35 Denton's Outlook is Uncertain After The Fest Loses its Core Staff and Largest Financial Backer
Kyle LaValley (left) with Natalie Davila (right) and the rest of the 35 Denton team before this year's fest in March.
If one of North Texas' biggest music festivals happens again, it will do so without its creative director, programming director and chief financial backer. 35 Denton started in Austin as a SXSW day party in 2005 and by 2013 featured in the vicinity of 200 acts from around the globe. Kyle LaValley, who has been effectively running the festival alongside Natalie Davila and a team of staff and volunteers, announced today that she'll be resigning her post. Davalia, the fest's chief talent buyer, left shortly after this year's fest. Little Guys Movers, the Denton-based company that has provided the largest financial support of the festival for the last several years, is also cutting ties with the festival. "We're all on super good terms, we have just basically decided that we're going to pursue some other stuff," LaValley says. "There's been a lot of waiting and I'm ready to do something new."
That something is the large space just across the tracks from Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios known as The Hive. A former valve factory, the building acted as the largest venue at this year's 35 Denton, ultimately housing headliners Killer Mike and Solange after rain forced them off the outdoor stages. LaValley will work with owners Joe Northern and Randy Smith to develop the space into a permanent music venue and event space. "The Hive is going to be my number one project," LaValley says. "We've already been working on getting some contractors and estimates to figure out what we need to do to make that space a top-notch venue."
Currently, they're shooting for an opening sometime in the fall, although there's still a lot of work on both construction and permits to come. LaValley hopes to host a launch party later this year -- a "microfest," as she calls it.
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As for 35 Denton, its fate rests with a board of investors who have never been named publicly. That group will no longer involve Little Guys Movers, however. "Little Guys is growing right now, and we need to focus on our business," says owner Marcus Watson. "We were just one of many investors."
We're reaching out to those investors and will let you know what their plans are once we know them. For now, at least, there doesn't seem to be much momentum in place to keep 35 Denton alive.
"At this point it's in the hands of the investors if they want to move forward with the festival," LaValley says. "I hope that the festival goes forward, and I let them know that I'd love to still lend my assistance. But at this point there hasn't been much discussion about moving forward."
35 Denton has overcome a series of misfortunes (pouring rain two years running) and its exceedingly grassroots origins (The Baptist Generals playing with their friends in an Austin flower shop) to become the largest (in terms of quantity of bands, at least) and most musically adventurous festival in the area.
"I amicably parted ways with 35 Denton shortly after the 2013 festivities concluded," says Davila in a statement to us. "I feel very fortunate for the opportunity to have worked on an incredible project in a truly special town. I am forever grateful to all the wonderful people I had the pleasure of working with, and I remain extremely proud of what we all accomplished together."
"It's certainly been a great opportunity in my life," LaValley says. "It's shown me the potential people have to make something outside of themselves. It's just right now it's a good time for me to pursue some other business."
Brian Rash contributed to the reporting of this story.
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