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Walking a Thin Line

Get your fill of music, documentary films, and photography at the 2023 Thin Line Fest.

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Love music, documentary films, and photography? Then you certainly won’t want to miss this year’s Thin Line Fest, happening April 26-30, 2023, throughout different venues in downtown Denton.

According to Festival Director Joshua Butler, Thin Line Fest is basically three festivals in one. Documentary films will be shown at Campus Theatre, while photography will be shown at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center and Sunago Bell. And live music will take place in multiple venues around downtown Denton, including Dan’s Silverleaf, Harvest House, Andy’s Bar & Grill, Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio, and Steve’s Wine Bar.

“We enjoy bringing world-class arts and music and film to our small community,” Butler says. “We think of it as a small community – you can still go to the grocery store and see people you know, walk down the street, and say hi to your friends. That community really gives the festival a unique feel to our attendees. We have filmmakers and musicians that come from all around the world, and they really enjoy their experience here. It’s so unlike a festival in Chicago or LA or even downtown Dallas. Denton has that somewhat rural feel, but also a very progressive community of young art energy.”

Caught On Film

The documentary films shown at Thin Line Fest come from around the world, Butler says. “This year in particular, there are a lot of international filmmakers with perspectives about the United States,” he continues. “So the film is shot in America, it’s about Americans, but the filmmakers are foreign. And that’s always a really interesting perspective.”

Butler says a selection committee spends nine months prior to the festival watching hundreds of documentary films to pick the ones they wish to show. They receive both entries from filmmakers, as well as films they see and want to include in their program.

“Often we’ll look at other festivals as well, what’s premiering elsewhere,” he adds. “We always try (to) get films that have recently premiered at Sundance.”

This year’s documentaries include Subject, which is the festival’s opening night film and will be shown Wednesday, April 26th at 6:00 pm.

New this year the festival is offering a music video category. Music videos will be screened on April 28th and 29th. “We have had quite a positive response from filmmakers and musicians submitting their music videos,” Butler says. “Twelve to 15 music videos are going to play as a part of that program.”

All films are shown at the Campus Theatre, which Butler says can seat 300 attendees.

In between films, Thin Line Fest attendees can view a few hundred printed photographs displayed at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center and Sunago Bell. Butler says all photographs are submitted and are juried for selection. Then the top photographs are printed and exhibited.

The photography portion officially opens with a reception at Sunago Bell on Wednesday, April 26th at 8:00 pm. Then photographs will be displayed at both the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center and Sunago Bell throughout the weekend of the festival.

Music For Every Taste

And music is a major component of Thin Line Fest. According to Bryan Denny, director of music programming, the festival staff works throughout the year to bring in the best bands for the event. “There’s a lot of music for everybody, for whatever you may be interested in,” he adds.

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The headliner for this year’s Thin Line Fest is Vincent Neil Emerson, who is scheduled to perform Friday, April 28th at 10:00 pm at Dan’s Silverleaf. “He is a fast-rising star in country music,” Denny says. “He’s been on tour in the last few years with some of the biggest names in country music. Recently he’s had music featured on ‘Yellowstone’ and ‘Reservation Dogs,’ and he’s a very talented country artist and we’re very happy to have him.”

Other acts include the California punk band Bad Cop Bad Cop and San Antonio-based female punk band FEA, who will both perform during the opening night concert at Andy’s Bar & Grill on the evening of Wednesday, April 26th.

Denny says there will be a huge heavy metal show to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Eye Hate God from New Orleans. That will take place at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio on the evening of Saturday, April 29th.

And this year’s festival will hold a Willie Nelson 90th Birthday Tribute on Sunday, April 30th, presented by Raised Right Men. “They’re supposed to bring in a lot of good musicians to help facilitate that tribute to Willie,” Denny says.

Makers’ Fest

Also new this year, Thin Line Fest is teaming up with Denton Makers Fest. On Saturday of the festival, Butler says they will be closing down Oak Street between Locust and Elm.

“We’ll be building a bunch of tents where we’re going to house about 100 different artist-makers,” Butler explains. “So these are local and regional artists selling their work, selling the items that they make to sustain themselves.”

“We will have some outdoor music as well, so the Square will be a lively environment for people to enjoy,” he adds.

Free for All

So how much might a festival this big cost to attend? Butler says it’s absolutely free for anyone to enjoy.

“It is a free festival, so all you have to do is register online and … get a badge,” he says. “It’s a free registration general admission badge. You can go to any of our venues, any of the programming, and you can get right in — it’s completely free. You can just walk around the Denton community and enjoy all of the aspects of the festival.”

As seating for all the documentary film viewings and musical performances are first come, first served, Thin Line Fest does offer a way to move ahead of the line with a purchased VIP badge for $99.

“Every (film) screening, we always open the doors to the theater about 10 minutes earlier for VIP pass holders, and so that ensures that you’re going to get first access to seats within the theater,” Butler says. “On the music side … we give VIP priority at the door. So if we are at capacity, general admission might form a line and VIPs will get priority access. So (it’s) always best to have VIP if you’re really concerned about catching some of your favorite acts.”

The 2023 Thin Line Fest will take place April 26-30, 2023, in various areas around downtown Denton. For a full program schedule and to register for a free badge or VIP access, visit

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