KXT Summer Cut
With Belle & Sebastian, Sarah Jaffe, Calhoun and more
Gilley's Dallas, Dallas
Saturday, August 29, 2015
KXT 91.7's annual Summer Cut festival hit the reset button this weekend and, with a little help from Belle & Sebastian, it felt like a change for the better. On a blazing hot day in August, it can't be said enough how thankful fans were that the festival had decamped from its outdoor location at Gexa Energy Pavilion to the air-conditioned confines of the Gilley's Dallas complex on South Lamar Street. Last year was shaky for Summer Cut, but this year the festival seemed to rediscover some of its mojo.
Three years ago when Summer Cut first kicked off, it looked like a festival on the up, landing not only Dallas indie darling St. Vincent but also festival mainstays the Flaming Lips. But a litany of issues seemed to plague proceedings last year, some of which were outside their control: Days before the festival took place, headliners Death Cab for Cutie announced their bassist was leaving the band and their performance proved frosty to say the least. Combined with the stifling heat and a mediocre fan turnout, a change of venues was perhaps necessary.
The move indoors for Saturday's show at Gilley’s was a step in the right direction. Utilizing the dual stages of the South Side Music Hall and South Side Ballroom, with local bands filling out the former and larger acts the latter, proved a wise decision that kept fans moving back and forth between the staggered sets. Many of the Gilley’s employees commented on how well organized the event was — this was a first for the complex — and things did seem to run smoothly. Hopefully KXT's festival footprint kicks off a string of events at a sorely underused venue.
Another weakness of last year's Summer Cut was its lack of diversity — Thao Ngyun of Thao & the Get Down Stay Down was the exception on a bill of white males — and there were at least signs of progress here as well. Not that Summer Cut is alone in this problem; indie rock is guilty of it in general. So it was refreshing to see KXT take this criticism to heart and try to adjust to the current climate. While a Leon Bridges or Gary Clark Jr. would've likely been KXT's ideal get, the extremely talented Fantastic Negrito was a welcomed addition, kicking things off on the main stage with an energetic set. Denton's Jessie Frye did likewise an hour earlier on the small stage.
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There’s still a patented over-reliance on white rockers with milquetoast music that appeals for all the right reasons, mainly its inoffensiveness. (That's why Israel Nash is the next Dawes.) But local favorite Sarah Jaffe showed them all up anyway, particularly when she performed a completely different version of her biggest hit, "Clementine." Everyone knows the song as a roaring ballad, but this version was a fantastic slow burn and Jaffe had the Dallas crowd eating out of her mighty capable hands.
Of course, it was Scottish indie-pop legends Belle & Sebastian who delivered the performance of the festival. Band leader Stuart Murdoch's lyrics frequently touch on the eternal spirit of wanting: There's an almost primal yearning in all of us that first makes itself known during our teenage years, and for many, music is the best place to find solace for those feelings. Belle & Sebastian have built an entire career out of providing that solace to people. Belle & Sebastian have kept fans waiting for nearly a decade to see them perform again in Dallas. (Their last performance here was in 2006.) Alongside St. Vincent and the Flaming Lips, this was one of Summer Cut's bigger gets, if not its biggest given the rarity of their performances. Belle & Sebastian never play more than a handful of dates in the U.S. each year, which makes them nearly mythical.
They didn't disappoint. Belle & Sebastian's set was full of cloying references to Dallas (the use of the Dallas TV credits to introduce the band was an especially nice touch), and some lucky fans were invited on stage to dance with Murdoch and co. If you're pulled on stage under those circumstances, you'd better be able to bust out a little of that D-town boogie and teach them, teach them how to Dougie. A goal for next year, perhaps?