Weeks away from Denton’s Thin Line Fest in spring 2020, Bryan Denny started to worry. The director of music programming watched as the looming coronavirus pandemic began to upend daily routines. South by Southwest soon announced it had to pull the plug. Then, Thin Line followed suit.
Like many events, Thin Line pivoted to virtual during the worst of the pandemic. But now, the film and music festival is making a 3D comeback, running March 23-27.
Denny is excited to catch bands with fellow music fans during the free festival, much of which will also be livestreamed for those who’d prefer to watch from home.
“The whole experience that we all took for granted for so, so long until it wasn’t there, we finally get to see it and taste it and touch it and do it all the way that we used to,” Denny says. “That’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to.”
After a tough couple of years, jam-packed live events are back throughout Texas and beyond. Last Friday, SXSW also resumed its in-person format for the first time in three years.
Despite efforts at adapting to virtual settings, many North Texans are relieved to experience in-person festivals and brick-and-mortar venues once more.
Thin Line is back with a bang for its 15th year. The music lineup includes Swedish metal heavyweights Monolord, Grammy award-winning Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma and hometown country hero Joshua Ray Walker, who recently wrapped an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
On the film side, festival director Joshua Butler notes that Thin Line is screening can’t-miss flicks from award-winning filmmakers.
Framing Agnes, a genre-bending documentary about a trans woman studied by a UCLA sociologist in the ‘60s, took home an audience award at Sundance. Another top doc selection is What We Leave Behind, a poetic glimpse into its filmmaker’s relationship with her Mexican grandfather and his motherland.
Similar to live music, Butler says “something was kind of lost” when many film fests went fully virtual, with people watching on-demand movies on their own time. Thin Line, meanwhile, livestreamed its screenings throughout the pandemic, doing its best to mimic the in-person experience amid quarantine.
“It becomes a community experience, and that is what festivals are about,” he says. “It’s about enjoying a piece of programming with other people.”
Additional live events are returning to North Texas, too. The annual Dallas Reggae Festival is touching down at Addison Circle Park on April 9-10 as a celebration of reggae music and Caribbean culture. It’ll host headliners like Don Carlos, Third World, Anthony B and Nattali Rize; vendors will also be selling crafts, jewelry, art and clothing, plus Caribbean food.
The family-friendly event, which first kicked off in the early ‘90s, is highlighting inclusivity in this year’s lineup, with tickets ranging from $20 to $50.
“Reggae music brings us together, unites communities, and serves as a rallying cry when everything else seems to fall on deaf ears,” promoter Mike Frakaz said in a news release. “The goal is to unite the audience with performers from many different generations. We want people to escape to the islands for a few hours.”
Other festivals are premiering live for the first time. After debuting in the virtual sphere last year, the Fort Worth African American Roots Music Festival will celebrate this Saturday at the Southside Preservation Hall. It’s the only Black-led major-city fest that features Black-centered early American music. Standard tickets are $40.
Then on Saturday, March 26, the Texas Forever Fest kicks off at Plano’s Haggard Park. The free all-ages event boasts live music and Western entertainment, plus classic Lone Star State eats.
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.