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Kim Phillips: Music Friendly Community Denton heads to SXSW 2018

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Kim Phillips

Friday afternoon, Feb. 23, was nasty weather. It was the sixth day in a row of that gray, wet cold that seeps into your bones and psyche with equal impact. We wondered if the usual Dan's Silverleaf happy hour crowd was coming out, much less the packed house for which we were hoping.

But then, Texas Music Office director Brendon Anthony arrived, and they started crowding into Dan's: Denton City Council members (current, past and hopefuls); media; Denton Chamber of Commerce, Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau,, Main Street Association, Denton Economic Development Partnership; and other civic leaders; music and art venue owners and managers; restaurant owners; local event producers; the community at-large; and lots of Denton music industry royalty.

Looking out over the 150-ish people watching Anthony present the official certificate from the governor's office designating Denton as a Music Friendly Community to City Council member Keely Briggs, I thought about that diverse crowd gathered in Dan's. From all walks of life, "they" came, because Denton truly is a music town. No matter how loosely connected to our music scene, Dentonites appreciate its importance within the fabric of our Denton life.

Even the Denton music scene big names in the room were diverse: their sounds, styles and genres quite differ greatly from one another's. Together, they represent the "Denton sound," difficult to classify because the Denton sound is not a sound; rather, it is the collective musical originality and independence that plays here and resonates from here to the ears of the world. This is the Denton story we are telling as our Music Friendly Community retakes a stage at South by Southwest 2018.

As we have the past three years, a Denton delegation will head for Austin this coming Friday to promote our city at SXSW's world stage. Only this year, our approach is different.

We've previously focused our attention on the Interactive Marketplace, a giant expo featuring places, instruments, artists and all the newest technological inventions, electronics and gadgets. There we presented local makers, entrepreneurs, talent, workforce availability and quality of life to the more than 70,000 people who explore the expo. During the marketplace's four-day run in 2017, Denton's booth garnered some $60,000 in media coverage from both domestic and international outlets.

In 2018 though, the SXSW mission has narrower targets, and we've divided into two teams to reach them.

Team one is sponsoring the Pitch Accelerator in the tech arena, a three-day Shark Tank-like presentation series where dreams, ideas, investors and talent scouts come together, find one another and make new things happen. Headed by the city of Denton's economic development and Stoke officials, team members are veterans of each of these Accelerator participant groups. Their eyes will be peeled for new business, start-ups, expansions and investors that might be a match for Denton.

Team two is organizing an official SXSW Music Showcase featuring seven Denton bands to generate fan and media fervor for Denton's Music Friendly Community-certified music scene. Headed by DCVB officials, the showcase will promote Denton's vibrant music-industry: creative, experiential, career-launching and integral in our quality of life.

This won't be the first time SXSW has seen Denton in a showcase setting. Chris Flemmons of the Baptist Generals and Dan Mojica of Dan's Silverleaf partnered up to make it happen first more than a decade ago.

"We knew that if faraway places like Athens, Georgia, were staking a claim with the SXSW masses, Denton needed to have a presence there," Flemmons said. He and numerous Denton artists had played SXSW, but never as a Denton unit. "We decided it was time the world saw Denton like it is, a music city just 200 miles up the road, full of talent and opportunity."

Flemmons and Mojica organized Denton bands to present off-site showcases during SXSW for four years, starting in 2004. Their effort lead to the birth of North by 35 Conferette in 2008, Flemmons' brainchild and Denton's mini-version of SXSW. They scheduled NX35 (later known as 35 Denton) to coincide with SXSW's opening weekend to attract talent and fans en route to and from Austin.

Using his journalism contacts and those of Baptist General music label Sub Pop out of Seattle, Flemmons garnered media and music industry attention that fueled word of Denton's significance at SXSW, and continued beyond the NX35 festival's years of success.

Flemmons noted that the only constant is change, and a lot has changed in Denton over the past 10 years. "That's not bad; it just is because change happens," he said. He agrees that it's time to wake the world up to the fact that Denton is still the most promising, happening, livable music city in Texas. And SXSW is the place to make that wake-up call.

And so we shall.

KIM PHILLIPS is vice president of the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau at the Denton Chamber of Commerce. She loves promoting Denton's original, independent spirit through the city's sense of place and cast of many characters. She can be reached at