The first night of the 4th annual 35 Denton festival kicked off last night with an exhilarating amount of anticipation and energy. Set in a college town in one of America’s fastest growing cities, the atmosphere is primed and ready for a new music scene to break out. With a long history and love of live music, the fest serves a a microcosm of what Denton, TX is all about. To the credit of the staff, the festival itself has more the feel of a series of networked parties and live shows then of an actual organized event. Here is the recap of the first night, in which we saw four bands.
Photo Credit: Cameron Phan via 35 Denton
I first discovered the band in January, while researching bands for SXSW. They are an experimental/noise rock duo incorporating drums and keyboards. They have quickly made a home for themselves in Austin’s illustrious avant-garde DIY scene, building a reputation on their deafening live shows and fan interaction. The last time they were in Dallas, they reportedly passed out tambourines to audience members. We arrived at the location, a pizza restaurant, right about the time they were scheduled to perform. We thought we might be in the wrong location until we started to see people walk downstairs. We followed them to the basement, and around 100 people were crammed into the small space to try and watch the spectacle. The word of mouth buzz was growing stronger the closer we got to the venue. Zorch began playing a few mins late, then suddenly stopped. They invited the crowed to gather around them in an attempt to make room for everyone there. Some of the crowd seemed shy or afraid, so one of the band members ventured into the audience to assist the process. It made for one hell of an intimate live performance. The lights and sounds made it feel less like a basement gathering and more like being on a set of Star Trek. The show felt much more like a giant house party then a concert. The band plays mostly instrumentals, with a few vocals thrown in fittingly and occasionally. It was an incredible way to start the fest. I expect we will all be hearing more about this promising new group sooner rather than later.
Photo Credit: Berenice Quirino via 35 Denton
Photo Credit: Radio UTD
One of the most highly anticipated bands I have been most excited to see was Bleached. They are quickly gaining attention without having a full LP out yet. They are about half way finished up with the making of said record. I first learned of them back around October or November, when researching CMJ. Radio UTD sponsored the line up at the venue, and we knew we were in the right spot when a line formed outside, eagerly waiting to go inside. There really isn’t a stage in the bar, or at least one that is elevated. We arrived early, but not nearly early enough to snag a decent view. Which meant enduring their set without being able to see much, if anything. Since I could barely see them, I instead mostly watched the crowd. The majority of the 200 people or so there were watching, dancing, and rocking out to the surf punk. The crowd became a little rowdy and were really fun to watch. A couple of girls got pushed and tripped and fell onto the stage, but the show kept going. Having looked forward to watching them for several months, I left both satisfied and disappointed. I plan to catch them again in Austin at SXSW. Make sure to check this band out if you haven’t yet! This show was without doubt the highlight of the night, despite the short 25 minute set. Learn more about them here. I am predicting a huge year for the trio.
Photo Credit: Travis Kincaid via 35 Denton
Photo Credit: Radio UTD
Having just learned about this friend and peer of Ty Segall, we decided to also check out the Radio UTD sponsored show case. Ty actually also showed up a surprise guest, playing along with the band. Conceived and recorded as a sort of therapy to help cope with adjusting to life post-college, an insuing break-up and geographic isolation Mikal Cronin steps momentarily away from the rhythm section of Orange County surf-punk bashers The Moonhearts with his debut solo LP. Fans can take heart, this isn’t a “vanity project” or half-baked endeavor – Mikal’s solo debut is fully realized, cohesive and beautiful, with themes that are as personal as they are universal; questioning your future, accepting your past and living in the moment.
Photo Credit: Marcus Junius Laws via 35 Denton
Taking influences such as late sixties Del Shannon and The Everly Brothers and filtering them through his own mutant California fuzz, Mikal deftly explores his singer/songwriter side that at moments feels like a punk Harry Nilsson or Curt Boettcher that balances sweet melodies & chords with chunky, psychedelic guitar freak-outs. The music comes across with greater impact live than just listening to the album. Here is an instragram shot of Ty Segall, courtesy of 35 Denton. I predict you will be hearing his song “Apathy” many times throughout 2012.
While granted it isn’t as dizzying as decision making at SXSW or other larger fests, we were finally forced to pick and choose our next show. We couldn’t decide between G-Side, Public Dims, or Designer Drugs. I was leaning towards Designer Drugs but eventually caved to peer pressure. We ended up at a venue called Rubber Gloves. It had already reached it’s maximum capacity of 250, so we had to wait for others to leave before being allowed to enter. I heard this was also happening at other venues. This was where we first discovered Neon Indian, at this same fest, in 2010. The sludge metal trio from San Franciso who are also known to play impromptu jazz were an amazing way to end the night. Their bass was so loud and strong that it caused both the building and our bodies to shake and rattle. The room was mostly dark, except for the color of the dim stage lights, which made the mood even more ominous. For the most part the music was slow and heavy, but nevertheless we did get to see the first crowd surfing of the fest.
In conclusion, we heard through friends and social networking that other bands such as Old Snack, Final Club, Backwater Opera, G-Side, and Designer Drugs were other highlights of the night.
One last note…I still have songs by Bleached stuck in my head!