Free Underage Cool Kids Fest Is the Latest House Festival in Denton, and It Wants the Kids to Join

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Following last month's house party music festival in Denton, Broketopia, an unusual precedent has been set in the community, as more and more DIY venues are embracing the “house festival” format. There's already another event in the works, and it's aimed at getting the underage crowd in on the fun. This festival, which takes place Nov. 11 to 13, has been dubbed the Free Underage Cool Kids Fest — and yes, the acronym is F.U.C.K.

The festival was initially the brainchild of Gabe Thompkins, of the band Bliss, who, along with his bandmate Justin Piel, friend Violet Krause and John Kuzmick of Moon Waves, brought the project to fruition. The idea came to them following the Denton music town hall meeting that was hosted by 1919 Hemphill volunteer Christopher Cotter back in August. One of the major talking points in that meeting was the need for an all-ages music venue in Denton, in the wake of the closures of J&J's Pizza's basement and Rubber Gloves, both of which had been all-ages music venues.

“I just felt what Denton needed was a free underage venue for all these badass local bands that aren’t old enough to play places like Andy’s [Bar],” Thompkins says. He and Piel had attended the meeting together. “We had plans to open a house venue next year, since we are going to UNT,” Piel adds. “This year we thought it would be cool to set up a festival like we had seen other people do.”

As members of a band that's full of underage members, Thompkins and Piel found a likeminded person in Kuzmick, whose band is in the same boat. “With bigger venues in Denton being a little stingy about age, we were just thinking we could do our own thing,” he says. But Kuzmick's aims are bigger than a venue, even one festival: “I’m also trying to start a collective of underage bands with Gabe and a few other people. It’s called ‘Get With It!’ I hopped on board and this is kind of an inaugural show for that whole thing.”

Despite the fact that they are relatively green when it comes to organizing shows, the group managed to book several local heavy hitters, and some from outside Denton. They have confirmed Sealion, Dead Mockingbirds, Loafers and Moonwaves — all of whom are based in Dallas — in addition to 38 other local bands, making for a colossal 42-band lineup over three days. Thompkins says he assembled the lineup by networking at shows and on social media. “When Violet said that the house was a go, I pretty much messaged everybody directly,” he says.
Krause says she was willing to volunteer her home because she wanted to help make an impact on the community. “It got turned into this idea of having a whole weekend where everyone can come and just be cool, underage kids doing what they love to do,” she says. “It’s a great thing to have because a concept like this hasn’t really existed before now.”

Bands like Sealion and Dead Mockingbirds regularly play gigs at clubs like Club Dada and Three Links, but they too were attracted to the festival by the emphasis on getting younger fans involved. “There are not too many places in Dallas for underage kids to see bands like us, unless it is a special show, considering most of the venues that we play are strict about the 21-plus cutoff,” says Kenneth Pritchard of Dead Mockingbirds. He sees events like these as especially encouraging for the health of the local scenes. “There have been a lot of closures of staple music venues in Denton recently, and the DIYers have obviously picked up on it. I think that the next wave of musicians have really taken control and are making their vision of what a music scene is.'”

One concern that had been on their minds was attendance. The project has gained quite a bit of traction since it was announced last week, and Krause worries about comfort levels in the house, considering the level of interest versus the amount of space she has to offer. “Part of me is worried because you never know how big events like this are going to get, but it’s not my main focus. I’m more worried about making sure everyone is comfortable, since it’s not the biggest space,” she says.

Thompkins, however, will wear the attendance levels like a badge of honor. “If there's a lot of people who show up, and it gets out of control, I’ll kind of be proud,” Thompkins says.

Kuzmick agrees. “I think it’d be kind of nice to be overwhelmed with attendance,” he says. “If more people show up than we expected, then we must be doing something right.”

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