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!
Yesterday was the first day of 8 full days of music for, starting at Denton’s 35 Conferette. The Conferette is in it’s 3rd year. For the first time, they offered day stages downtown, and then the party moved to the local bars and clubs until late in the evening. There were some technical difficulties on the second stage, so the music started with OK Sweetheart on the main stage. Their set was patient and heartfelt. They had a pretty sparse crowd for the early afternoon show, but the band was well-received to the few who could make it out. Though they set didn’t really stand out particularly, their soft and gentle folk set a great tone for further acts to play after them on the same stage.
I shifted over the 2nd stage to catch a couple songs from Sundress. This band has really matured since I caught them last year at NX35. Sundress combine pop and psychadelic rock beautifully, creating an eerie tone to the growing crowd. Their sound could be even bigger, so it’s probably a good experience for them to get out of small bars and clubs to explore a bigger, outdoor space. All in all, it was really nice to catch these rising locals.
The first major highlight came from Dentonite Sarah Jaffe. Sarah had a really significant 2010, supporting her first major release with shows across the country. She’s an artist that truly appeciates coming home, creating an intimate vibe with the crowd through her banter between songs. The set was highlighted by at least 1/2 of the songs being new material which will hopefully be released as an EP this year. The electronic pop tone she added to her sound is a major win. This suits her voice and style perfectly, and at the same time is completely unexpected as compared to her earlier work. She gave an opportunity for her dedicated fanbase to sing along as well, with extended versions of “Clementine” and “Vulnerable” featured in the set.
On the opposite side of the festival, White Denim delivered a set equally heavy on new material. They are a band that wasn’t on my radar through listening prior to the show, but were incredibly impressive and the most interesting band I caught on day 1. They were a ton of hats, incorporating influences as wide ranging as Zeppelin, Rush, and Radiohead. They are at times garage rock, and other melodic pop. Their best song had even a little alt country in it. It was a dense experience, and I could have listened to them for even longer. They extended and jammed out most of the songs to great results as well, another unexpected treat.
After a dinner break, I waited at the main stage for the queen of the night to arrive. Mavis Staples will be a set that will be remembered long after the Conferette ends by all in attendance. The living legend delivered a soulful and personable set, often bantering with the audience. This back-and-forth created a wonderful moment of Mavis being invited in the Denton culture through the offering of a “Keep Denton Beard” T-shirt. She must have had a pleasant experience in town for the last 24 hours, as she mentioned countlessly her intentions to return as soon as she can. Her music was heavily steeped in traditional gospel, but there was a nice pop/blues edge provided by her top-notch band, especially the guitarist and male backup singer. Also of note was the powerful yet tender version of the Tweedy penned “You Are Not Alone” in the middle of her set. After a surprisingly groovy and poignant instrumental break, Mavis really brought down the house with a very extended version of I’ll Take You There, which the crowd completely ate up. Unbelievable set.
My night shifted for the next few hours to Dan’s Silverleaf, featuring standout sets from Monahans, Doug Burr, and Seryn. Monahans brought a great rock/pop energy as expected, but they sounded especially clean and vibrant on this night. The crowd was loving it. It was a great way to transition for the spirited Mavis set to the minimal yet powerful folk stylings of Doug Burr. Leaning heavily on the O Ye Devastator album, Doug brought a great mix of quiet acoustic gems with some alt country inspired material with help from the Monahans rhythm section. I’ve seen Doug perform a couple of times in the last year, but some newer fans mentioned how blown away they were by his voice and couldn’t wait to catch him again. His songs need to reach a wider audience, they are very mature and accessible. The night closed out with a set by Seryn, always a highlight. They played solely material from their 2011 debut release with a ton of vigor and soul. Their sound has matured throughout the last year. They really seem like a polished band, but maintain their manic energy and instrument swapping mid-song. Their percussion was especially on point tonight, drawing in hooting and hollering after every build up they dropped throughout the night. Seryn is a special band, hands down, so if you are in the DFW area and have yet to catch a show, you’re really doing yourself a disservice.
As with any festival, timing can be a hinderance, so I only caught no more than the last five minutes of Cut Chemist. From the buzz that was flowing out of Hailey’s late Thursday night, it seemed to be a major highlight of the night. All in all, a very successful day. I’m looking forward to keeping the vibe with sets by Dr. Dog, Mr. Heavenly, and Lost in the Trees high on the anticipation list tonight.
I’m about an hour away from heading to Denton to catch Sundress at 35 Conferette, the first band of a busy schedule today. Today’s day shows are a mix of folk inspired music on the main stage, highlighted by Mavis Staples at 8:00 and Sarah Jaffe at 5:15 (can’t wait to hear this new electronic pop direction). The 2nd stage features a headlining spot by The Pains of Being Pure At Heart as a lead in to Mavis.
