Denton Does SXSW

The SXSW Conference and Festival celebrated its 31st year in Austin last month. The notorious nine-day-long experience has taken a pivotal role in the conference community as it’s grown year to year. The event had an economic impact of $325 million in 2016 and is continuously supported by the city of Austin.
With the lack of 35 Denton happening this year and the possibility of Oaktopia moving out of town, this was the best time - in my opinion - to attend the SXSW Conference. This was also the first time anyone on our team had attended the South By on a Platinum badge (which gave us access to almost anything we wanted to do the entire weekend). There were more than enough networking opportunities, tons of panels and speakers to listen to, and access to the forefront of technology and gaming products. And, hey - there were some Denton bands, too.

This year, bigger brands scaled back. Billboard reports that there were approximately 100 less sponsored showcases this year compared to 2016, yet the conference still saw around 350 sponsored showcases. 

Although the conference may have scaled back this year, they hosted more than plenty of interesting speakers and guests. The Vatican and Bishop Paul Tighe made their first South By appearance. Joe Biden brought droves of listeners to tears during his keynote announcing the Biden Cancer Initiative. Hundreds of people (myself included) stood outside in the rain for three hours to see the world premiere of Edgar Wright's new film Baby Driver.

During the event-packed nine days, waves of people maneuvered through the maze of downtown Austin. A good stretch of 6th street was shut down, there were different tunes blasting from each venue, and people enjoying drinks on second story patio as far as the eye could see. If you’re a South By vet or a resident of Austin, this is nothing new. If you’ve not been before, this is quite the unique experience. 

A couple of Denton artists played their first official showcases this year including AV the Great and Leoncarlo. AV the Great took the stage on Thursday, March 16 (3/16), at 512 on 6th. The rising local lyricist had the crowd jumping after his Austin 3:16 (see what he did there?) entrance that - of course - included smashing two beers together on stage before chugging the remnants.  

As someone who has worked on music festivals in the past, I can relate (on a much, much smaller scale, of course) to the time and work that goes into events like this. It’s not easy, you certainly cannot make everyone happy. Sometimes it may even seems like there are more naysayers than actual supporters. But, it’s about the people who attend and have a good time - the people whose lives are changed or impacted based on the work you’ve had a hand in. 

As an organization who appreciates a healthy music scene, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Austin. It was hard not to fantasize Denton being similar to Austin while walking through the venue lined streets. However, we can only dream of the day that Denton would structurally and financially support a diverse selection of music venues that cater to all sounds, all artists. Without festivals like 35 Denton and Oaktopia, Denton is left wading through a stagnant pool of water.

Thankfully we have a more diverse film festival selection with both Denton Black Film Festival and Thin Line Film Festival taking place in town, and the Dallas Independent Film Festival and more happening just down the road. Until Denton can catch up again, at least we have Austin nailed down as our escape plan.

Photos by Brittany Keeton & Joseph Medina
Header image design by Brittany Keeton