Concert Reviews

Spillover Fest on Sunday Was Dallas Festival Music at Its Best

Spillover Music Festival With Liars, Iceage, King Tuff and more Deep Ellum, Dallas Sunday, March 22, 2015

Yesterday, Spillover Fest embodied the minimalist ideal. To paraphrase a quote, minimalism doesn't mean a lack of something, but having exactly the right amount and no more. With three stages (well, four stages spread across three venues) and about 30 bands all squeezed into one manic day, Spillover assuaged the festival fatigue boiling over from Austin by keeping crowds bouncing between venues, eager to catch the next act. And with the beautiful Sunday afternoon weather to spur things on, it felt like Dallas music had finally given 2015 a proper kickoff.

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It'd be easy to say Spillover is just hounding for the scraps of the South By feeding frenzy, but the festival stands alone as a reminder that Dallas can pull in more than enough talent with the right booking acumen. Which is apt: The reason Spillover thrives isn't for its diversity but because it knows itself so well. It's booked by Parade of Flesh, and it's a thoroughly Parade of Flesh show.

But it's more than that, too. Here the Dallas community banded together -- artists, audience, show runners -- to create a seamless and perfectly length festival that went off without a hitch. (Unless you count Viet Cong's drummer breaking his hand and having to cancel, but that's just an act of God.)

Even Weather Lord Peter Delkus couldn't stop Spillover from having idyllic festival weather, making it miraculously serene to enjoy Club Dada's outdoor stage in spite of gloomy forecasts. As daylight waned and alcohol-consumption arcs reached a climactic peak, the crowd evolved from rigid, head-nodding strangers to a perspiring, swirling army that could barely keep themselves from clamoring on the stage.

Diarrhea Planet were the culprits who flipped this switch, with a set that sent the crowd into a wild furor as only a band with four guitarists could. As each member took his turn mounting the monitors and playing behind his head or with his teeth, I witnessed the first beer catapulted into the air -- a flare signaling that this was where the Brothers and Sisters of the Mosh Pit would make their final stand.

With that first splash of party foul-ridden booze, the festival slid into its back nine and never eased up on the brakes, all the way up until Liars played their headlining set. Of course, that was one anomaly of the festival: Liars, headlining at Trees, went on before the closing acts at Club Dada, which most definitely came at the expense of those bands. In particular, this led to a tragically under-attended King Tuff show that everyone who wasn't there should be ashamed of missing.

Earlier in the night, JEFF the Brotherhood's outdoor set managed to be a fairly vanilla performance. Maybe that was only in contrast to some of the unbridled lunacy of neighboring acts, but their slower tempo and tame stage presence left the audience visibly wanting more from such a staple of stoner rock. (Their Red Bull Sound Select appearance at the very same venue last summer was hands-down superior.)

On the other end of the spectrum, Canadian act Alvvays put on an immaculate display of dreamy garage pop, with Molly Rankin's cooing voice acting as a salve to the scorching vocals of surrounding acts. Both singing styles were much welcomed, but seeing Alvvays incited a bittersweet craving for a slightly wider breadth of acts. But maybe this anomaly was for the best, because although Liars played a flawless set, it felt a bit disjointed alongside acts like the Coathangers and JEFF the Brotherhood.

Honestly, Spillover largely nailed the bill by keeping the genres tight-knit with a fair amount of wiggle room. Garage rock persuasions and their various brethren (punk, noise, stoner rock) were all thoroughly represented with gravitas. And the cohesiveness of the bill was affirmed by how many bands didn't just commit a hit and run; this was their element. I caught Meredith Franco from the Coathangers standing next to me at three or four shows before her performance, and even after they played I saw her dancing on a bench to King Tuff with her band mates. The bands united not only in the bill, but in making sure that Spillover was all that it could be -- and it was.

The undeniable show stealer, though, was the Coathangers' set inside Dada, where true madness unfurled. Between vocal shrieks, slicing guitar riffs and thundering drums, the crowd maintained a state of perpetual moshing that easily won the prize for Rowdiest Pit of Spillover. (My condolences to the guy who lost his phone halfway through the set.) Across all the shows it looked to be the most densely attended act, and the punk trio made sure to engage every observer in their heightened hysterics.

Whether such a night is sustainable going forward is a little harder to tell, as Sunday felt a little like Spillover -- now in its eighth year -- has neared saturation with its current layout. At (or possibly over) capacity, Dada got increasingly claustrophobic indoors, and even more people just watched from outside since the building had gotten swelteringly swampy. That's where Spillover might suffer an identity crisis going forward -- does it get bigger and take over Elm Street, or stay vigilant with a focused bill?

Either way, the unbreakable John Iskander and his Spillover crew managed to curate a festival that's got it all figured out. Well, except for having to equip three wristbands for entry -- seriously, wearing a tricolor paper sleeve violates minimalism on every level.


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Matt Wood
Contact: Matt Wood