The night programming start for me at Rubber Gloves to catch local rising act Air Review, before heading down to Dan’s Silverleaf for the bulk of the night. These sets are all associated with Spune Productions, a local label with small but impressive roster of artists. Favorites Seryn and Doug Burr will surely be highlights, but I’m also excited to see what Monahans and Birds & Batteries are up to. Depending on timing and crowds, I’ll swing over to catch Cut Chemist close out the night at Haileys.
Reports coming tomorrow from Day 1. If you see a guy with a red beard, a camera, and a notebook be sure to say hi!
Main Stage #1: Ok Sweetheart, Sarah Jaffe, Secret Sisters, Mavis Staples
Main Stage #2: Sundress, Ethereal, White Denim, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
This Thursday, my wave of music starts in Denton at 35 Conferette! 4 full days of music in a SXSW-style setup, with the addition of 3 day stages this year. I’ll be posting the morning of each day on where I’ll be heading, but anyone looking to do some research, I went all “every band” on the event and wrote up some descriptors and ratings. For more posts on the 35C, click on the link to the right of the main page titled “35 Conferette”. Full coverage starting on Thursday!
Now that we’re two weeks away, I wanted to give everyone an update on some of the things to expect in the next 14 days:
Finish “Every Band” - I’m currently at 1968 bands, with probably 150 or so to go. I’m just trying to get through as quickly as possible so I can get to some summary postings! Until I’m done, I’ll be exclusively in this zone until probably Monday or Tuesday.
The Final Spreadsheet - I’ll put the whole bad boy up on Google docs.
Top Bands by Genre - My idea is to build some top 20 lists by genre, and probably break it out between new bands and established acts. There are a lot of bands that have been highlighted, so this will be the best way to break it down without leaving any big highlight out.
Showcase and Day Party Spotlights - I’m marking my most interesting showcases overall mathematically. I’ll let you know what’s hot and why.
Where I’ll Be - I’ll be letting people know my final warpath the morning of each showcase day, pending on internet working in the hotel and all that jazz.
Full 35 Conferette Coverage - The music onslaught beings next Thursday at Denton’s 35 Conferette, where Operation Every Band will be on the scene reporting back. SXSW fans, there’s a good deal of overlap between the conferences, so hopefully you’ll check out some of the heat that’ll be brewing up in North Texas.
Reviews, Pictures, and Videos - Finally, I’ll be all over SXSW and capturing some of the moments that’ll kick off the music year.
Hijack! 35 Conferette Spreadsheet 10 - All in all, this is really nice set. This is the national/international acts that they didn’t put on the headliner list. 10 bands above a “4”! Highlights:
Brainstorm – an experimental indie pop/art rock band from Portland, OR with an eclectic and diverse sound.Brainstorm music has quite the manic edge, moving to and from seemingly disconnected musical genres throughout their song.They’ll follow up light indie pop immediately with metal-inspired garage rock and then back again, sometimes within a matter of seconds.I love how Brainstorm is willing to really experiment, a trait that stands out in a conference or festival setting.They do sound like a young band, almost one with more of a smattering of ideas rather than one cohesive direction.They closest resemble The Dirty Projectors, especially with the complex melodies both vocally and on guitar.Brainstorm has a whopping 11 shows in Texas focused around SXSW, so expect a band running on adrenaline if you can them in Denton, Austin, or in between.
Sun Hotel – an indie rock band from Nashville with a big raw sound and good dynamics.Sun Hotel are another band that is brimming with potential, even if they sound like a band that is still in the development stages.Sun Hotel is like the Arcade Fire with a garage pop/punk mentality.Their sound has an epic vibe, but it’s still drenched in fuzzy guitars and loose playing.There’s a little dichotomy at play here, giving them a unique sound.I could see Sun Hotel following the Local Natives recent rise, they just need to work on their songs little by little to really build that sharp aggressive vibe but still base their music on strong songwriting.Nevertheless, they have a really nice energy and I’m sure come across great live.
Clear Soul Forces - a hip hop collective from Detroit with nice jazzy beats.
Daniel Benjamin - an electronic pop artist from Stuttgart, Germany with an avant garde style and soaring vocals
G-Side - a chilled out hip hop artist from Athens, AL with some really nice music.
Sarah Renfro - a former Dentonite now in Brooklyn, Sarah is a singer-songwriter with a jazzy voice who also is a member of the band The Loom.
Wesley Hartley & The Traveling Trees - an alt country band from Portland, Maine with an old school style and a gritty delivery.
Cleemann - an electronic pop/folk artist from Copenhagen with quiet, little sad songs.
