Walled In

The Wall of Sound undercard examined

By the time Low finished their Saturday night encore set at the 2006 Wall of Sound Festival, I never wanted to see another ironic T-shirt or pair of Chuck Taylors again in my life. But almost as much as I needed respite in a hipster-free zone, I was ready for a break from alt-country, singer-songwriters, roots-rock, '80s retro-synth rock and even Low's narcotic dreamy pop.

The near-total emptiness of the Ridglea the next afternoon made clear that I wasn't the only one who'd had quite enough the previous day.

This year's Wall of Sound Festival should be an enormous improvement on last year's version. Now, I'm not overlooking this year's jacked-up price, paid parking ($5, even though parking was free last year) or the absence of Low, The New Year and Okkervil River. But overall, 13 or so hours of music in a ballpark beats the hell out of standing on a concrete floor in a dark, smoky bar for two days.

Ume is one of many lesser-knowns gracing the Wall of Sound.
Ume is one of many lesser-knowns gracing the Wall of Sound.

Thirteen hours may be overkill, as there are plenty of chances in Dallas or Denton to see most of the early acts. But when you've paid to see Sarah Jaffe and Tame...Tame and Quiet (both opening the festivities at 11 a.m., starting the thing off with a tough choice), wouldn't you feel like a jerk for skipping their sets? From those performances to Explosions in the Sky at 11 p.m., there's nary a bum act on the bill. When the hell should you leave to eat and chug beers? Looks like you'll be on the concession-stand diet. I'm sure I won't be the only one running from stage to stage trying to catch everything. But that's half the fun of these things.

Explosions in the Sky, Midlake, Ghostland Observatory, The Books and Pinback were probably reason enough for most fans to drop 30 bones. But here are six other acts you shouldn't miss:

Tacks, The Boy Disaster or Astronautilus, 1:30 p.m., Stages Two and Three, respectively. If you haven't seen him yet, you absolutely must check out rapper and former Dallasite Astronautilus, whose amazing story-telling songs and innovative production—which combines elements of electronica, indie-rock and even country—make him tough to label as simply "hip-hop." He'll probably show off his mind-blowing freestyle skills with his bit of asking audience members for a number of random topics, then somehow making a story incorporating them all. Tacks..., on the other hand, weave piano and quiet guitars into beautifully intricate pop arrangements. Another tough choice.

Red Monroe, 2 p.m., Stage One. With their combination of red-hot guitar chaos and cool synthesizer sounds, they're always a favorite live. They'll have plenty of new stuff from their latest album, which should put the Radiohead comparisons behind them for good.

Dove Hunter, 4:30 p.m., Stage Three. If you're under 21 or can't leave for some other reason during Black Tie Dynasty's set, you're in luck: There is an alternative to the Dallas poster boys of hairsprayed, synthy '80s retread-rock. Former Mandarin man Jayson Wortham's new band is straightforward roots rock with atmospheric electric piano and weepy pedal-steel guitar accenting it in all the right places.

Micah P. Hinson, 6 p.m., Stage One. You're probably familiar with his bio, which includes a stint in the clink for prescription forgery and a doomed relationship with a widowed-model-turned-pillhead-stripper—all before age 20. Tabloid-worthy life story aside, he writes wonderful songs. At once grand and intimate, forthcoming and mysterious, they're equally great whether he's performing solo or with a band like The Earlies tastefully backing him up with strings and accordion. He's endured back trouble lately, but if anyone can play through the pain, it's him.

Om, 7 p.m., Stage One. I'll admit, I knew nothing about Sleep, the former band of Bassist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius. But after checking out Om's music, I'm sold on this two-piece's heavy, slow stoner rock with distorted bass and a trance-inducing monotone vocal style.

 
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