Backyard Block Party merges local live music and visual art

Backyard Block Party merges local live music and visual art

Backyard Block Party merges local live music and visual art
November 20
11:01 2017

The train horn cut through the performance of the band Honey and Salt on Friday evening as the cargo zipped along the tracks behind the colorful outdoor stage, but no one seemed to notice.

The train was a staple of the venue, and it had been mentioned by musicians, comedians and other performers alike. For the regulars, it was simply another guest at Backyard on Bell.

The bar Backyard on Bell hosted a three-day event over the weekend called Backyard Block Party. The event featured 25 different bands — such as Felt and Fur and LOAFERS — on two different outdoor stages, several local pop-up artists and plenty of pizza and fried chicken.

“I had this date booked with a few of my friend’s bands,” said Zachariah Walker, event booker and bartender at Backyard on Bell. “We just had a whole bunch of friends kind of conglomerate…and it kind of snowballed into a three-day festival.”

With their admission wristbands on one hand and cold beers in the other, the patrons jumped across the backyard between performances, only stopping along the way to view the local artwork.

This isn’t the first event that Backyard on Bell has hosted. While the venue only recently celebrated their one-year anniversary, the bar has earned a reputation for throwing watch parties, comedy shows and live music.

The venue has put on a variety of events in order to see what was best for their specific venue, but they believe they have found their identity as a music venue.

“There is a big need here for a music venue [that] takes care of people and is willing to have experimental shows,” Walker said “We could do a Planned Parenthood benefit or a dog party for the animal shelter. It’s really just whatever we think will serve the community and could be fun and a success.”

Dallas-based band LOAFERS also feels the venue takes care of its musicians.

“I don’t think there is anything else like this in Denton,” LOAFERS guitarist and vocalist Eric Von Isman said. “They are really hospitable, feeding us Red Bull, pizza and fried chicken back there. I had four pieces of fried chicken — I grabbed enough for everybody. We are going to keep the electricity on this month.”

The bartenders who work at Backyard on Bell understand how important musicians are to the success of their venue.

“We make sure all the musicians are paid very well,” bartender Spencer Eagleton said. “Everyone who plays here gets paid, like 100 percent, and they get a badass bar tab.”

Denton venues have tried to fill the void left by the closing of former live music hotspots like J&J’s Pizza’s “Old Dirty Basement” and Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. Many local bands have turned to house shows in order to continue performing, but they often deal with low wages or unorganized venues.

“House shows are just fun — they are always going to be fun,” Walker said. “But there are bands that are making their living and paying their rent by being on the road. Local bands want to play house shows to get that exposure, but at some point you need to be valued, and that’s what good about playing venues.”

While live music is Backyard on Bell’s main focus moving forward, the venue wants to provide an avenue for other types of artists in Denton.

Local ink artist Kelly Sims held her first public show at the Backyard Block Party, where she displayed her pop culture-centered artwork to the left of the packed stage.

“This is my favorite bar — I know a lot of people here,” Sims said. “They referred me and were like, ‘Hey, you know, this girl’s been doing art this year, and she’s trying really hard. We’ll give her a shot,’ and so here I am. It feels so good. It’s like in my dream.”

Local digital print artist Max Feroz has a similar story. Feroz has been making art for several years, but he just recently acquired a printer. Walker offered to let him set up a table at Backyard Block Party.

“This is the first time I’ve sold any of my shit before,” Feroz said. “I didn’t expect or plan to sell anything. I just kind of wanted people to see the art I made, but I ended up selling like $60 worth of prints. It’s been pretty fun.”

The event featured several artists, but Emily O’Connor worked behind the scenes — or on the scenes, rather.

O’Connor, a new media arts major, was the art director for Backyard Block Party. O’Connor worked with her brother’s girlfriend to design and build the elaborate stage set of a large head with yellow rays shooting from it.

“It just creates a whole other kind of area, especially with it being in a bar,” O’Connor said. “It’s nice to at least transform it a little bit — kind of give it that festival feel. I’ve always been interested in the whole music festival scene, and I think it would be cool to do, like, more installation work for festivals.”

For Backyard on Bell, there is a marriage between the local music and art scenes.

“Art and music all go hand in hand,” Walker said. “There’s not a band out there who hasn’t gotten great help from photographers, visual artists, painters, you know, all of this is incorporated. Art is art. It’s all valid, and we all try to help each other out.”

Backyard on Bell is taking on a new booking agent and going through some major renovations over the next few months, but at least one thing will remain the same — the venue’s loyalty to the Denton creative community.

“We try to take care of everybody here,” Walker said. “It’s not exactly an open mic night kind of thing, but if you send us a booking email, we’ll definitely look at it. We want to cultivate and give people a space to grow.”

Featured Image: Backyard on Bell is a music venue, food truck park, and bar. They recently hosted a two-day block party that consisted of live music, art and food. Victoria Nguyen

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Slade Meadows

Slade Meadows

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