By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Yup. Kinda tough to believe, but somehow, the NX35 brass managed to pull this whole damn thing off. Kinda felt like South by Southwest too—maybe a little more walkable, even—with a dash of Austin City Limits thrown in for good measure. In short: Not too shabby, Denton. Really. You should be quite proud about how things played out last weekend.
Yeah, sure, there were some kinks. A program guide without each band's performance times made leaving one club for the prospect of catching a band at another quite the gamble. And, surely, we'd be remiss not to mention the two power outages that came during The Flaming Lips' headlining set at the North Texas Fairgrounds on Saturday night.
But, for the most part, those were rather acceptable misses, the kinds of errors that come with real-life, actual, legitimate festivals—not ones that are still in their infancy. And, in the case of the Lips' blowing fuses, well, festival organizer Chris Flemmons insists that the power generator that NX35 provided was indeed up to the Lips' tour rider specifications. Meaning? Well, that, if anything, it was the Lips who didn't know the strength of their own powerful setup.
And it was powerful. When we're given the time to look back at last weekend with more than a couple dozen hours of reflection, there's little doubt that the Lips' set will be the thing remembered most. For good reason: The band played an exuberant, uplifting show to thousands on the fairgrounds, following up a triumphant return to home from Denton's own Midlake and a kickass starter set from Norman, Oklahoma's Stardeath and White Dwarfs. Felt like a celebration more than a concert, which probably explains why the whole power outage thing (beyond Lips frontman Wayne Coyne's rather charming and pretty hilarious handlings of those issues) didn't result in audience apathy.
How mature of us all. And let's face it: Those power issues probably made the Lips show all that more memorable in the long run. Coyne, for one, seemed to agree with this sentiment on Saturday night.
"I don't want anyone to think that, because of all this, it was any less of a great night," he said from the stage to an eruption of applause, before calling out the potential naysayers as "cynical motherfuckers."
Indeed, this whole event felt all grown up—something of a shock, given that the NX35 Conferette is just in its second year of existence. But that's not to say that there weren't exceptional, possibly childish fun moments to be had. Because there were. Plenty. Like Evangelicals' spooky rockin' display at Rubber Gloves to close out Thursday's opening night of festivities. Or Denton's own Sarah Jaffe bringing the house to silence at Dan's Silverleaf on Friday night. Or HEALTH's festival-stopping display of onstage fervor at The Boiler Room that same night—a show that another NX35 performer, Michael Seman of Denton's Shiny Around the Edges, excitedly called one of the top five shows he'd ever seen.
That alone's quite the haul. But it's saying nothing of The Walkmen debuting three new songs to a packed house at Hailey's before heading into the Oak Cliff studios of The Paper Chase's John Congleton to lay those songs down on tape this week. Or of a relative unknown like Australia's The Middle East popping up on a bill on Sunday night at Dan's Silverleaf, stopping listeners in their tracks with its baroque folk sound and earning such a surprising crowd response that both the band members and its tour managers were slapping themselves silly for not bringing enough merch for the trip.
There were boatloads of moments like these this past weekend.
Yes, it was quite the time. Even as the four-day ordeal came to a close on Sunday night, with That '70s Show actor Danny Masterson performing under his stage name of DJ Mom Jeans and accompanied onstage at Andy's Bar by live drummer McKenzie Smith of Midlake, spirits were still high and festive.
As Masterson and Smith brought the festival home as the final performers of the weekend, spinning and playing The Flaming Lips' own set-closer "Do You Realize??" for those in the packed bar before saying good night, Smith's Midlake bandmates were gathered in the back of the room, soaking it all in and appreciating how far their town had finally come.
"Denton's still a small town," Midlake guitarist Eric Pulido shared with a wide grin, "but now people know about it."
And, no doubt, that's step one in the process of confirming Denton's place as a national music hub worth clamoring over.
Step two, though? Finding a way to top it all next year.
Well, that may prove kind of difficult. But it's a burden Denton's been begging to bear for years.
So, congrats, Denton. You got what you wanted. Just don't screw it up, OK?