Bryan Denny worked carefully to select the headliner for the upcoming Denton festival, Thin Line. Massachussetts lo-fi trio Sebadoh has hitched itself to the festival — an announcement that’s bound to prick up the ears of all kinds in Denton’s music scene.
Thin Line is the only documentary film festival in Texas, and for the new year, the event has a new name and a new vision.
What was a 10-day film festival, called Thin Line Film Fest, is becoming a four-day film and music festival called Thin Line. The event could fill the void where 35 Denton, a four-day music festival that is generally presented in March — but is on hiatus in 2014.
Denny said the programming will be broad, musically speaking.
“It pretty much goes from jazz and neo-soul to Americana and folk,” said Denny, a longtime talent buyer for Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios and CEO of DHS Entertainment, a Denton production and booking company. “We’re going to have some Latin music, too. I think what we’re going for is the music programming to be organic.”
Festival organizers announced Sebadoh’s Feb. 15 performance a few weeks ago on the event website.
The band is a smart score for Thin Line. The band, made up of Dinosaur Jr. founding member and bassist Lou Barlow, guitarist Jason Lowenstein and drummer Bob D’Amico, alternates between lo-fi alt-rock and noise rock.
The approach is rooted in the early days when Sebadoh was a home recording project of Barlow and drummer Eric Gaffney. The band’s 2013 release, Defend Yourself on Joyful Noise Recordings, shows a fair amount of evolution from the early days, but the band hasn’t wandered too far afield to lose fans of Denton acts like noise-rockers Shiny Around the Edges and singer-songwriter Isaac Hoskins.
Sebadoh makes tuneful melodies that could easily be built into ear worms by current pop performers. (The melody from Defend Yourself’s opening track, “I Will,” could easily be a slick, synth-heavy, dancefloor hit for the likes of Selena Gomez if it weren’t embedded in easy alt-rock guitar and bass.) In fact, much of Defend Yourself is so singable, pitched in a mid-range, mid-tempo voice range that it could be a Matthew Sweet B-side.
Echoes of Barlow’s Folk Implosion make themselves heard throughout Defend in Barlow’s velvet croon, which is something to enjoy in the present-day abundance of baroque-deluxe R&B stylings. There’s no ornamentation in Barlow’s vocals, or in the instrumentation, really. And isn’t that the point of lo-fi music?
Sebadoh is a standard bearer for songwriting and performance without the gloss and glaze. Even if Defend Yourself is a smoother, more radio-ready project than its antecedents, the songs are built on formulas that don’t layer on sound to embellish or compensate. Even guitar bridges are without frills.
Thin Line founder and director Joshua Butler said he and collaborators have deliberately steered clear of bigger-name bands and artists.
“Right now, our goal is to grow, but we want this to stay manageable,” Butler said. “But right now, our vision is for Thin Line to be a film and music festival from here on out.”
What: Four-day film and music festival, screening more than 60 documentary films and presenting about 130 bands
When: Feb. 12-16
Where: Downtown Denton, with films at the Campus Theatre and the Fine Arts Theatre, and music at Dan’s Silverleaf, Hailey’s Club, Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios and the Thin Line Tent, on the lot across the street from Oak Street Draft House & Cocktail Parlor.
Passes and tickets: An all-access pass costs $150; film pass, $75; music pass, $75. Tickets to Sebadoh’s Feb. 15 show on the Thin Line Stage cost $15.
On the Web: http://thinline.us