Surely, by now, you know about NX35's without-question climax—the free, Saturday night show at the North Texas Fairgrounds featuring The Flaming Lips, Denton's own Midlake, and Norman, Oklahoma's Stardeath and White Dwarfs.
At last count, though, some 200 or so other bands have also been booked to play Denton's second annual four-day music "conferette." And, though impressive, that's a potentially overwhelming figure—one made only more daunting upon factoring in the day parties and unofficial house shows to the total.
So how to navigate it all? Ah, therein lies the rub. Allow us to make a few suggestions—10, in fact—of the most anticipated showcases taking place in Denton as part of the official ordeal.
Carrie Rodriguez, Thursday at Dan's Silverleaf. Seems a little weird that it took Chip Taylor, the man behind "Wild Thing," to discover Carrie Rodriguez, the daughter of Houston- and Austin-based singer-songwriter David Rodriguez, but, hey, that's how the story goes. After hearing a Rodriguez performance at South by Southwest in 2001, the two collaborated for four albums. Eventually, Rodriguez's subtly rockin' Americana broke out on its own for a debut release in 2006 (Seven Angels on a Bicycle). And though she returned to her Taylor well in 2007 for one more live release, her new path eventually led to her breakthrough album, 2008's She Ain't Me, a Lucinda Williams-esque romp that more than lives up to such lofty application.
Evangelicals, Thursday at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. Like festival headliners The Flaming Lips, this energetic and eerie four-piece was born in the shadows of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, a town similar in size and demographics to Denton. Also like the Lips, this quartet revels in the odder end of the indie rock spectrum, adorning its indie rock with enough electronic flourishes and audio sample garnishes to keep things interesting on record. Live, the band employs smoke machines for the same effect. But these added elements serve simply as distractions for the attention-deficit. It's Evangelicals' melodic tendencies that truly shine—and never moreso than on the band's sophomore (and most recent) release, 2008's The Evening Descends, released on the phenomenal Dead Oceans label. That record's "Skeleton Man" serves as a shining example of Evangelicals' impressive and at-once accessible and oddball allure.
Fergus and Geronimo. Friday at Hailey's Club. Fergus and Geronimo exists comfortably at the implausible three-way intersection of retro-pop, proto-punk and throwback Motown—which, sure, might seem an intimidating blend for those still unfamiliar with this beyond-buzzing Denton product born from a collaboration between two of that town's most prolific DIY punk proprietors, Teenage Cool Kids' Andrew Savage and The Wax Museum's Jason Kelly. Already, the band's earned major props across the blogosphere and traditional print media outlets alike—surprising, since the band's only got a handful of 7-inches and some compilation appearances to its name. That all's expected to change in 2010, though, as the band's reportedly prepping both an EP and an LP for public consumption by year's end.
Sarah Jaffe, Friday at Dan's Silverleaf. 2010 seems to be the year that Dallas' own Sarah Jaffe finally does the expected and bursts out of the DFW incubation bubble we've all so selfishly kept her in for the past few years. It's already proven to be as much, actually, as the young 20-something, whose indie folk cuts straight through the soul, has earned rave reviews for her opening performances on tour with fellow DFW luminaries Midlake and, currently, Norah Jones. Come the May 18 release of her full-length debut, Suburban Nature, which is being released by Dallas' Kirtland Records, opening slots may no longer be able to hold her.
HEALTH, Friday at The Boiler Room. Los Angeles' HEALTH finds its sonic home somewhere between noise and industrial, which, immediately, for the uninitiated offers fair reason for pause. But as the band showed on its phenomenal 2009 release, GET COLOR, there's a melodic drone to be found underneath its rough, thumping exterior. And the subtext pays off in spades—something electro-dance outfit Crystal Castles learned with the success of its 2007 remix of HEALTH's "Crimewave." Live, the band further impresses, with its members flailing about in an orchestrated chaos crafted carefully, one assumes, in the confines of the band's home base, Los Angeles' famed DIY venue The Smell.
Indian Jewelry, Friday at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. In 2006, with the release of Invasive Exotics, this band formally became Indian Jewelry, after spending much of the previous half of the decade reveling under various other monikers and projects. But the heavy psychedelic drone of the trio and its revolving cast of extra players (each of whom employs a wide variety of instrumentation) has remained largely the same over the years. Dark, moody and unabashedly odd, the band's nightmarish and spastic noise-rock serves as a fine sonic counterpart to the visuals found in those seizure-inducing anime cartoons kids aren't allowed to watch without spoons in their mouths.
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The Black Angels, Saturday at Hailey's Club. For a time there, The Black Angels served as the backing band for Roky Erickson, and, from an observer's standpoint, that was about as fitting a pairing as one could hope for, seeing that the band swims in the same waters the Grandfather of Psychedelic Rock created and all. The Austin band (named for a Velvet Underground song) stands quite tall on its own, though, crafting epic, sweeping, drone-y soundscapes perfect for the mushroom-munching set. Its latest release, 2008's Directions to See a Ghost, was quite the pleaser along these criteria too, offering listeners an escapist reality in which they could get joyously lost all over again.
Horse Feathers, Saturday at Sweetwater Grill and Tavern. Immediately, it's frontman Justin Ringle's vocals that get you. Hushed, wavering and sneakily confident, his vocals are striking—and so, too, are the down-home words with which they are paired. As his voice jaunts over a delicate arrangement of acoustic guitars, banjos, violins, mandolin and, of course, saw, his band molds a remarkable, Depression-era string folk environment in which it seems destined to shine. And the band does—with remarkable elegance—and never more so than on its hauntingly affecting "Curs in the Weeds," from which Horse Feathers' 2008 release, House With No Home, culls its name.
Neon Indian, Sunday at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. Adored by hoity-toity music critics and Jimmy Fallon alike, what started as the bedroom project of Denton's Alan Palomo has now fully blossomed into something much larger—and something quite important too. Existing at the forefront of the so-called "chillwave" movement, Neon Indian's music is as interesting with its sample- and synth-heavy sound as it is unashamedly danceable. That explains the fandom and the well past-capacity crowd that showed to the band's last Denton performance, held at Hailey's in late January. This show comes in the significantly smaller Rubber Gloves setting, which is something of a blessing and a curse. It's likely the smallest setting fans will find the band in for some time. And, as such, this return to the venue in which the band made its live debut should be quite the crowded affair.
The Walkmen, Sunday at Hailey's Club. Like so many other New York City bands that skyrocketed to popularity in the early '00s, The Walkmen's sound seems far more aligned with the Brits than anyone. But unlike so many other flashes in the pan from that bygone time and place, The Walkmen have showcased a remarkable staying power beyond its 2004 breakthrough, Bows + Arrows. 2008's You & Me actually was something of a surprise, showing a band willing to change with the times; the album offered a distinct new direction, with the quintet now offering up a more mature, reined-in (but still plenty drenched in reverb) sound, best heard on the epic things-are-getting-better ode "In the New Year."