Last Night at 35 Conferette: John Grant and Midlake Give The Best Indoor Set of The Fest

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John Grant with Midlake
1 a.m., Dan's Silverleaf

At the end of a night that saw a mostly all-local bill draw big numbers to Dan's Silverleaf to the tune of being essentially a one-in, one-out affair all night long, a real treat: John Grant, whose Queen of Denmark was named Mojo magazine's album of 2010, performed his album, in a rare offering, pretty much exactly as it was meant to be presented. That's because, as just hasn't been able to be the case yet because of scheduling conflicts, Grant was joined on stage at this show by his friends in Midlake, who backed Grant on his album, which was recorded right here in Denton at Midlake's studio.

That's a favor Grant hasn't downplayed: In the initial press release announcing the Queen of Denmark album, Grant profusely thanked the band, credited them for saving his life, and even gave them full billing on the disc, which was formally called a "John Grant with Midlake" release.

And so this set boasted a palpable homecoming feel. Yet it also had a somewhat odd sheen; part of Denmark's alluring dark themes spring from the difficult times he had while living here, where he couldn't even find work as a part-time waiter.

Regardless, both of those positively tinted this performance -- the best indoor performance of the festival to date, as a matter of fact.

Putting on full display his steady, strong and deep voice -- an instrument that wasn't given the proper treatment in Grant's earlier work in Denver's The Czars -- Grant, aside from an opening dalliance on the keys, mostly stood instrument-less in this performance, just emoting away into his microphone. And it's all he needed to do: A five-piece, Tim Smith-less Midlake handled all of those duties capably throughout the set, and were joined briefly mid-set for two songs by Smith, who fittingly added flute to the mix, and Midlake bassist Paul Alexander's angel-voiced and violin-playing wife. Technically, as is always the case with Midlake-affiliated performances, the showmanship and performance was flawless.

And it felt important, too -- if not for the simple fact that this was such a rare offering, then for the fact that two crowd-pleasing main stage performers from earlier in the day, Local Natives and Reggie Watts, were standing among the audience, similarly taking in the show.

If there was one complaint to be had about this almost hour-long, rootsy and folk-infused offering, it was that it felt like it came and went too quickly: When Grant, standing on stage alone (except for multi-instrumentalist Jesse Chandler performing on the keys), performed a particular somber take on his otherwise rather chipper "Chicken Bones" to close the night, it didn't really feel like a proper ending. It was the musical equivalent to an ellipses -- an implication that there's more to come.

Here's hoping that as much is the case: Aside from a few scheduled SXSW, these well-suited collaborators have no future performances lined up on the horizon.

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