Music Picks: Oaktopia, Midlake, Kurtis Blow and More

Music festivals: Not just for Austin and/or giant corporations. Just ask the upstarts behind Oaktopia, this weekend's downtown Denton takeover featuring Del The Funky Homosapien, Dallas expat Astronautalis and a slew of exceptional homegrown bands and artists. In other Denton news, the town's elder statesmen Midlake open for Pearl Jam at the big arena downtown.

Rob Baird

Thursday, November 14, at Billy Bob's Texas, Fort Worth

Despite the tunes of tired vets or ditties from frat-boy wannabes often heard on radio stations that pride themselves on playing "Texas country," there are plenty of emerging artists who have something to say in voices that aim higher than to merely sound like the singer they first got drunk to. Austin's Rob Baird, who came from Memphis to Texas for some learning at TCU a few years ago, is one of the prime examples of an artist taking the tried and true roots-rock sound and producing a fresh product that forces you to listen intently. At times, his vocals are bold and at others there's a slight quiver that hits the ears in just the right way. Baird's 2012 I Swear It's the Truth is a moving collection of songs featuring a folk writer's touch with a rocking roadhouse swagger. It's not easy to convincingly pull off the sensitive country-rocker formula, but Baird does so with authentic maturity. Kelly Dearmore

Kurtis Blow

Friday, November 15, at The Boiler Room

Kurtis Blow is a rap trivia gold mine. For example: "The Breaks" is widely credited as the first mainstream hit for hip-hop, and it is the first one to be certified gold. Except it was actually the Bronx rapper's second major-label hit, after "Christmas Rapping," which sold 400,000 copies on its release. The lesson there is that there is no better way to make a challenging new art form broadly appealing than to make it Christmas-themed. More important, a true hip-hop pioneer is going to be in Dallas this week, and his powers as an entertainer haven't diminished much in the 35 years since he made history. Kiernan Maletsky

Pearl Jam/Midlake

Friday, November 15, at the American Airlines Center

Hopefully, the packed crowd that is guaranteed to be in attendance at the AAC on this particular evening will be welcoming to the music of Denton's own Midlake. Featuring a majorly retooled lineup, Midlake is at one of those make-or-break moments that could frighten even a band as big as Pearl Jam. And speaking of Eddie Vedder and crew, is there anything left for these guys to prove? By default, they won their battle with Nirvana and over the course of 25 years, Pearl Jam have become alternative rock sacred cows. Like their idols The Who and Neil Young, Pearl Jam can release anything they want and their fans will eat it up and claim it's the best thing the band has ever released. In this case, it's Lightning Bolt, another album filled with the prerequisite angst and Vedder's unmistakable warble. Darryl Smyers


Saturday, November 16, Downtown Denton

Times are tough in this slow economic recovery and when cutbacks need to be made, entertainment expenses are usually the first to get the chopping block because it's hard to feed yourself physically with the sounds of a swinging band or a hearty rock show. If you're finding yourself sacrificing your live music budget, it's time to head to Denton. For the price of one (cheap) ticket, you'll be able to see more than 50 local bands and musicians like Del the Funky Homosapien, Brain Gang, New Science Projects and The Boombachs. It's the ultimate blue-light special for live, local music. Danny Gallagher