Without question, Sunday's offering at the 2011 35 Conferette was the Denton festival's strongest, featuring performances from the likes of Davila 666, Miami Horror, Colour Revolt, !!!, Portugal. The Man, Big Boi, A Place to Bury Strangers, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Gayngs, Kid Koala, Dan Deacon, The Civil Wars, Viva Voce, Damien Jurado and others.
In many ways, this day's bill alone could go toe-to-toe with the festival's three days of earlier offerings, combined.
The reason why should be fairly obvious: With 35 Conferette at least in part billing itself as a pre-SXSW shindig, and thus banking on SXSW spillover to help fill out its lineup, tour routing just seems bound to make the last day -- and thus the closest to SXSW -- its strongest, which very much turned out to be the case.
But it was also problematic: Over the course of the day, which unsurprisingly, saw Denton drawing its biggest crowds of the festival, much of the chatter heard among the crowds was that of mild annoyance.
With so many bands on this final night's bill -- including an absurd 1 a.m. logjam that would force attendees to stay until the very end of the night, just to see one of the timeslot's scheduled showcases from APTBS, Mayfield, Gayngs, Kid Koala, Deacon or Jurado -- attendees, rightly worried if they might be able to get their money's worth on this night.
Complaints aside, it seems they did. Everyone knew the night would end strong, but the big surprise, really, was how strongly it began.
Soon after Big Boi's set closed on Main Stage One, crowds filtered over to the indoor venues, with local electronic act Peoplodian drawing perhaps the biggest crowd of its career over at Hailey's and with Austin's Zorch providing a whole barrel of fun to its large crowd over at Rubber Gloves. (At one point, Zorch tried to convince the audience to engage in a mid-set game of dodgeball; a great idea that failed largely because it was so dark in the performance space).
Locals again reigned supreme in the second slot of the night-time performances, as the buzz around the street seemed heavily slanted toward the local offerings of Florene (at The Labb), The Beaten Sea (at Sweetwater) and Cocky Americans (at The Hydrant). But it was Denver's Pictureplan who scored the best, drawing the biggest crowd of the timeslot to Hailey's and turning in, most likely, the best performance the once-prominent space saw all weekend (OK, after Record Hop and Japanther's Thursday night offerings).
As the night wore on, though, the difficult choices at hand became more and more apparent.
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And, turns out, no, the crowds couldn't support all of the venues. Nite Jewel's crowd at Hailey's was in particularly embarrassingly small for such a buzzing outfit -- crowds at this point in the night seemed more inclined to check out The Civil Wars' well-received performance at Dan's Silverleaf or to check out DJ MOMJEANS' set at The Labb, proving once again, as Michael Cera had earlier in the week, that television and film celebrity trumps music celebrity every time. Both of these shows saw their venues at capacity, or damn near it.
And so the 1 a.m. faceoff finallly arrived. Were the night a competition, then Deacon won -- Gloves was the first venue to reach capacity. Were it a matter of volume and spectacle, A Place to Bury Strangers emerged victorious, blowing audiences away with an ungodly set-up of amps that, by set's end, caused the power to blow at Andy's Bar. Were it a matter of excitement, then Kid Koala's performance was the top choice: His outdoor stage performance at The Labb almost proved chaotic, as a spat of rain fell upon the college town, forcing a mad dash inside the venue, as well as a scramble to save Koala (who, indeed, dressed as a koala bear for his set) and his gear from the rain, while moving them both inside. Were it a matter of a proper wind-down, well, it would've been tough for any of these showcases to top Gayngs' offering at Hailey's; that performance saw its crowd growing the largest over the course of its set, as fans from MOMJEANS' show slowly trickled over and the attendance figures gradually ballooned.
And then, with a proverbial snap of the fingers, it all ended -- and in a celebratory fashion, too.
There were highs and lows throughout the weekend, sure. But this much is clear: Having the festival presented wholly in downtown Denton indeed proved to be a worthwhile move.