There has been a lot of speculation and micro-controversy over 35 Denton’s various name-changes over the years. Rather than speculate further, I thought we would let festival founder Chris Flemmons give us the hows and whys in his own words. What follows is some wonderful insight into the making of a musical festival. Flemmons provides everything from details on the event’s early humbler days in Austin to how Tex Watson managed to sneak West at the expense of UNT.
1. Name: NX35: The Afternoon Party of the Other, Smaller, Music Town in Texas
Relevant Year(s): 2005-2008
Location: Austin, TX.
Big Red Sun (2005)
Club DeVille (2006)
Momo’s (2007, 2008)
Pros of Name: It was directions to Denton from Austin — as in “Denton is north by I-35.” Appropriate for locale/culture. The subtitle felt like a long-overdue introduction (Athens, GA had an afternoon party).
Cons of Name: Derivative apron-stringing on behemoth SXSW’s name/identity.
Reason For Changing Name: NX35 would morph from afternoon party at SXSW to a small, walkable, hopefully more hassle-free alternative festival in Denton.
2. Name: NX35 Music Conferette
Relevant Year: 2009
Location: 8 downtown Denton venues in 2009.
Pros: Keeping “NX35″ for only the first year we retain some of the profile we’d managed to garner in the 4 years of being an afternoon installation at SXSW. “Conferette” says small conference.
Cons: Derivative apron-stringing on behemoth SXSW’s name/identity.
Reason For Keeping Name: A couple of us wanted to change the name as originally planned (to what name we didn’t know at the time) but many more keys in our group protested to keep it. It was agreed 2010 would be the last year we had a name resembling SXSW’s.
3. Name: NX35 Music Conferette
Relevant Year: 2010
Pros: When you leave the caps lock on “nx35″ becomes “NX#%”.
Cons: Another year of derivative apron-stringing on behemoth SXSW’s name/identity. Would have been easier to change it after the first year than after the second.
Reason For Changing Name: Agreed upon the summer before. Still, on a Friday in February before the festival, Austin’s A/V Club published an article basically saying our lineup was better than Austin’s. Our publicist was bouncing off the ceiling. I offhandedly said that Monday morning we’d likely be getting a call from SXSW.
Monday morning at 9 a.m. SXSW, Inc. indeed called. The conversation was informal and amiable. The marketer that called me said SX had a trademark issue with the name of our festival. I told him I agreed, wasn’t surprised, and that it was already changing. He asked again if we could change it. I said, “You mean right now? A month out?” I explained that was impossible. We didn’t have the money or resources to switch gears like that, and quite frankly that SX would look like the Disney Corporation telling a daycare center to get Mickey Mouse off their cyclone fence — P.R. disaster. He laughed at that. We both agreed NX use would cease after 2010. No harm, no foul.
4. Name: 35 Conferette
Relevant Year: 2011
Pros: It was a solution. For about a week it was a solution.
Cons: This name trial-ballooned much better than favorites, “Denton Days” (low-rent, Traders Village appeal), and, serious, “Tex Watson Days” (dude stole typewriters from North Texas State University — now U.N.T. — to finance his trip to California where he became Charles Manson’s heavy).
Reasons for Changing: Lost on me and a couple of Dallas advertising friends who were appealed to regarding all this name stuff was that once more isolated, “Conferette” sounds like a piece of “meeting furniture” meant for the “parlor room.” The fact was this neologism had always sounded like that, but no one was ever forced to deal with it in ’09 and ’10 — our event was always informally referred to as “NX35″ and “NX.”
Even after the change, people continued to simply call it “NX35″ or “NX,” and they didn’t do so for the same reasons people don’t call it the “Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.” They couldn’t pronounce Conferette. They couldn’t spell it. They couldn’t read it. What the f*** was it?
5. 35 Denton
Relevant Year: 2012
Pros: This thing has always been about Denton. It took a long time to get to have two outdoor main stages downtown in 2011 – next door to the building that houses a 100-year-old newspaper and another just around the corner from the Courthouse on the Square. 35 is still volunteer-run, from the runners week-of to our core staff that works for months. All our talk about promoting preservation, about protecting Denton’s culture through live music – one of the town’s best amenities – is best served by putting the dateline in the name.
Cons: Fears that name change will affect the “gathering experience.”
Reasons for changing: We’ll know it when we see it!
Image: 35 Denton staff at work in 2011. Photo by Marcus Junius Laws. Courtesy of 35 Denton.