The Class of 35

Conversations with the bands that have been with 35 Denton from the beginning.

What are you planning this year for your set? Anything unique or interesting up your sleeve?

I'll be performing with at least Spooky Folk and Hares on the Mountain this year, and I'm not aware of any surprises in the making. But that shit usually happens at the last minute.

Approaching its fifth year, in what ways does 35 Denton seem different to you than its previous years?

I'm seeing a lot more advertising. I guess I noticed that last year as well. I'm excited that Thurston Moore will be in Denton. That's different.

How do you feel about the growth of the festival?

I both love and loathe the growth of the festival. It's nice to share the things you love with more people, and it's great that some of these bigger acts are coming through our town. However, too many people in any capacity is always a problem. At least for me. I dunno. I like smaller and more intimate crowds. No year will ever compare to the first year I went to NX35 and just fell in love.

Ryan Thomas Becker of RTB2

What has 35 Denton (and all of its past incarnations) meant to you as a local musician?

It has meant representing myself, my bands, our friends and this town on a larger level than most of us experience throughout the rest of the year. When 35 was still an "Off Broadway" Austin showcase, Chris Flemmons made it clear what and who we were representing. If you forgot, all you had to do was look back at the "Music From Denton, Texas" banner on the stage.

Describe a favorite set or moment from one of the past four festivals.

I was scheduled to close the Words and Music panel in 2011 at Dan's with a solo set. George Neal was scheduled a couple of spots before me. He was going through some mysterious health issues which had us all worried. The illness had led to the cancellation of our band's performance (The Slow Burners) the night before, so he was only going to read from his recent collection of poems and short stories. Since he wasn't really in a condition to play guitar, I came up to him with the idea of backing him up for a couple of songs.

George was already trembling by the time we started the first song, and the trembling only increased as the song went on. George almost bounced out of his seat as he threw up a seizing arm singing the word "body." He was displaying his symptoms for the crowd. George's entire body started to violently vibrate when he began screaming the outro of the song. I was looking down at the ground trying not to completely lose it. He waved for me to stop playing while he screamed the words "day after day" over and over again with the most unsettling silence between the lines. I was still averting my eyes and just waiting for George to finish the song. One final scream and a good 10 seconds later, the crowd cheered. I immediately put my guitar down, hurried off stage, and cried for a good five minutes.

What are you planning this year for your set? Anything unique or interesting up your sleeve?

RTB2 released a new album at the end of last year, so we'll be armed with some new material. We can plan as much as we want, but the energy that is felt at these 35 shows opens up the possibility of anything happening. Oh, and I'm going to propose to Grady [Sandlin, Becker's RTB2 bandmate]. I'm through with living in sin.

Approaching its fifth year, in what ways does 35 Denton seem different to you than its previous years?

With each passing year, the organizers seem to present a more well-oiled machine, so to speak. They also secure more bands about which I know nothing — kids these days. ...

I assume that they keep their fingers on the pulse of hip and exciting music, which they bring to the festival each year. I have also noticed a bit more animosity from the fans of 35 and some of the bands that were booked and were not booked this year. Chalk it up to the growing pains of a still-fledgling festival. I wonder if "festival years" are similar to "dog years"?

How do you feel about the growth of the festival?

I think it has been growing exponentially, and the 35 people have to keep that in mind when organizing in a smaller town. I'm sure we all hope that the future of this festival stays true to a "small town" feel. Warnings aside, I see the growth of the festival contributing to the growth of Denton, both artistic and economical.

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