Daniel Folmer, Dust Congress, Glen Farris, and Sabra Laval
J&J's Pizza, Denton
October 17, 2009
Better than: watching OU-TX fans yell at one another on the parking lot that was I-35E.
Were it not a music venue, the dirty basement at J&J's Pizza would be the kind of place you might expect to find small skeletons. From its stained concrete floors to its low, dust-covered rafters, this venue lends itself to all things ominous.
That said, throw in a small bar, tables, chairs and a floor-level "stage" and you have a dark intimacy unlike any of Denton's hotspots.
And in a dimness akin to the dive bars of Hollywood's underworld, Daniel Folmer, Dust Congress, Glen Farris and Sabra Laval played a free show for a quiet crowd of perhaps 50 people. Folmer headlined the event, which doubled as a CD release show for his new album, Dead End.
Earlier in the night, despite what was slated to be a two-piece set, Dust Congress boasted five members: Nick Foreman played acoustic guitar or banjo while footing the bass drum and hi-hat; Ryan Williams plucked and sawed the standup bass while Taylor Sims struck the keys; James Kerr blew trumpet and Jeff Barnard tapped the marimba in a state of convincing focus that utterly contradicted the slack, beer-drenched grin he wore before the show.
The chamber folk group played a melancholy set fit for the defeated, but tinged with just enough hope to try again. Dust Congress pulls its listeners through a wonderfully tragic dreamscape and--you'll think I'm crazy--but it would serve as the ideal soundtrack while breathing sea spray and watching seagulls pick apart a beached whale near a post-Katrina New Orleans.
Meanwhile, Daniel Folmer's three-piece ensemble worked, too--well, sort of. The aesthetics were moody and evocative: As is the case at most Gutterth-produced affairs, two small televisions churned static with their screens bearing insect renderings while the words "Dead End" were taped on another TV set.
Still, something was missing... perhaps it was an interactive crowd, perhaps it was simply the absence of action. Either way, the band barely moved. Half-way through the set, most of the crowd's leftovers remained seated.
Honestly, four songs from the end of the evening I found myself--dare I say it?--a little bored. Then again, I was admittedly exhausted, having spent four hours of the day in traffic and five hours in direct sunlight photographing frothing UT and OU fans.
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Perhaps the show's popularity was cannibalized by the surrounding venues of Denton's friendly musical arena. All in all, Saturday's show filled its function: providing an intimate evening of Denton music and plugging an album release.
Personal Bias: Tara Wood's bassoon definitely benefits Dust Congress. Unfortunately for us, Wood moved to Chicago in August. She's still considered a "remote member" of the band and will fly down from Chi-Town to record the band's optimistically titled upcoming album Open Your Eyes, The World Is Shit.
Random Note: Hailed as the "Nordic Wonder" by his colleagues, Dust Congress' Jeff Barnard has moved furniture for a decade and is a master of spatial reasoning and customer service in the face of adversity. Years ago, I witnessed a true feat of personal restraint when a wealthy man refused to pay for a very large moving job and then called Jeff a "red-headed punk." Because of Jeff's temperament, the argument didn't come to blows. However, as a general rule, it's just unwise to instigate violence when surrounded by sweaty, angry furniture movers...
By The Way: While watching the show, a girl from near the back of the basement walked over and asked me to move so she would have an unobstructed view. Jeez, people, the band won't bite: Get closer.