Concert Reviews

Jumberjack Fest IX: No Egos and Bearded Grinding

It all began quite simply enough. As the PVC Street Gang was finishing up their set at this year's Lumberjack Fest in Denton at Dan's, venerable guitarist and all-around goofball, Ryan Thomas Becker, began grinding suggestively against a slim, petite brunette just near the front door.

He slithered all around her like Tawny Kitaen on a sports car, and then started bumping and fist pumping and humping the air very much inside of her personal space, all the while a small contingent of the audience began taking notice as the girl stood there, laughing and turning red. Well, as red as it was possible to surmise in the darkness of Dan's.

Then Tony Ferraro, lead singer of The Satans of Soft Rock, the alt-rock-punkish-countryish band that played right before PVC Street Gang, took a cue from Becker and joined him in a stupid sexy sort of Night-At-The-Roxbury double team. At this point, the girl was laughing with a guttural body shake that suggests tears are on the way, and the viewing audience for the Ferraro/Becker dance threesome grew larger.

Then Kaleo Kuauloku from Spooky Folk joined in, and before they knew it, there were more than ten people all dancing around the area by the front door, freaking on each other in a full-on orgy of goofy dirty dancing. Toward the end of it all, Becker turned away from the girl, bent over placing his palms on the floor, and shook his ass all up in her general direction like a particularly thin, spry stripper.

PVC Street Gang finished Cutlass, the song that was the soundtrack to the dance party, and the entire audience of close to 200 exploded in raucous applause, largely for the band, but also for the side show.

It was that moment that snapped this year's Lumberjack Fest into place, and afterward, people all around the bar could be heard saying things like, "This band is nuts!" or "Man, I love this band! Been seeing them since, like, 08."

Earlier in the evening, outstanding bands like Pinebox Serenade, Strange Towers and the aforementioned Satans of Soft Rock played to a more subdued audience. Please don't misunderstand, the crowd wasn't rude or detached, and perhaps the slightly drizzly weather and the fact that it was still early in the evening and not enough booze had been quaffed yet, but after the dance party off the side of the stage near the front door, the energy just changed.

PVC finished and then Spooky Folk took the stage and absolutely killed it. Three songs into the set, lead singer Kaleo Kaualoku broke a guitar string, and Ryan Thomas Becker, who at this point had become the unofficial mascot of Lumberjack IX, hustled to his guitar case and pulled it out, then seamlessly entered the stage to present it to Kaualoku just as they finished the song.

Spooky Folk are two months into recording there newest, highly anticipated album, and their set crescendoed into the perfect introduction for the fest's headliner, Possessed By Paul James out of Austin.

Lumberjack's creator, Aaron Anderson, doesn't usually invite artists without close roots to Denton, but this isn't a hard and fast rule for him. One of his hard and fast rules regarding bands he books for Lumberjack, however, is that there must be no ego driven nonsense. "That's what I love about this town, is the sense of community," he explained near the large meat smoker on the patio where he was cooking all manner of delicious smelling meats for all of the performers of the fest. "If you come in like you own the place and you expect people to be falling at your feet and fawning over you, Denton sorts that shit out real quick. We don't want that and we don't need that. If you want that, then go somewhere else like fucking L.A."

The one-man-band-phenom Possessed By Paul James (real name Konrad Wert) took the whole event home in the most luxurious of fashions, stomping on his drum pads and alternating between fiddle, banjo and acoustic guitar, invoking the rootsy spirits of Muddy Waters and Woody Guthrie, and the entire audience seemed to fall head-over-heals in love with Wert with each song that he played.

To be fair, all of the bands that played prior to PVC Street Gang would have nailed the spirit of the night had they concluded the evening rather than began it. Strange Towers, the new rock band that's a tasty combination of members of Recordhop and The Undoing of David Wright, were simply fantastic, as was Pinebox Serenade, the Lumberjack veterans who have played the fest every year. The Satans of Soft Rock destroyed on stage as well.

It's just that sometimes the band list has nothing to do with the general will of the crowd and when it decides to go full-on lampshade. Sometimes all it takes for the air to electrify is for a beloved goofball to shake his shit aggressively at an unsuspecting girl.

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