After a bumpy start on Thursday, with things then smoothing out a bit on Friday, it shouldn't have been terribly shocking that Saturday made for some clear sailing. Seemingly everything went off without much trouble.
Of course, any night of concerts that starts with a stage full of rap video-style rump-shakers is bound to be a fun one, right? On the Dos Equis stage, New Orleans' Big Freedia powered through an energetic set, flanked by the aforementioned rump-shakers, and setting the bar pretty high for Sunday night's hip-hop headliner, Big Boi.
Then, over on the Miller Lite main stage, SoCal's mustachioed Local Natives found kindred spirits in the beards of Denton. The band harmonized their way into the hearts of attendees even more when it was announced from the stage that the band would be staying in-town for the rest of the night's shows and was looking to hang.
It was a fine start to a great night.
Getting the ball rolling for the club sets at 9:20 p.m., Dallas' Somebody's Darling set up shop in the corner stage of Banter and did what they always do: They simply scorch the stage, every time. By this point, it should be a foregone conclusion that Amber Farris is the country-rock queen of Dallas, thanks to her spirited, soulful power. Musically led by David Ponder on guitar, this is an act that will likely always sound bigger than whatever actual stage they are playing from.
As with Friday night, it was yet another trip down into the basement of J&J's that revealed the night's theme in an unmistakable, brazen fashion. Dallas art-pop/punk act Soviet began playing promptly at 10 p.m. In this case, the term "playing" really means "putting on the single craziest, most dangerous, sweatiest, funniest, most antagonistic and most insanely wild-ass show of the entire weekend." There were about 40 people on hand to witness the catchy, garage-y, hell-raising of pudgy, pseudo-Jim Morrison-channeling John Spies and the rest of the band, including Sam Dobbins, their brand new drummer who was playing his third ever show with the group.
But, without question, this set will be discussed at length for some time: A year from now, 500 different people will be telling their friends they were there at J&J's the night that Soviet made the 35 Conferette their woman. It's as if the newly-minted quartet took the Conferette out for dinner, drove it home and made dirty love to it afterwards and never called it back. That's how it went down.
Don't believe us? Just listen to the people walking around the square on Sunday, and you're sure to hear chatter about it.
Back at Banter, The Naptime Shake energetically opened up with "Mermaid of Virginia" from their excellent Blood and Panic album. In what was another sign that the night was more than going well, this set was actually started a few minutes early. Thankfully, on this night, schedules seemed to be hitting their marks for the most part.
While at Banter, word was spreading about the just-ended set from Survive at Hailey's. Reportedly, the smoke and light show which accompanied the hipster-approved, electro-outfit's set was as good of one as had been seen at the venue in some time. Sometimes, even hipsters just want to see pretty lights and maybe half-smile about it for a moment or two.
With the proceedings moving along rather swimmingly, it was time to hit The Labb for the Western Skies set. Word of mouth has been solid for these fellows, and it's easy to see why, especially in a town like Denton where unusual twists on alt-country are welcomed whole-beardedly. The sleepy, stoner country-rock of the Western Skies was mixed with a dash of upbeat doo-wop that seemed to oddly fit the deep, drowsy vocals of lead singer Michael McMahon.
Continuing the successful string of performances that didn't disappoint, Andy's Bar hosted hometown noise-rock heroes Shiny Around the Edges at 11:40 p.m. Starting, again, on time (crazy!) and awash in green lighting, Michael and Jennifer Seman, along with bass player, Kerm Rivas proceeded to pound their way into the frontal lobes of anyone within 50 yards of the stage. Their frighteningly vulnerable tune, "Holy Roller," is unsettling, yet provides an awkwardly exhilarating live experience, thanks to the band's spot-on penchant for performance and dramatics.
Aside from the similarities in sound, Shiny Around the Edges would've likely thrived in early 1980s Brooklyn and it's art-rock scene, a la acts such as Sonic Youth. Such is easy to imagine when the instruments being played on stage are often times wielded more as weapons than they are musical aids.
For the most part, the crowds in each venue on Saturday were substantial, in relative terms to what the individual venue could hold. Aside from Dan's Silverleaf, which was one-in, one-out most of the night, not too many filled-to-capacity scenarios were witnessed, but neither were completely empty rooms, as had been the case earlier in the weekend.
Among the most crowded spaces on this night night was the patio at Sweetwater around 12:30 am. The speed-metal of Maleveller was literally ricocheting off of the building walls lining the outskirt of the square. After arriving to the source of the righteous rattling, it seemed that the head-banging fans in front of the patio stage were doing far more bouncing than even the pummeling sound waves were.
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Later, at 1 a.m., the outdoor stage of The Labb was also comfortably crowded. As Josh T. Pearson and his beard watched on, New York's O' Death began their set and immediately impressed with their gypsy blend of roots, goth and rock. When most folks think of roots-rock, groups such as Lucero or maybe the Drive By Truckers come to mind, but with a prickly banjo added to some drums and an electric violin, O' Death might be much closer to a definition-appropriate version of a roots-rock band than those others really are.
Then, as the night dwindled down to a close, the choice on where to end the happy evening was a relatively easy one: John Grant, with Midlake backing him up, headlined Dan's Sliverleaf and was in great form. Turning in what must be the most elegant performance of the weekend so far, Grant crooned with an earnestness that was heartfelt and completely void of pretense. While there had been some question as to whether Midlake would be joining Grant for this gig, once that was final, there wasn't an ounce of doubt that a flute would make an appearance, and, indeed, one did. But, again, it was oh-so-perfect, considering the source.
Having one of Denton's most beloved groups successfully help out a talented friend on stage to close out the night was exactly how this most free-flowing and expertly performed of evenings should've ended.
Now that the Conferette has clearly found its feet, Sunday's attendees are likely in for quite a night.