Thanksgiving is on Thursday, which means a lot of us will gather with our relatives for an afternoon and evening of football-watching, face-stuffing, and politics-arguing, all of which will increase in volume until somebody falls asleep in a chair and/or gets mad enough to depart for a bar. Ain’t family get-togethers great? Maybe not so much with the people who share your DNA, but if your family has anything to do with Novemberfest, there’s no such thing as a bad time.
Novemberfest is the annual music festival and camping party out in Romney, organized by Hurst-based artist Andrew Hammond Kendall, during which revelers hang out for a weekend watching bands in and around an old church that Kendall purchased in 2006 and quickly converted into an art space. Though the inaugural show was held in 2005 in Fort Worth at the long-gone Metrognome Collective on East Lancaster Avenue and the following year’s was at J&J’s Pizza in Denton, Novemberfest has been on Kendall’s property in Romney since its third go-round, when he turned it into a campout. “Because it’s so far out, we didn’t want people driving drunk,” he said.
Having people camp out ended up expanding the scope of the event.
“It was a one-night show for several years, and then, like, four years ago, it went from Friday to Sunday,” he said.
Music has always been a cornerstone of Novemberfest, and the bands’ camaraderie is part of the event’s main draw –– in that regard, Novemberfest is kind of a secret glue that’s bound part of Fort Worth’s music scene to the ones in Dallas, Denton, and parts in between. For example, Dallas surf punks Sealion played their first show there, and that show was where they met their current bassist Sam Villavert, who, at the time, was one half of Mind Twins, an acoustic duo she had with Panic Volcanic singer Ansley Dougherty. Dougherty said that Mind Twins’ performance at Novemberfest led to getting her friends’ bands on the lineups of subsequent bills, so acts like Animal Spirit and the now-defunct Frisky Disco became regulars at the annual parties –– not to mention plenty of others like Dead Mockingbirds, Tornup, Blank-Men, and Clint Niosi. The bands typically play until midnight, after which the various rooms turn into dance parties, karaoke zones, and whatever other art-party weirdness people get up to. Every year, Kendall adds or refines part of the building where Novemberfest’s action takes place. “There are like 30 rooms, so it’s got a lot of different stuff,” he said.
This year’s lineup features about 20 bands –– basically, most of the acts spread out across town every weekend night are going to be in one place. On this Friday, you’ll see Dead Vinyl and Matt Tedder Trio (plus seven others), and on Saturday, the all-day lineup runs the gamut from Acid Carousel and Loafers to Lizzie Boredom and Talkie Walkie and even the Wondercrust Movie Watchers Club.
Band bonding is one pillar of the Novemberfest community, but so is the general sense of good times and togetherness.
“It’s got a homey feel,” Kendall said. “There’s a lot of [friendship] building. People get into camping, put the tents connected to each other. There are a lot different types of people coming together to hang out.”
Sealion frontman Hunter Moehring said Novemberfest is a special place, “like a family reunion, but you want to be there, and the music is good.”
The $20 tickets are on sale through Thursday (so look on Facebook for “Novemberfest 12”), which gets you food and important sundries like toilet paper, paper towels, and hand sanitizer. Kendall said it’s BYOB, though it’s essential for attendees to bring their own tents and drinking water. And as if the music roster weren’t the biggest one yet, Kendall’s brother Joey is making a documentary on Romney and Novemberfest (to be finished next year). In addition to performing his own music, Joey will be filming the event as well. Bottom line: Don’t wait until next year to see what Novemberfest is all about.