Concert Reviews

Night Two at 35 Conferette '11: Even with Some Hiccups (Again), Friday Night Proved All Right.

As was the case on night one of the 35 Conferette on Thursday night, a palpable sense of something was evident as the main stage headliners took to their respective stages.

Whereas on Thursday night, there was an awkward, disjointed feel to the beginning of the affair, Friday night offered a lively, robust set of good-time vibes from the get-go.

To paraphrase Kool and The Gang: Oh, yes it's Friday night, and the feeling's right.

Hitting the Dos Equis Stage at 7:15pm, the Michael Cera band -- err, we mean, Mister Heavenly -- were greeted with the cheers from a crowd befitting a movie star. When someone from the star-struck throng shouted, "I love you!" the band's lead singer replied with, "We love you, too." Case of denial, anyone? The Sub Pop signees were all right -- but let's face it, this crowd watched the bass player more than any crowd has since Flea last walked out on stage wearing only a sock.

After exiting towards the stage area, the Friday night factor again showed itself, as the free-to-watch Square stage in front of the courthouse was cluttered with people of all ages, and many families with small children. It's a simple equation, really: Free music, plus nice weather, plus no work or school the next day, equals a diverse crowd that's willing to go with the flow.

And that willingness to be amiable was tested early on at that same stage, as anyone with a pocket schedule surely noticed that the times were way off, again. The Miniature Tigers-like Land Mammals were pleasant and inoffensive enough, even as they were getting off of the stage at 8:00 pm, which was when Babar was scheduled to begin on it.

Of course, the evening's big headliner, Dr. Dog, also manned their posts a tad late also -- but only by about 20 minutes. To no one's shock, however, Dr. Dog did exactly what Mavis Staples had done on the same stage under the same circumstances the night before: They tore that shit up.

The harmonies were strong and as they opened with "Stranger," and the crowd had obviously, and fairly, forgave the band for a slight miscue with the schedule. While Dr. Dog hasn't reached the stratosphere of major festival headliners like, say, Radiohead, Wilco or Muse, it's clear that those days may not be all that far off.

Back at the Square stage, Babar's set proved to be a solid, if not an exactly awe-inspiring choice. The Denton trio's brand of post-rock was refreshing in its purposeful maneuvering away from the spacey bombast of most post-rockers, but, at times, the bass-happy funk elements created grooves that were just a bit too mellow and one-dimensional for a style that generally benefits from dynamic progression and provides some listener pay-off.

It was at 8:55 pm when the evening's proceedings took a distinct turn. Truth be told, J & J's Pizza in Denton was all of a sudden the rock capital of Dallas. Dallas band On After Dark closed out their set with a trio of arena-ready new wave rock tunes that also reminded anyone who might've been paying attention, that, for the second night in a row, no one would be able to hear the creaks in the ceiling from folks walking back and forth upstairs in the pizzeria.

On After Dark's set gave way to the Broadcast Sea, another rocking band from Dallas, but also a band that hasn't played much live. The aggressive, post-punk product of Sterling Cash and crew experienced no problems, and came off as grizzled club veterans that know how to throw down.

Opting for a different side of the Square, and also for a different sonic-style of band after the Broadcast Sea, the crowded patio at Dan's Silverleaf played host to Brooklyn's Spring Standards. Their shiny, happy chamber folk-rock was fun and inventive, but, after the energetic pounding from the Broadcast Sea, the New Yorker's brand of sunshine and daffodils just didn't match the intensity experienced inside of J & J's earlier.

Back, in the bowels of J&J's, Saboteur from -- you guessed it, Dallas -- dispensed approvingly with a serious amount of eardrum killer. Feeding off of the relatively crowded basement, the band pummeled through their set with authority.

The headlining act for J&J's was Dallas' Descender, who just put out a new record, the stellar Dark Water. A few minutes after 11:00 pm, just as Casey Hess and crew were about to begin their set, drummer Duncan Black reached up from his kit to unplug the strand of lights that was wrapped around a beam on the low-lying ceiling, leaving the illumination of the musty room up to the psychedelic colors that were emanating from his bass drum.

Thankfully, the colorful drum wasn't the high-point of Descender's set. The quartet of Dallas rock-scene veterans wailed and roared their way through mostly new material, with a couple of older tunes mixed in. Hess really is a dynamic front man, and he handled his peddles in such a way that his guitar simply seemed to fill the room with spaced-out atmosphere. Also, Black's thunder stick-style of drumming provided an ideal pallet from with which the band could fully operate.

Having already decided that something unique was in the air on this night, and wanting to experience yet another act of Dallas rock greatness, steps were made down the street to Sweetwater's patio for the scheduled 11:40 p.m. Here Holy Spain set. Upon arrival however, one couldn't help but notice that the band setting their gear up on stage at 11:35 wasn't Here Holy Spain. As it turns out, the HHS set had been flip-flopped with the Swedish Teens. When asked why that had happened, the young man working the door basically admitted to not having a clue.

(Point of advice: Constantly check the schedule on the Conferette's website. The set-times had been adjusted there, after further review. If you don't have a fancy phone that will allow you to check such things, well, good luck to you over the rest of the weekend.)

At midnight, The Labb was in the midst of hosting a more mellow evening than it had with Slobberbone and Possessed by Paul James the night before. While it was encouraging to see the scheduled band, another band of baroque-folk rockers, Baruch the Scribe, on stage at the appointed time, that encouragement soured as it was clear the band and the venue's sound man were having a tough time getting on the same page. After over 15 minutes of watching the sound man run back and forth between guitar strums, it was time to find more rock.

Back at Dan's, things seemed to also be running behind a tad, too -- which, in this case, happened to be a fortunate turn. Denton's High Tension Wires were still playing at 12:30 a.m., and were effectively dealing their pedal-to-the-metal punk while wearing fancy sweaters and looking rather nattily.

So, in the end, many things were learned during 35 Conferette's Night Two -- but mostly that Friday nights are great nights to get the ball rolling on some good times and bad decisions. Also? Baroque folk is not always going to be the answer.

Oh, and the phrase "Big D" may not stand for Dallas, but possibly for Descender.

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Kelly Dearmore

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