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By Alice Laussade
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2011 was a year that got Denton talking about the cyclical nature of a college town, but it's become clear each passing year is now framed by an increasingly important event: 35 Denton. Every March, hundreds of bands pour into town, swelling it with money and buzz and getting people excited for live music. It remains to be seen if that momentum can be carried on throughout the year.
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"The point of the event is to promote local bands and let them play on bills with bigger artists," says Natalie Davila, programming director for 35 Denton.
While this is certainly the case, momentum for local artists in 2011 seemed to wane as the year wore on. "Once there's a lot of stuff going on, people get comfortable," says Andrew Haas, who co-runs Rubber Gloves' weekly Discipline night. "It's like a hangover period — people will realize that if they want something to happen, they have to make it happen."
The state of the economy is making it harder for bands to tour, leading to fewer shows with national acts, as well as less money for cover charges, but other cities have fostered vibrant DIY scenes despite economic downturn.
"There are fewer people coming to the school for music, and therefore there are fewer good musicians coming to town than there used to be," Briggs says.
That theory is indicative of the city's state of mind, as Dentonites struggle to explain why their music scene, which was featured in a 2008 New York Times travel piece, is seemingly mired in mediocrity.
"There's a lot of burnt-out, extremely jaded people here," Davila says. "They just want to bitch about the music scene and do absolutely nothing to contribute to it."
Michael Seman of Shiny Around the Edges provides a more empirical explanation. "Historically, you'll have a conglomeration of bands who are friends with the same mindset," he says. "That will develop over the course of two to four years, and then they graduate and move on."
Still, there were highlights in 2011. The punk scene was one of the only active DIY communities, helped in large part by Chris Pickering booking the Lion's Den. Haas and the Discipline crew have kept up their weekly DJ night for a year. Spune has been bringing some noteworthy acts to Dan's Silverleaf, and the folks at 35 Denton have made the festival a brand.
All of this will surely continue in 2012, as we wait for yet another scene to emerge. Haas is optimistic.
"It's the end of the world, dude. Hopefully people cut loose."
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