Kelsey Waldon - a female singer-songwriter from Nashville with a folk rock and Americana lean.
Tidal Waves - an authentic afro-beat band from Johannesburg, South Africa with a big sound.
Hijack! 35 Conferette Spreadsheet 9 - Still on Texas/Oklahoma area bands. Highlights:
Sphynx – an indie power pop band from Austin with a very upbeat sound and electronic elements.Sphynx bring a ton of energy to their music, a combination of crisp instrumentation, electronic flourishes, and alternative pop vocals.They somewhat resemble a hybrid between Weezer and Passion Pit, quirky pop with an electronic rock edge.The do border on mainstream rock at times; the band is best when they go for edgier sounds.All in all they are a fun band that I’m sure puts on an energetic live set.Sphynx just released their debut LP in February which they will be sure to be showcasing at the 35 Conferette gig.
The Lonesome Heroes - an Americana/folk band from Austin with some alt country and a pretty sound.
The Zest of Yore - a lo fi rock band from Austin with a poppy sound combining mainstream and garage rock/pop.
Tiger Darrow - a quirky pop/folk singer-songwriter from Austin with some good ideas.
The Panda Resistance - an instrumental post rock band from Tulsa, OK with indie rock and prog elements.
Hijack! 35 Conferette Spreadsheet 8. We’ve moved on to bands from the Texas/Oklahoma area, presented in two sets. Highlights:
OK Sweetheart (copied from my SXSW band reviews) – a folk rock band led by a female singer-songwriter with a 60’s vibe from Tulsa, Oklahoma.OK Sweetheart rides on the same train as She & Him, creating an old school vibe but with an updated energy and delivery.They like to slow it down a lot as well, moving into ballad territory that is emotionally resonant but still with a pop vibe.OK Sweetheart has built up a strong fan base that extends to the North Texas area, slowly building buzz around her smoky and cool vibe.They currently only have one single out, but there’s plenty of live video to browse on the web to check out OK Sweetheart.
Quiet Company (copied from my SXSW and reviews) – an upbeat indie rock band from Austin, Texas.Quiet Company has a really diverse palette, moving from gentle folk to heavier blues rock, but mostly finding middle ground in their poppy version on indie rock.They’re a really strong sounding band with nice vocals, strong instrumentation, and a general air of a more established act.Quiet’s Company debut LP was released in 2006, and they increased the size of their band with 2 additions in 2008.Recently they’ve been stretching the boundaries of their material with their most interesting release, 2010’s EP Songs For Staying In.The songs are still based in pop, but the explore other folk and rock sounds really nicely.I hope they continue towards more musically diversity as they prep for the 3rd LP to be released in 2011.
People on Vacation - a indie pop/rock band Austin with an accessible sound.
Little Lo - a folk artist from Austin with a gritty style moving from slow songs to harder rock.
Moon - an indie pop/rock band from Oklahoma City incorporating psychadelic garage pop.
The Beaten Sea – a traditional folk rock band from Dallas, TX with an alt country vibe and an honest delivery.The Beaten Sea are nicely rough around the edges, but really shine with beautiful harmonies and the unique vocal delivery of the lead singer.They have a bit of an Edward Sharpe vibe, using folk instrumentation to create a big sound while still maintaining that gypsy esthetic.They are lyrically strong as well, playing to that trait by keeping the vocals well pronounced and high in the mix.Their music sounds like back porch folk, but keeping it slow to not move into bluegrass territory.Fans of Mumford and Sons and The Decemberists will be drawn to The Beaten Sea to get their triumphant folk rock fix.The Beaten Sea released their debut self-titled album last year to great local praise, finding their songs creeping onto more than few top 10 lists in December.I’m looking forward to catching this band on the rise at 35 Conferette.
The Orbans (copied from my SXSW coverage) - an alt country band from Fort Worth, TX with a tight groove and strong songwriting.During SXSW 2009, I was wondering down 6th Street when I heard the Orbans playing out an open bar window and went in to check it out.A couple of beers later I was hooked.What’s great is that the Orbans have really come a far way since that show on the back of their debut LP When We Were Wild last year.They have an incredibly mature sound already; they’re songs almost sound familiar on first listen.A great deal of their sound owes credit to the rock of the 70’s, but with a Gen Y laid back vibe as well.I saw the Orbans a few months ago for the second time and was really moved by their set.They reminded me of a young Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, not so much in sound but more in their presence and delivery.This band has a great deal of potential and should prove to be a highlight set at this year’s SXSW.
The Naptime Shake - a traditional alt country band from Dallas incorporating some indie folk.
Summer Ames - a pop singer-songwriter from Dallas with an jazzy voice and upbeat tone.