The Dentonite's Guide to Thin Line Fest

The most important thing to know about the 10th edition of Thin Line Fest is that although it's free, you have to register. How can you have any pudding if you don't register? Rest assured that Thin Line is not like a rudimentary teacher determined to stamp out creativity. Their festival experience breeds inspiration and artist engagement. There's no other experience in this region that offers up carefully curated documentaries - with a stellar music lineup influx with local talent - topped off with a photography exhibit housed in the premier gallery of Denton.

With so much going on between April 19th through  April 23rd, it's hard to know where to begin. The Dentonite can help make sense of how to build together a solid plan that's inclusive of all the arts that Thin Line has to offer. First and foremost...


Wednesday, April 19th (Opening Night) - Waking the Sleeping Giant (World Premiere) - 9pm - @ Campus Theatre

There's an old saying that goes, "if you want to keep your friends and family then don't discuss religion and politics." It's debatable if there has ever been a reluctance to discuss ideologies, but the advent of social media is making these topics a part of everyday discussion. Thin Line's audience gets the first chance to see director Jacob Smith's feature documentary about the political revolution sparked to life during the previous presidential race. As the production team crossed the country, they found people frustrated with a system they perceive to favor the wealthy.

From the trailer, "it's no longer left vs right. It's becoming anti-establishment versus establishment." Local festival attendees should be well aware that people of different ideals including both conservatives and liberals are getting involved with community politics, There's even a popular Facebook staunchly dedicated to the matters of local influence. The director of the film is a former mayor and Senate staffer who learned more about engaging with people in local politics after making the film.

"People come at these issues from very different experiences, and if you enter into those conversations insisting that your analysis and perspective is the most important one, you’re going to have a very difficult time building the relationships and coalitions we know we need," says Smith. 

In popular tales such as Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, some important characters muse about who gets to have a song written about them. Waking the Sleeping Giant is Jacob Smith's song to ordinary people facing real challenges that are sometimes a matter of life and death. They may not be superheroes by cinematic standards, but they have stories that promise to stoke inspiration and emotion.

Friday, April 21st - Alone Among the Taliban (Texas premiere) - 10pm - @ Campus Theatre

Filmmaking among the Taliban in Afghanistan isn't as simple as signing a 'permission to film' form for the city of Denton. Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Eslamzadeh fearlessly spent 15 days in a dangerous zone interviewing with local authorities, the Fatwa council. This recipient of the "Best Documentary Award" from the Athens International Film and Video Fest may have a way of relating American audiences to a different culture that many are wary of.

Saturday, April 22nd - Our Town Denton Short Film Program - 11am - 12:30pm - @ Campus Theatre

If you're okay with gaining the perspective of filmmakers passionate about Denton's offerings rather than reading the words of out-of-town writers that continuously declare Denton's music scene dead, then this program is for you. 

Included in this block is the world premiere of Story Town with Weldon's from Curious Dog Creative productions. This short film captures the element of Mr. Weldon Burgoon, a gem of a person who can be regarded as a professional cowboy. Dentonites are fast finding out that the staples of town are easily taken out and replaced by commonplace stores. Hopefully audiences can find that one man's impressive legacy can inspire future ideas.

Included in this block is a documentary about improved music called Project Freeplay. The subjects will also be performing at Backyard on Bell on Friday, April 21st as part of the Thin Line festivities.

Sunday, April 23rd - Social Awareness Short Film Program - 1:30pm - @ Campus Theatre

A medium that many regard as pure entertainment, is also a tool for sparking minds to consider the weight of real-life issues. Thin Line's Sunday afternoon program features films covering issues such as depression, homosexual persecution, sexual assault, and transgender children. 

That last topic may remind some of Amber and Adam Briggle's transgender son who recently had dinner with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. This short film program presents Girl-Hearted, a German documentary about a 7 year old boy with the heart of a girl. There are varying opinions on when a person is able to confidently declare the identity of their gender, and this film is a welcome entry into that discussion.


Dezi 5 - 11pm Thursday, April 20th - @ Dan's Silverleaf

As new music acts form it does get ridiculous comparing them to legendary acts in the same way talented basketball players might be dubbed the new Michael Jordan. That being said, Dezi 5 turns the charisma up to 11 and leaves audiences arguing if what they're seeing is more James Brown or Elvis Presley. This set will be the ultimate showmanship with soulful singing, coordinated backup dancers, and perhaps a surprise entrance from the crowd area. North Texas won't have too many more chances to see this artist as he'll be heading to New York soon.

Bonus: You couldn't go wrong parking yourself at Dan's Silverleaf for the entire night. Proceeding Dezi 5 is TOMKAT and Southpaw Preacher, and following him is the remarkably talented Sam Lao.

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Wee-Beasties - 11pm Thursday, April 20th - @ Taps and Caps

Taps and Caps may be the only Thin Line venue that Richard Haskins isn't banned from. Actually, we can definitively say Haskins is allowed to play in the Campus Theatre lobby. That's neither here nor there. What matters is the polarizing figure will have a chance to bring his raucous show to an up and coming venue. 

