Thin Line Fest - A Music, Arts, & Film Festival in Denton
For the last 9 years, Denton has been the host for Thin Line Fest and this is the second year that Thin Line has been a three dimensional festival experience with film, music, and photography. This was our first time to attend Thin Line Fest and we loved it - the films are enlightening, entertaining, and educational; the music is a variety of genres from hip-hop to country; the photography is beautiful; the venues are excellent; and the Denton Town Square which surrounds a beautiful court house is alive with music, people, and restaurants. Thin Line is a 5 day event, which spans six different venues that are the host for over 45 different films; 31 bands, DJs, and singer songwriters; and hundreds of works of art. In addition to all of that, there are panels and workshops, special events and lots more.
"Thin Line" refers to the space between two opposites such as genius and crazy, fact and fiction, beauty and sadness, knowledge and apathy, right and wrong. There are two sides to every issue and the thin line represents the conflict between the two. Therein lies the drama. It can be seen in every documentary film. It can be heard in every musical performance. It can be studied in every photograph. Life is full of thin lines, and we celebrate them."
We thoroughly enjoyed the Thin Line Festival and definitely plan on attending next year. The hardest part of this Festival was studying the program and talking to other people about the films or music and then trying to decide what we wanted to see - or miss - to grab a beer or some food! And in the evening it was tougher because the films and 3 different music venues were happening at the same time. Tough choices! We would bounce from a film to a music venue and back to catch another film. Or we would watch a film and then rush to one or two music venues and one evening we listened to music at all three venues. The films started at various times during the festival and the music typically started around 8:30 and was still going strong at 1:00! By Sunday evening my eyeballs were red and blurry (not sure if it was from the films or late nights and too many beers); my back, neck, and buttocks were sore from sitting in theater seats of up to 10 hours a day; and my tummy was a few inches bigger due to all the great craft beer and burgers, fries, chicken fried steak, and other non healthy choices. But I had a blast.
The Festival is still relatively small and it was easy to find a good seat for any of the films and we were able to get close to the stage at each of the music venues. Ticket prices are reasonable and there are several options ranging from single tickets for a specific film or music venue to day passes to all access passes for film or music or all access passes for all 5 days of music and film. We may have gotten lucky but each day and each time we moved from event to event we had no trouble finding a parking spot within half a block of the venue. You should plan on staying for the entire festival and there are lots of reasonably priced lodging options - we stayed in our motorhome in an RV park about 5 minutes away from the Denton Square.
Thin Line Festival Highlights
Here are some of the reason why we loved this Festival and can't wait to attend again next year:
- the films, music, and photography were outstanding
- the venues for music and film are all close to the downtown square and an easy walk, bike ride, or ride in the Thin Line free shuttle between venues
- parking was easy to find and close to the venues
- the town square is alive with activity and home to some fun bars and several restaurants
- the venues are great and perfect for this type of event
- as much as I hated it, I had to admire the rooster that woke us up each morning around 7:30 with a crackling raspy cock-a-doodle-do that sounded like he was 95 years old and on his last leg
- the food at any of the several restaurants on the square is pretty good and the wide selection of craft beer from around the US is excellent
The Venues at Thin Line
All of the films during Thin Line are at the Campus Theatre which is a half a block off the Denton Town Square. This grand movie house was built in 1949 and seats around 300 people. Every seat in the house has a good view and the acoustics are pretty good.
The music is held at five different venues:
- Dan's Silverleaf is the quintessential music venue about three blocks from the Denton Town Square and it's home to two bars, a large stage, and an outdoor patio
- Rubber Glove is a bar and live music stage for emerging and big-name indie rockers that doubles as a rehearsal space and it's been described as having a "punk dive feel and attitude" .
- Andy's Bar is on the square and it's another dive bar with an upscale cocktail lounge upstairs and it was host to some DJs during the Festival
- Harvest House is two blocks from Dan's and it's a fantastic venue for music and fun - a large indoor bar area with what seemed like 50 craft beer choices, a food truck, and an outstanding outside patio with a large stage, picnic tables, cozy seating around a couple fire pits, pool tables, and some comfortable outdoor furniture
the town square also served as a venue with music from the roof top patio at LSA, several street musicians playing on the courthouse steps or the sidewalks, and the busking war with several musicians trying to get the most donations to win a prize
The photography was on display at the Pattereson-Appleton Arts Center and the Golden Triangle Mall.
Film At Thin Line
Thin Line Film is all about documentaries because "real life is indeed more interesting (and more powerful) than fiction; and because the documentary genre has much more depth." The firm part of the festival is broken into feature films that run from sixty minutes to over two hours in length and short films that ran from two minutes to over thirty minutes. The feature films covered everything from investigating climate change (from Oscar nominated Josh Fox)) to exploring the life of an amnesic fantasist to living on Bitcoin currency for over three months to the fight to keep a Texas town alive against the significant decline in the life giving aquifer to a busker fighting to retain his position on his street corner to a trip across country in converted Greyhound bus to attend 11 music festivals and lots more. The topics ranged from educational to inspiring to depressing and from sad to funny creating some laughs and tears, The vast majority of the films were outstanding and a small handful were ho-hum.
I was going to describe each of the fantastic full feature films that we saw but it would have been a 20 page document and you would have been bored within minutes. Over the five days I think I spent over 28 hours watching movies! My bottom and neck and eyeballs were a tad tired by late Sunday evening - but I thoroughly enjoyed almost every minute of it. And can't wait to do it again.
