Creativity is an abundant resource in Denton. Just look to any of the city's numerous art galleries, music venues or community events for proof. Even promoting a festival here warrants a particular kind of artistry.
That's certainly the case with 35 Denton, the long-running music festival that returns March 11-13 to multiple stages across town. When the fest's creative team sat down last year to devise a hype-plan, they decided the best way to entice locals would be to hit home.
The festival announced its more than 100 bands with a series of videos that captured the spirit of Denton through miniature -- and astonishingly accurate -- recreations of its beloved music venues, in which puppet versions of the event's headliners performed. If you haven't been to Denton in a while, these videos will have you itching for a concert; their effect is nothing short of amazing.
Video director Jon Collins says the concept was inspired by documentary Beauty is Embarrassing, which chronicles the life of artist Wayne White, who among his many accolades designed sets for Pee-wee's Playhouse. Collins previously worked with local artists and couple Des Smith and Melanie Little Gomez of Artlab3000 on a music video that embodied White's surrealist style with life-size puppets, and thought it would translate well to Denton's landmarks.
Get a peek behind the curtain:
The process began by going to each venue and identifying its inherent characteristics, so viewers "get the feeling of being there," says Smith. Then Little Gomez, whose photography has been featured in Rolling Stone magazine, SPIN and Vanity Fair, swooped in with a camera to visually document the space.
The couple composed the mini recreations, which are 3 to 4 feet tall, primarily from Little Gomez's pictures, which are glued on the sides of each structure, but there are three dimensional elements. For one, the stages were built so Smith and Little Gomez could control the puppets from beneath the setup.
They used wood, cardboard, felt and other materials to build out each venue, and also dug through their home to find knick-knacks to give each one personality. For instance, there's a beaver skull hanging above the stage at Dan's Silverleaf and real plants adorning the beer garden at Harvest House.
One of the trickiest parts, they say, was lighting the models to make them look like a concert. Smith and Little Gomez used professional lights, flash lights, night lights, and string lights to set the tone of each place.
Though the venues look true to form, the puppets are more conceptual representations of the musicians. Each performer is portrayed as an animal, which the artists chose based on looks as well as reputation. They depicted rapper Biz Markie as a burly bear with a gold chain and indie rocker Eliot Sumner as a scrawny tiger. Singer Charles Bradley took on an eagle because he's known as the "Screaming Eagle of Soul."
Smith, a sculptor by trade, carved the heads out of polystyrene, covered them with papier-mâché and hair, and then painted them before creating the bodies and dressing the figures in scraps from old clothing.
"As a collaborative project, it was unusual in that it combined so many talents of our group -- sculpture, set and prop building, painting, photography, crafts, film making and theater performance," says Little Gomez.
"The sets are real places that we go to and bringing them to life was a joy."
The models will be on display throughout 35 Denton festival, though specifics about when and where are still being nailed down.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct video director Jon Collins title.