Bonus: Chase Ryan opens up the show with his blues rock vibes before giving way to Nakamara, a band that may make Rivers Cuomo realize he should write a new song about dorm room bands.

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Peelander Z - 11pm Friday, April 21st - @ Dan's Silverleaf

Intense. Wild. Colorful. I'm not sure a coherent sentence describing Peelander Z can be put together. This Japanese comic punk band has been in action since 1998 and they make a solid argument for the weirdest band in the world. 

Bonus: The lineup at Dan's Silverleaf this night is one for kicking out the jams. Texas stalwarts Riverboat Gamblers close out the night after Peelander Z.

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88 Killa - 11pm Friday April 21st - @ Taps and Caps

Shoutout to that Brain Gang. Donovan Payne aka 88 Killa was a part of the rap collective that cultivated the talents of Blue the Misfit and Bobby Sessions. There was a point where Payne wasn't sure if he was going to keep making music, but in the past year he's had a resurgence on the local rap scene thanks to the encouragement of devoted listeners. This self-aware performer is prone to musings of humorous introspection in between songs.

Bonus: Early birds get to witness the hype of Elijah Heaps and Nikolai Rya. 

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Kraken Quartet - 2pm Saturday, April 22nd - @ The Square Stage

The Kraken Quartet played a house show at Dane Manor last summer and we never really stopped talking about it because they're incredible. The 4-piece is based out of Austin and is guaranteed to bring all kinds of math-rock/indie/etc. greatness with an aura of percussion consisting of multiple drum kits, marimbas, and more (maybe even a miniature toy piano). Prepare yourself by checking out their Audiotree Live session and then catch them Saturday at 2pm on the square
                                                                                                               - Tiffany Youngblood

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Felt & Fur - Saturday, April 22nd - @ Taps and Caps

Imagine the death throes of Pac-Man expertly arranged by Mozart and I think you have something close to Felt & Fur. Their experimental fusion of electronica and rock is at the forefront of Denton's weirdo band scene that usually doesn't get much festival attention. Come here to be mesmerized.

Bonus: If you like Felt & Fur, then you should check out Drone Church Sunday afternoon at the PAAC. Felt & Fur member Randall Minick has been steadily promoting this set of experimental weirdness.

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PPL MVR - 8pm Saturday, April 22nd - @ The Square Stage

If someone tells you that PPL MVR are rumored to be Brand New, then that's a person who googled PPL MVR because he/she didn't hear of them before. That story has long since been disproved, but in this period(possibly era) of alternative facts I guess anything goes. Go here if you like your dance-rock tunes served up by fellows in gorilla costumes. 

Bonus: If you're looking to make yourself comfortable on the square, you can catch the Heavy Hands beforehand with a beer picnic to kill time in between sets.

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Thin Line devotes itself to promoting photography skills with an exhibition carefully curated by Ed Steele. The gallery experience is packed with Denton's finest photographers such as Katie Montgomery, Kylie McLaughlin, Patti Simpson, Stephanie Holloway, and Will Milne just to name a few. 

Participants were asked to "Show Us Your Best Work." Within a handful of images from each selected photographers, viewers should get a sense of each artists' personal mission. 4 cash prizes will be granted by an independent jury of professionals at the award ceremony.

Additionally, the galleries will feature photos related to the selected films playing at the festival.There will be 3 galleries to view these works at:

The Patterson-Appleton Arts Center – 400 East Hickory St. Denton, TX 76201
Hours: Thur-Sat, April 20-22: 11am–9pm and Sun, April 23: 12pm-6pm

Denton Square Gallery Tent – Courthouse Lawn, Denton Downtown Square
Hours: Thur: 6:30-8:30, Fri-Sat, April 20-22: 11am–10pm and Sun, April 23: 12pm-6pm

Golden Triangle Mall – 2201 I-35E South Denton, Texas 76205
Mall Hours

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Do's and Don'ts of Storm Chasing Photography - 11am Saturday, April 22nd - @ Patterson Appleton Arts Center

Mother Nature offers visuals that are grand, captivating, and wondrous. When Mother Nature gets nasty photographers see an opportunity to take pictures despite the risks to their own life. This workshop will teach attendees how to stay safe while on the hunt for an electric picture. 

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Photography Copyright Law with Evan Stone - 3pm Saturday, April 22nd - @ Patterson Appleton Arts Center

Copyright issues are an entanglement that too many photographers stay away from under the hood of amateur status. But if you're going to be a professional, it's important to know how to protect the value of your own work and avoid infringing upon others intellectual property. This workshop is taught by Evan Stone, a copyright lawyer who has a lot of insight to offer. Stone will make it clear how the Doctrine of Fair Use works.

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These recommendations are merely a smattering of what Thin Line X has to offer. Dig deep into their programming by checking out their website. In addition to the film selections showing at the Campus Theatres, there will be popular films such as Armageddon and Planet Earth showing at the Travelstead outdoor stage. 

Seriously, don't forget to register for your free pass.

Header image taken by Ellie Alonzo
Header image design by Mateo Granados