There were over 25 short films that were broken into categories that included films on:
- nature and history - hummingbirds to giant redwood cloning to a bee keeper's passion for his apiary to Orson Wells and his commentary of social issues
- Denton's story - home made videos shot by the residents
- performance - stories that included a young trombonist's dreams of touring the world as he plays on the boardwalk in Havana, Clyde Marness and his personality and job as opening the doors of the Maness Pottery and Music Barn, and a tap dancer who performs in a variety of places including where people run from police tear gas
- social awareness - topics ranging from gay men trying to live in a society that doesn't accept homosexuality to protestors and rioters in Baltimore expressing their frustration with the justice system to teachers protecting students against the threat of armed gunman
- strange short films - a funny docu-comedy about costumed characters that are sign spinners, a film about big foot enthusiasts, one about young people trying to live life on the streets of Seattle, and more interesting topics
The vast majority of the films were excellent and very enjoyable or enlightening. The good news on the short films is that if we didn't like it, it didn't last that long! And if we didn't like a feature film, we would slip out and enjoy a cold beer or Bloody Mary. After most of the feature films a director, actor, producer or some one closely tied to the film would come on stage for a question and answer session with the audience.
The Music At Thin Line Music Festival
The music at Thin LIne crossed a variety of genres and typically started around 9 or so each evening at one or all four of the music venues. Some of the musicians who played at Dan's Silverleaf included: Bri Bagwell, The BoomBachs,. Micky and the Motorcars, Alejandro Escovedo, Isaac Hoskins & the Glass Mountain Orchestra, and more.
Harvest House had a good mix of rock to funk to reggae with The Effinays, Sonar Light, Heavy Glow, and Poppy Xander.
The music at Andy's and Rubber Gloves was a mix of DJs, MCs, and bands playing rap and hip hop from Your Old Droog, 88 Killa, Fab Deuce, DJ Bubba, Durty Chin and more!
Plus there were a variety of street musicians playing as well as some bands at the local restaurants around the square.
Thin Line Festival Photography
Beautiful photography was on display during the Festival at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center and the Golden Triangle Mall. The Thin Line Photography Gallery Experience showcased some of the best and most promising local, regional, and national photography talent. There were scores of curated print and digitally-exhibited photographs on display.
Thin Line Special Events
Throughout the Festival there were
- Panels & Workshops ranging from dance to best practices for cinematography
- a Community Drum Walk around the square led by the Guyer High School Drumline and the UNT Green Brigade Marching Band
- music and dance at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center
- a busking war in the square to see which artist could collect the most donations
- an award ceremony for best documentary, instant film award, best student sort documentary award, and more
- live zombies outside the theater when the movie Re-Kill was about to start and drummers at the entrance to the theater after Dare to Drum ended
The Fans of Thin Line
Thin Line Fest attracts a very diverse fan base and here's a sampling of some of them at the music venue:
The Texas Outside Thin Line Academy Awards
Since the Oscars are about to take over the TV, I thought that it was appropriate for us to have our own Thin Line Academy Awards, and the winners are::
- Photography - there was lots of beautiful photography but the award winning Merri Lisa Trigilio goes home with the Oscar
- Music - the nominees for best musical artist included Alejandro Escovedo, Micky & the Motorcars, and Bri Bagwell but Alejandro Escovedo was the winner for this years Festival
- Short Films - it was tough choosing a winner from over 31 short films but our top three nominees were Ave Rats (life on the streets of Seattle), High Signs (a docu-comedy about costumed sign spinners), and Moving the Giants (one man's mission to save the Redwoods) and the Oscar goes to High Signs
- Feature Films - with 17 feature films ranging from 50 minutes to over 2 hours long, it was tough to choose only seven really outstanding films to nominate for the Oscar::
- Dare To Drum - rock star composer Stewart Copeland teams with D'Drum and Dallas Symphony Orchestra to create a ground breaking work
- Monkey Kingdom - a story about a new born monkey and his struggle to survive
- The Festiful Summer - a group of friends set off in 1973 Greyhound Bus to attend 11 major music festivals around the US
- Voyager's Without a Trace - reliving a 1938 kayak trip down the Colorado River
- Life on Bitcoin - newlyweds try to live on Bitcoin for over 100 days
- Busking Turf Wars - busking means playing music on the street for donations and one busker's world unravels when a rival busker encroaches on his corner
- And The Oscar Goes To: it was tough choice because they were all great but the photography, story line, and cute playful monkeys in Monkey Kingdom snatched the Oscar and swung through the trees and deep into the jungle with the prize
- Best Music Venue - no question, Harvest House was a clear winner due to it's wide selection of craft beer, huge cool outdoor stage, and great seating
- Best Bar on the Square - LSA Burger Company ran away with it due to it's really cool mural of The Last Supper with famous Texas musicians, Texas musician pictures and memorabilia, the upstairs bar with live music and a view of the Square, good food, a fantastic Bloody Mary (I know 'cuz I had 5 of them), and a free shot of beer to toast the sunset
- Best Food Around the Square - the nominees are Cartwright's Ranch House (huge chicken fried chicken), Abby Inn (an English Pub with a great flat iron steak and delicious pork chop), Mellow Mushroom (very good sausage sandwich and chicken cheesesteak sandwich), Thai Square (loved the Thai Curry Sampler with three different curries), and Guiseppe's Italian (pretty good Italian in a old Denton house) and the winner was a split Oscar with dressing for Cartwright's Ranch and Abby Inn
If you like a lot of interesting films, a variety of music, and some beautiful photography then you should attend Thin Line Fest next year.
Our thanks go out to the hundreds of volunteers, to Joshua Butler the President and Festival Director, to Mindy Arendt the creative and marketing director, and to all of the Thin Line Festival staff who work very hard to make the festival fun for all of us.
See you next year.