Denton Folk Festival is here to stay

Denton Folk Festival is here to stay

Denton Folk Festival is here to stay
April 09
16:45 2018

The second annual Denton Folk Festival took place this weekend despite uncooperative cold weather conditions and a change of venue. The two-day festival featured more than 18 different artists, such as Levi Cobb & The Big Smoke, CityFolk and Autumn’s Amber.

The family-friendly festival was created last year by the Denton Songwriters Guild as a way to incorporate folk music into the Denton music scene.

“We didn’t see a lot of folk music being done in Denton,” said Olivia Justice Countryman, member of the band CityFolk and Denton Songwriters Guild. “We’ve got the Arts and Jazz [Festival] which is awesome. We’ve got Blues Fest. We’ve got a couple of really strong rap traditions here in town but not a lot for the folk scene. So, one of our dreams was to have a folk fest.”

While most house shows and similar event venues around Denton cater almost exclusively to the college crowd, Denton Folk Festival is unique due to its diverse mix of age demographics, as well as its family-friendly environment. The festival aims to bring together a variety of generations with a mutual love of folk music.

“There are obvious reasons for, you know, older people to like folk music,” said Matt Grigsby, president of Denton Songwriters Guild and organizer of the festival. “But the young people love it, too — at least in different forms. We’ve got a folk band on now, we will have a bluegrass band on next and we might hear some rock influences later. I think there is a little something for everybody.”

Dentonites battle the cold at Denton Folk Festival_DSC4541Deep in the Grass entertains the crowds at Denton Folk FestivalA couple dances to local folk group, Autumn's AmberCopper Root performs at Denton Folf Festival
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A couple of colorful Denton residents sit back and enjoy local folk music at Denton Folk Festival.
[Photos by Will Baldwin]

The Denton Folk Festival also eagerly welcomes the current generation to join and build upon a music scene which has been growing in Denton venues for several decades.

“I think there’s a lot of old Denton roots that are here,” Countryman said. “We have a lot of people here who either play or are just patrons from the original music scene in Denton. They are from the ‘70s and ‘80s when people were just starting to establish North Texas as the indie music scene that it has grown to be.”

Many local venues and events rely heavily on the Denton community for help and support, and Denton Folk Festival is no exception.

“It’s a process,” Grisgby said. “It takes many months and it takes a full community to make happen. We had to get together a team of 60 volunteers, we had to book all the bands and try to raise as much money as we could, which is probably the toughest part. Keeping the community excited and involved with it is the key.”

The hard work that goes into planning and producing the festival is not spent in vain, either. Longtime members of the folk community appreciate the festival and recognize the need for its presence in Denton.

“There’s a whole huge scene,” said Bob Ralph, founder of Denton’s Tiny Couch Productions. “There’s this enormous amount of talent in this town that centers around singers and songwriters. But for folk music, there’s really no outlet like there should be. This is a great way to get everybody together and have a great time.”

The constantly thriving music scene is one of the defining features of Denton. The town is widely known for its music, making it a perfect place to create a bigger space for folk music.

“Well I’m from Denton, and I grew up in this scene,” said Patrick Hamilton, a traveling songwriter and storyteller. “The music here is all original. You won’t find it anywhere else. I’m a traveler myself, but Denton is home. I’ve been to over 47 states in the United States and three countries, and there’s great music everywhere, but you won’t find Denton anywhere.”

Many of the bands that performed at the festival’s inaugural showcase last year returned for a second round in 2018 and plan to continue attending the event for many years to come.

“Last year they had great groups as well, but there are some really good groups this year,” said Charlie Moore, member of the band Autumn’s Amber. “It’s a lot colder this year than it was last year. Last year it was a pretty sweaty affair, this year not so much. I think that might have put a little bit of a damper on the turnout and stuff, but the groups are still good.”

The Denton Folk Festival was first held at now-defunct Jagoe House in March 2017 and accumulated quite a crowd. The first iteration of the festival was attended by more than 1,000 people and paved the way for the second rendition. However, attendance was down this year as the Denton Songwriters Guild faced new challenges.

“We were at the Jagoe House last year,” Grigsby said. “It was much smaller and easier to organize when you didn’t have to worry about a bunch of money. Jagoe House took care of the sound inside, and Seven Brothers took care of the sound outside. This year we tried to grow and seek out a new venue, and we went to the Parker House and the stages looked great and the sound was wonderful, but the weather did not cooperate so we [were] at a house after all.”

Despite the challenges faced during the event, Grigsby and other members of Denton Songwriters Guild are determined to push forward with the festival. The group plans to move the festival to September or October of next year in order to provide more planning time, as well as separate itself from the calendar dates of other Denton festivals.

“You know it may take five years to settle into something we can grow on, but it’s a project that we are determined to keep going,” Grigsby said. “We just needed to learn to start earlier and earlier next year, and our team will get better and better. I’m optimistic going forward. I can feel it in the community that they want this to happen.”

Overall, Denton Songwriters Guild plans for the festival to become a staple in the Denton music scene. With the trust and support of the community, they plan to grow and improve in the years to come.

“We’ve got a strong undercurrent of support in town,” Countryman said. “We’re not going to be that festival that burns bright and then fades away.”

Featured Image: Denton Folk Festival draws a crowd of Denton residents to a local house after weather forced a change of location. Will Baldwin

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Slade Meadows

Slade Meadows

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2 Comments

  1. Pax
    Pax April 11, 10:28

    Great story 🙂

    Reply to this comment
  2. CL
    CL April 11, 22:56

    Huge shoutout to The Songwriters Guild and volunteers for the efforts to organize, recruit, volunteer, practice and then to have to scramble and move to another location and battle Mother Nature. The show must go on and did. Congrats to the 2nd annual fest and may the 3rd be greater.

    Reply to this comment

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