands of people Instagramming flower crowns.
This festival is not one for the bourgeoisie, and its lineup reflects that. Rooting itself in a passion for genuine talent, 35 Denton is a festival with more grit than glamour.
“It’s such a different festival than every other festival that we play or that we’ve been around for,” said Johnson. “It’s not just like some jackass folk festival.”