DFW Music News

Can New Denton Fest Backyard Block Party Fill Void Left by Relocated Oaktopia?

Austin folk group Hikes will headline the Backyard Block Party with punk band Sailor Poon.
Austin folk group Hikes will headline the Backyard Block Party with punk band Sailor Poon. Hikes Facebook
While Denton music fans mourn Oaktopia's move to Deep Ellum, a group of local musicians and music lovers is preparing to bring a new festival to town. Backyard Block Party is set for Nov. 17-18 at popular bar and music venue Backyard on Bell.

“The Denton scene is banding together to start new events to step in for the old ones,” says Zachariah Walker, a local musician who books music at Backyard on Bell and helped plan the festival. “Denton music is still kicking, and I think this will show that.”

The lineup includes both local acts and headliners from Austin. Walker says the idea for the festival came about when his band and a couple of others were preparing for a fall show at Backyard on Bell. The lineup just kept growing.

“Once we were at five bands, we thought, ‘Well, let’s just throw a festival,’” Walker says.

"For a while we didn't know what to do [when Denton venues started closing]. You saw a lot of bands just start playing house shows because without a venue, you don't have many other places to play." – Zachariah Walker

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Austin folk group Hikes, one of the first five bands, will headline Backyard Block Party. Also headlining are garage punk rockers and fellow Austinites of Sailor Poon, which just returned from touring Japan and the U.K. Rounding out the bill are Denton denizens Dome Dwellers, Mother Tongues and Fun Button, plus more than 20 other local bands.

“The lineup is mostly local, but it has a lot of variety and a lot of heart,” Walker says. “Instead of putting a lot of money in one or two big headliners, we wanted to stay loyal to the groups here and make sure we pay them what they are worth.”

Things kick off with a late-night party and show Nov. 16 and keep rolling with shows the following two nights. Food trucks and pop-up art shows will also be on site as a key part of the festival’s mission to showcase local creatives.

Oaktopia’s departure and the recent closures of several popular venues have made Denton music fans worry about the future, but Walker and others have found reasons for optimism.

“For a while, we didn’t know what to do,” he says. “You saw a lot of bands just start playing house shows because without a venue, you don’t have many other places to play."

But Walker says that in recent years, he's heard even more new music in Denton than usual. “Great bands are still popping up all the time, and venues are getting more creative,” he says.

Walker cites the success of venues like Dan’s Silverleaf and Andy’s as a sign that local venues are responding to the changing times. Dan’s continues to bring in talent from DFW and beyond, and Andy’s recently started hosting Emo Nights.

Walker hopes Backyard Block Party will serve as a reminder of the great bands still in Denton and the city's passion for music.

"There will always be music in Denton,” he says. “If all else fails, we’ll play in the houses, the streets; we’ll play wherever.”

Tickets for Backyard Block Party are $10 per day or $15 for the weekend. Visit eventbrite.com to buy and learn more. 

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Tyler Hicks was born in Austin, but he grew up in Dallas. He typically claims one or the other, depending on which is most convenient. His work has appeared in Texas Monthly, Truthout, The Texas Observer and many other publications.
Contact: Tyler Hicks

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