Abby Jones | Staff Writer
Locals have dubbed Denton a “mini-Austin” in part for its patronage to the fine arts, music being the most prominent. UNT’s University Program Council justified this nickname for the city by hosting North by North Texas, an end-of-semester bash that encapsulated the spirit of Austin’s South by Southwest music festival on a smaller scale. The annual music festival celebrated its third year on Friday.
“It used to feature just local artists,” said Gaby Perez, UPC Live Music Coordinator. “Then last year they started reaching out to Dallas musicians. Then this year, I decided to reach out even further.”
Although the festival took place at Clark Park in the past, UPC utilized some of the new concert spaces provided by the University Union. Four artists took the stages at the Union Patio and Syndicate as well as at Library Mall.
The lineup for the festival came about as a collaboration of ideas within UPC’s live music committee members.
“We asked our committee what bands people listened to and who they thought would be good to bring to UNT,” Perez said. “We started figuring out who would fit in our budget and messaging them, seeing if our dates meshed with their tour schedule.”
The Marfa Lights, Jessie Frye, DREAMERS and machineheart made up the lineup for NXNT 2017, showcasing talents from Denton and beyond.
“We had extra meetings months in advance before the festival,” psychology freshman Ariana Mercado said, who is on UPC’s live music committee. “We figured out a lot of marketing ideas for the event as well as just the ins and outs of it all.”
The Marfa Lights, a five-piece band, kicked off the festival at 5 p.m. at the Union Patio. They performed rock music with a southern flair, a telltale sign of their Texan origins.
Local act Jessie Frye played next at the Union Syndicate. Decked out in an edgy ensemble, she gave a spirited pop-rock performance, backed by a three-man band. Frye, who has won Best Pop Act in both the Denton Music Awards and Dallas Observer Music Awards, said she was happy to be playing in her hometown again.
The audience trickled back outdoors to Library Mall for DREAMERS, who garnered much excitement among festival attendees.
“I’m definitely most excited to see DREAMERS,” pre-business freshman Julia Narvaez said. “I’ve been listening to them for almost a year and this is my first time seeing them.”
DREAMERS, a Los Angeles-based trio, were excited to return to Texas after having just wrapped up supporting a national tour — so much so that they flew in only a couple of hours before their set.
“We just recently finished a month-long tour that ended in Austin,” DREAMERS frontman Nick Wold said. “We had a break, so we drove all the way back to LA, then flew in today just to do this.”
DREAMERS had the crowd jumping, dancing and howling with their fiery indie rock sound. For their second-ever college campus performance, they said the friendly festival attendees and the free popcorn were their favorite aspects of the event.
For a more mellow change of pace, synth-pop band machineheart closed out the night at the Library Mall. Fronted by a powerful female lead vocalist, the group dazzled the crowd for the final set of NXNT.
Although Perez feared her audience would be compromised by the Denton Arts & Jazz Fest occurring the same weekend, about 300 guests showed up to enjoy the free event.
“With events like this, it’s a lot of trial and error to see what works and then make it better for next year,” Perez said. “So hopefully, if the university sees that we’re bringing in these artists and spending the money on the festival and students actually come out, they’ll give us more money to bring in bigger artists.”
With the aroma of popcorn and cotton candy wavering in the air and 200 free t-shirts to give away, UPC presented a memorable experience for both performers and attendees.
“My favorite part of doing this is having the chance to bring together acts that are local and national and do this really cool service for students,” Mercado said.
Featured Image: To mark and decorate the path between stages at UPC’s NXNT music festival on Friday, April 28, painted letters lean against the benches by the library mall. The letters were made by UPC and splattered with color by passing students as the organization set up for the event. Katie Jenkins