Centro-matic still has plenty of fun these days.
It's abundantly clear at this point: Sarah Jaffe is a big deal around these here North Texas parts.
She's a local darling, and rightfully so: Riding high off of the success of her 2010 full-length debut, Suburban Nature, Jaffe has grown significantly as a performer in recent memory, blossoming from a way-too-shy type into a gracious emcee all-too-happy to engage in banter with the crowds that she knows adore her. Her music -- tender, intimate and often romantic folk rock -- quite clearly strikes a chord with area listeners.
But this is all old news by now. The fact that Dan's Silverleaf's crowd was as packed in as it was during her 10 o'clock set last night hardly comes as a surprise.
The fact that her crowd so overwhelmingly overpowered that of the night's headliner, though? Well, that's another story.
It was a stark difference.
Jaffe's set found the floor space surrounding the stage in the cozy confines of Dan's Silverleaf uncomfortably crowded. It found the staff at the venue somewhat uncomfortable too, with their stressed out faces looking wide-eyed at the venue's door as more and more attendees arrived, some of whom would have to be turned around because they hadn't purchased a ticket to this sold-out show.
And yet, amid all this action, there was calm.
Jaffe's crowd, though large, was serene and reverent -- almost awkwardly so, to the point where Jaffe, more than once, commented on as much, asking her crowd to engage in her back-and-forth. Even Jaffe trying her hands at the drums as she and her band offered up a Harry Nilsson cover didn't spark much excitement. Just awe, really.
It was kind of cute, actually. The whole thing. But, in a way, it was also disappointing.
Because here's the thing about last night's show: It was, for all intents and purposes, not really a Jaffe show. Sure, she was on the bill. Yes, she was part of the tour that saw this show come to town -- not just some local add-on to beef up ticket sales. And, all tour long, she's served as the opening act on the bill.
This night, really, should've belonged to Centro-matic, the should-be iconic Denton rock outfit that's been going consistently strong for well over 15 years at this point, and touring in support of their latest album (also one of their greatest), the just-released Candidate Waltz
They were the headliners. They were the ones to be celebrated on this night. And, more so than Jaffe, maybe they were. Centro-matic's crowd was without question more committed to the cause than Jaffe's; their audience jumped in time with the music, shouted along with the lyrics and even fist-pumped as necessary.
But they were also a significantly smaller crowd. After Jaffe's set closed, almost half of the crowd at Dan's Silverleaf left the venue.
Shame on these people. They missed one hell of a performance.
Unfazed, Centro-matic played on, and they gave an inspired effort. Leaning most heavily on Candidate Waltz for the bulk of their set material, but winkingly nodding at their longtime fans in attendance by sprinkling in various other fan favorites from their multitude of releases, Will Johnson, Matt Pence, Scott Danbom and Mark Hedman played with their standard brand of vigor -- an always-entertaining blend of joy, angst and pride. Johnson in particular captivated, looking downright possessed at points as his cold, deep eyes stared above his crowd when they weren't rolling backwards into his skull as he let his music fully take him over.
The new material especially shined, its bass-driven sounds lending itself to a heavier, more groove-laden Centro-matic -- a welcome new fold in the band's familiar bar-room rock offerings. Closing their set with Candidate Waltz lead single "Only In My Double Mind," the set reached its peak, the thunderous chords of the song resonating throughout the intimate Dan's space.
Another reason it's a shame Jaffe's crowd left so soon: She joined her touring partners on stage for that song -- not so much to sing along, but to just rock out on stage with them. She returned later, during the band's encore, taking the lead vocals as she and the band covered Badfinger's "No Matter What" -- a charming dalliance that came before "Am I The Manager or Am I Not," from the band's very first full-length release, 1995's Redo The Stacks.
Those in attendance knew that they'd once again seen a top-notch performance from two of the region's best.
The early crowd only saw one.
Personal Bias: I'm a fan of both of these acts -- they're indisputably two of the region's best. Quite the inspired pairing, too. It just really irked me that so many in attendance didn't seem to even give Centro-matic's set a chance. Know your history, dudes. Don't just support what's hot at the moment. Or, hell, do: Candidate Waltz is one of the year's best releases, for crying out loud.
By The Way: Johnson also joined Jaffe's band on stage during her set. The two have great vocal harmony; they should try to record that on record.
Random Note: Props to Scott Danbom, who has been pulling double-duty throughout this tour, playing keys with both bands. And a "Welcome home!" to Jaffe band member (and a killer artist in his own right) Robert Gomez, who recently announced that, after moving to the Pacific Northwest for a bit, he'll be moving back to Denton later this summer.