Gorilla vs. Bear Fest V
With Jamie xx, Lowers Dens, Tei Shi, Bop English, Yumi Zouma, Prince Innocence and Sober
Granada Theater, Dallas
Friday, July 31, 2015
The death of the music blog has been greatly exaggerated. Well, at least in the case of Gorilla vs. Bear, and more precisely its annual music festival at the Granada Theater. With a sold-out house and a stellar lineup Friday night that included Jaime xx and electrifying performances from openers Yumi Zouma and Lower Dens, GvB Fest marked itself one of the highlights of the summer so far in Dallas.
While most of its mid-2000s peers have disappeared, GvB has ramped up its local presence in 2015. Long focused on music beyond the confines of North Texas, the blog joined the rotation of Red Bull Sound Select promoters and has become an ardent supporter of rising Fort Worth star Leon Bridges. The festival, now in its fifth year, was GvB's most ambitious to date, with a second night even being added in Austin on Saturday.
From the start, the theater filled up to the opening sounds of Dallas DJ Sober. Eventually the room was so packed that you couldn't go anywhere on the floor without bumping into someone or being told to move by the bouncers. Prince Innocence kicked off the ensemble side of the show with their own brand of electro-pop sounds, peppered with the lyrical attitude of singer Talvi Faustman.
The GvB Fests have always prided themselves on bringing in at least one particularly buzzy act, and in this case it was Yumi Zouma. The New Zealanders, who have previously been on tour with fellow Kiwi Lorde, were the talk of the crowd. Their dream pop has been making waves on podcasts and other indie pop blogs alike, and at the Granada it was the trigger that really got the dance party going. Later on, singer Kim Pflaum modestly hung around outside the theater posing for Instagrams with some members of the audience.
Solo artist Tei Shei came to the stage next, with a two-man drum and synth/guitar band backing up singer Valerie Teicher. Teicher had great stage presence, but the music itself was kind of simple and her band didn't really seem to be that into it. It also felt like Teicher was holding back too much of her vocal range throughout most of her set, with the music almost drowned out by the crowd further back in the room. Near the end of her set, Teicher was able to pull off some louder, more impressive vocal ranges but overall the performance was disappointing given the band's hype.
Afterward, Baltimore's Lower Dens gave a strong performance that was a real climax for the whole show. The group's mellow retro-wave jams were expressive and sharp, with tonal guitars and a calculated rhythm section. Singer Jana Hunter steered from high to low notes with ease, guiding the band through the flowing movements of the music. Hunter also reminisced on a comical interaction at a previous GvB show with an LSD-fueled Devendra Banhart, whom the band has worked closely with in the past.
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Although that was a hard act to follow, Jamie xx closed out the night with his minimalist lo-fi house and a pretty light show that ratcheted up the dance party. Jamie, known for his work with the xx, did a great job of pumping up the crowd, which was really into it — a little too into it in some cases. This writer witnessed a couple of almost-fights break out near the end of the show, perhaps a bit of an inevitability when you put hundreds of people and alcohol together in a room and get them moving.
But in the end it was a minor issue in an otherwise truly hypnotic evening. Besides, for anyone with excess energy to burn there was always the after party next door at the Granada — not to mention night No. 2 down in Austin.