Until 2003, springtime in Denton had meant the same thing for music fans. Come one Saturday each April, the streets at the northeast corner of the UNT campus would be blocked off, and The Delta Lodge, a rebel frat with no official ties to the local institutions of higher learning, would host the Fry Street Fair. It was a tradition for more than 20 years, until escalating costs and safety concerns, and some would say old-money small-town politics, forced the Brotherhood of the Delta Lodge to move their party to Deep Ellum, where they were welcomed.
Denton made do in 2003 with a couple of loose street parties and all-day shindigs, thrown together in back yards and bars by local musicians. Good times for sure, albeit on a more intimate scale than the Fry Street Fair, which at its peak drew more than 20,000 revelers.
With two universities overflowing with young adults itching to "make a difference" and a glut of local musicians eager to cause a splash, it didn't take long for the community to rally and start something new. Saturday brings the WakeUp04 Festival, an 11-hour concert that will feature more than 60 bands performing on seven stages at the North Texas State Fairgrounds.
Full disclosure: I live in Denton, and I booked most of the bands that will be playing the festival. I am a member of two of them. I have shared bills in clubs and pizza places with many of the bands on the bill, and I have shared beers with others. I will not be paid for my booking efforts, as I am volunteering my time for an organization dubbed Creatures for Awareness.
It ain't a conflict of interest; it's just Denton. Moving on...
Creatures for Awareness is a nonprofit operation born in the brain of UNT student R.J. Avery. He quickly found a partner in fellow student/musician Brook Ray.
"We met at a Men Against Violence meeting over the idea of starting a new festival in order to raise funds for local charities," Avery says. "We thought it would be a good way for young people to be able to give to their community, as well as fill the void left by Fry Street Fair."
Avery and Ray donate their time to Creatures for Awareness, and all of the money raised after expenses will be split among charities that include AIDS Services of North Texas, Friends of the Family and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
With most of the scheduled acts based in Denton, the day will showcase the diversity of the underground music scene bubbling in the 940 area code. Such as:
Mandarin: The intensity of this band will leave you shocked, with the vocals disguised as delicate whispers, though they register in your heart like a ton of bricks. Swirling textures swell from within staccato grooves, and they tightly spiral up to the sky. You can dance fast or slow, but you will be moved. Their new album will be out on Euro-indie Bella Union soon.
Jetscreamer: No-wave blues with catty growls and gritted teeth. Art-rock wall of sound with two slide guitars, beating the current no-bass craze by several years. Their album Starhead is also on Bella Union, and it is a Texas classic in waiting.
Mugzu: Heavy metal thunder. Would eat The Darkness in one quick bite. An always entertaining and unpredictable stage show.
Hogpig: Southern rock for sure, but more Melvins than Skynyrd. They drop their band name into songs like a rapper and play the fiercest boogie rock in the area. You should grow your mullet out a little before the Hogpig set.
Tank Tank: Instrumental ensemble that sways and bobs and then dives at right angles. Dual clean-tone guitars and bass guitar that hits like a battleship. Noodling, but not in a Phish-fried way.
Warren Jackson Hearne and the Merrie Murdre of Gloomadeers: An all-acoustic septet with a concertina player who wears a gimp mask. Mandolin, violin and upright bass all unite in doom-folk mourning. Fronted by Denton's most fashionable troubadour, who has been from Texas to Montana and back, collecting tragic tales of love and death.
Bagg: Denton's most accomplished jam band. Zappa's ghost conducts through the haze of 1,000 bongs, rich in harmony, wokka-wokka guitars and some serious Rhodes action. Bring your spinning shoes.
Blueprint Sea: Danceable island funk breaks out into soaring new wave. Hot-shit players and the distinctive vocals of Becca Stone converge to deliver one of the most eclectic sounds in town. Fans of the Police and the Sugarcubes take note.
Which brings us to Brutal Juice, reunited for the WakeUp04 Festival. Sheets of icy, echo-laden guitar, fluid bass and air-tight drumming. Dual vocals coming on like a split personality that agrees on one thing: violence. Psycho punk tweaked and twisted on dirty acid. Brutal Juice will be headlining the event, taking the stage at 9:20 p.m.
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