Friday’s lineup of shows was a nice mix of folk rock and indie rock, highlighted by a triumphant headlining set by Dr. Dog. I started the day in the late afternoon on the main stage.
Telegraph Canyon played a strong set anchored by material from their last album released in 2009. They have a really cohesive sound going on in this point in their career, bolstered by an energetic delivery not normally found in bands with such a rootsy sound. Highlights included the boisterous “Shake Your Fist” and the closing number, which I didn’t get the name of, which featured a really interesting percussive melody deviating from their regular sound.
The night shifted to the 2nd stage to catch the anticipated Mr. Heavenly set featuring Michael Cera on bass, along with members of Modest Mouse, Man Man, and Islands. Admittedly, the show left a little to be desired. The band certainly sounded like they’ve only played a few shows, even at one point making a joking reference to the show as a rehearsal. Their sound was at it’s best when they did get a little cohesive, but unfortunately that was few and far between throughout their set. Scott Pilgrim held it down pretty well, using an aggressive bass playing technique with the subtle swagger you would expect to see from the established actor. MVP of the band goes to Man Man’s Honus Honus, who delivered his vocals and keys parts with vigor and passion.
Then came Dr. Dog. Dr. Dog is a band that you wouldn’t think “headliner” at first thought, but they completely owned the role tonight, destroying their set with a mix of songs heavily based in the their last three albums. The band treated the crowd to a smattering of new material as well, proving their evolution into a truly great rock band playing interesting pop songs. From the kick off of “Strangers” to the Denton-referencing lyric change in “California”, everything about their set showed maturity, energy, and a gift of excellent songwriting. Between Dr. Dog and Mavis Staples, the headliner spots so far have proven brilliant choices to anchor the 35 Conferette. Excitement ran high after their show, especially after they dropped a 20 minute encore, the first one of the Conferette.
I made my way over to Dan’s Silverleaf to catch The Spring Standards, a folk rock outfit from Brooklyn. They were impressive as well, mixing tender ballads with rootsy alt country. Of note is their percussion, split between all members of the band with various elements of a drum kit scattered throughout the small stage. All three vocalists have a unique tone that adds to their sound. They fit in a wide variety of styles to the excited fans, including a few diehards really feeling it up front. Great potential, and they really seemed to be enjoying taking part in the festival.
A short walk over to the Labb followed to catch The Orbans from Fort Worth. I’ve been able to catch these guys a few times in the last couple of years, and unfortunately this set did come across as a little rushed, trying to make the most of their half hour time slot. The crowd was really digging them though, with more than a few first timers asking their neighbors who the band was. Their gritty but poppy brand of alt country does have a really mature edge. I was hoping they would fit in “Like a Liar” to the set, but alas it didn’t make the short list this time around.
The night closed out with an interesting and dramatic set from Lost in the Trees, a band that has been near the top of my draws at SXSW and 35. The band worked through some technical issues and a short window to play in, but they really presented an impressive set, bolstered by their anthemic string and horn sections. This orchestral sound is a great direction for the folk rock scene, carrying on the vibe presented by Seryn and Telegraph Canyon earlier in the Conferette. The vocals were incredibly crisp on this chilly late winter night. The crowd included members of Dr. Dog, Seryn, and The Spring Standards, so they are definitely a band on more than a few radars this year. A great close to a great night.
Tonight has a late start for me, but I’m minutes away from leaving to catch Local Natives, and probably that’s it to rest up for a big closing tomorrow night. Hope everyone attending is having a great time. I sure am!