Every town's got its quirks and characters that make it unique, and Denton is no different — from its notorious flat-earther guy in his beat-up silver hatch back complete with spray-painted YouTube links, the allegedly haunted Goatman's Bridge and the overly attached girlfriend viral meme. So what if all of the personas and oddities that make up this small college town, known for its vibrant music and culture, were to meet in one place? That's what DJ and Dentonite Joey Liechty set out to accomplish with Dentonpalooza.
"That would be hilarious, right?" Liechty says, on the idea that some of Denton's most noted personalities could come together for a daylong event, celebrating the best of Little D.
Liechty says the idea came to him one night when DJing between sets at a farewell show for J&J's Pizza.
He joked to a friend that night, musician Eric Michener, also known as Fishboy, that a guy he calls Tiger Head Keyboard Dude — who walks around town wearing a giant fake tiger head and, well, playing keyboard — would be a great addition to a show.
"It would be fun to have that guy on stage somewhere," Liechty says. "From there I just thought, 'Who would he perform with? What would be the show?'"
Liechty says the joke spiraled from there. After some input from Denton Facebook and Reddit pages, the first iteration of the Dentonpalooza flyer was born. It's been a favorite on many feeds for the past several days, having been updated a few times after commenters thought of more Denton-specific characters to add.
"I didn't really think anything would become of it, other than be a silly graphic," Liechty says.
Now the meme has inspired a real, full-fledged festival slated to take place Dec. 3 at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. Some "acts" that Liechty has confirmed include Rosie the Recycled Books dog, Shaun from Midway Mart, the Denton Spider-Man, the old Howdy Doody sign, punk band Wee Beasties, musician Paul Slavens, the DJ on the Square, and, of course, the "train" — which is simply a few Union Pacific lines that roll through town — will "make an appearance" as the tracks lie only feet away from Gloves.
Liechty acted quickly in getting T-shirts and hoodies ready for preorder, printed with the updated flyer, as a way to raise money for two charities and act as free advertising for the event. All proceeds from T-shirts ($20), hoodies ($40) and ticket sales for the event (price undetermined) will go to the Denton Music and Arts Collaborative and to pancreatic cancer research. There will also be a costume contest for anyone wanting to dress up as any of the "acts" on the bill, with a $250 gift certificate prize from Rose Costumes.
Liechty is no doubt giving Denton something to look forward to. He wants to feature as many of the "acts" as possible.
"It's going to be very silly and very jumbled up," he says.
For the uninformed, here's a description of a few Dentonpalooza acts:
Tiger Head Keyboard Dude
A young man whom most locals refer to as the “tiger head keyboard dude” or the “cat head guy” or some iteration of those, usually seen walking or dancing around the North Lakes area and University Drive with his keyboard in tow. He plays on street corners, on shopping center sidewalks and in residential neighborhoods. Nobody knows much about him, but locals are pretty protective of him nonetheless as a Denton icon.
There’s a guy who markets himself as the Denton Spider-Man, dressed in a full-body Spider-Man suit, driving a Ford F-150 with stickers of the character plastered all over, who makes appearances, for tips, at numerous gatherings around North Texas (not sure how Marvel hasn’t sued him yet). What started out as an effort to encourage mask-wearing when the COVID-19 pandemic first started became a semi-permanent alter-ego as the Denton Spider-Man became a highly noticeable and sought out character.
Car Going Wrong Direction on Hickory
There’s just always someone driving in the wrong direction on Hickory Street.
Shaun From Midway Mart
One of Denton’s favorite and most important humans is Shaun from Midway Mart. He provides the college town with the best craft beer selection in his modest, downtown convenience store. You can bet he’ll be behind the counter anytime you open the door, ready to ask how your family’s doing or what beers you think he should order next. He’s also the town’s favorite Girl Scout cookie dealer, with dozens of boxes ready to buy right there at the check-out counter. We shudder to think of what Denton would become without Shaun from Midway Mart.
Fine Farts Sign
There’s a vacant theater on the downtown square with a sign that reads “Fine Arts,” but if you look at it from one direction, it reads “Fine Farts.” Truly a Dentonite’s favorite thing to show visiting friends and family.
There’s a shit ton of potholes in Denton. And they’ll destroy your car. Not even Denton Spider-Man will be able to help.
It's a college town, so there’s a lot of beer consumption.
Barb From Facebook
The beloved Barb from Facebook is a true delight to see on social media. Creep the Denton Downtowner’s Facebook page and you’ll see what we mean. She’s a pure-hearted lady whom we all wish was our grandma.
Pops Carter is a popular Denton blues musician for over 40 years who played with B.B. King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Freddy King and Little Milton. A great example of the town’s rich musical history.
Willie Hudspeth is a longtime activist who worked to remove the Denton Confederate Soldier Monument that long plagued the downtown square.
Confederate Monument (In Storage)
That motherfucker’s in storage now.
Street Preacher Who Accosts Passersby
While everyone else is trying to enjoy a day on the downtown square, every now and then there’s a street preacher who shows up with a voice amplifier and Bible and yells at us all about our sins.
Old Howdy Doody Sign
Howdy Doody rivals Midway Mart with its selection of booze. But it’s the store's old iconic sign that people treasure the most. It was recently replaced with a picture of the doll from the 1947 TV show of the same name.
Robson Ranch Voter
Leave it to none other than Robson Ranch voters to all but determine every local election’s outcome in Denton. If you looked at it on a map, you’d be forgiven for thinking Robson Ranch is actually located in Argyle, and a lot of Dentonites feel that the city is misrepresented by retired boomers.
Murder Kroger Rodent
The Kroger on University Drive in Denton is called “Murder Kroger” because it’s said that you have to murder someone to find parking. The Kroger on Loop 288 is called “Cheese Kroger” because of its wide selection of gourmet cheeses. “Milf Kroger” is the one on the corner of Teasley Lane and Hickory Creek, and is supposed to be full of good-looking moms. Anyway, there was a rat once at Murder Kroger and the store had to be evacuated.
The trains that rumble through the industrial district of Denton, between Armadillo Ale Works and Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, are part of the town's auditory landscape. Everyone hears them, no matter where you are in the city. Some people hate them, some people love them. Either way, there are usually a few heated comment threads in Denton-centric Facebook groups on the trains every now and then.