By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
I've never been to the North Texas New Music Festival. Chances are, you know more about it than I do--whether it's cool and worthwhile or just another buzzkill of bad sound and surly drunks. I can say that conceptually, I'm all for it. (Of course, conceptually, I'm all for going to the gym, too; I just never seem to go.) Now in its sixth year, the NMF is a kind of mini-SXSW, in which 230 bands play 30-minute sets in 10 Deep Ellum clubs from Thursday through Saturday. Tickets are free until Wednesday, September 29, after which a mere 10 clams gets you a wristband--much cheaper than SXSW's minimum $95. Sure, there are fewer stars and free smokes, but still.
"This festival is geared toward the music fans as much as it is toward the music industry," says the festival's executive director, Teresa Hale. "All of the typical Dallas, Austin, Tulsa headliners will be there--from The Vanished and Mermaid Purse to DownLo and harder-rock headliners." Theoretically, then, this weekend should be all the excuse we need to check out, well, new music. Forget the industry shiznit and the label flimflam. Here are some acts you might enjoy. Midlake, Saturday, 12:30 a.m., Club Clearview
While Polyphonic Spree sprinkled sunshine across the country and Eisley disappeared down the rabbit hole of major-label recording, a Denton quintet called Midlake quietly put out one of the best releases from the D-FW area. Bamnan and Slivercork (Bella Union) is a gem of pop quirkitude, full of inspired symphonics and fevered imagination.
Radiant*, Saturday, 10 p.m., Clearview Concert Stage
My pick for breakout band of the year, this quartet just keeps getting better. Their debut, The Sound of Splitting Atoms, suggested a band with the potential to make the kind of sweeping pop symphonies that built Coldplay's career. Their new album, still in production, may finally make good on that promise.
The Happy Bullets, Friday, 10:45 p.m., Liquid Lounge
A good-times band for the brooding indie-rock set, the Happy Bullets take that frown and turn it upside down. Their gleeful Quasi-style pop tunes are laced with melancholy and joyful blasts of trumpet and trombone--do you laugh or cry? I suggest you simply sing a-la-la-la-long.
Envoy, Friday, 10 p.m., Club Clearview
The Now, Friday, 11:30 p.m., Club Clearview
Steven Holt, formerly of OHNO, fronts this likable new pop band. Easy on the ears (and, OK, easy on the eyes), Holt's the kind of scene veteran always worth watching.
The Southern Sea, Saturday, 9:30 p.m., Club Clearview
Lovely lo-fi melodies define this Plano quartet whose appearance at the New Music Festival is one of the group's rare live performances.
Frump: The All-Mom Garage Band, Thursday, 8 p.m., Club Clearview
All right, all right: I've never actually seen Frump. But how could I not love them? A bunch of mothers get together and rock out onstage? Shut up already. That's the greatest thing I've ever heard. Now if they really want to bust boundaries, how about a cover of "Stacy's Mom"?
Also recommended: Doug Burr (Thursday, 9:10 p.m., Club Clearview VIP Room), Tree Wave (Thursday, 10:15 p.m., Gypsy Tea Room), The Hourly Radio (Thursday, 9:30 p.m., Trees), The Chemistry Set (Friday, 12:30 a.m., Club Clearview).