Music festivals aren’t necessarily my jam. I like the theater— you buy a ticket, take a seat, it’s orderly and controlled and usually there’s some sort of protection from the elements. But Saturday afternoon at approximately 3:15 I squished Bradford Pearson and my friend Mark into my American-made automobile and pointed it north, in the rain. “I hope we make it,” Mark said. Then he paused. “No offense, Liz.”
Our first stop was the very soggy Paperstain day show at Dust Congress House, where the giant inflatable gorilla was homemade, the beer was foamy and free, and everything smelled faintly of weed. Christopher Mosley was already there, drinking Hendrick’s and tonic out of a travel coffee mug. I made a mental note for my next rodeo, then bumped into a nice guy from Irving I hadn’t seen in years. He told me he was in a band with the surly kid standing next to him and that they were playing at Denton Square Donuts on Sunday. “Red Robertson?” I asked. It was loud inside the house. Surly kid gave me a nasty look. “Roy Robertson.” Christ, I thought. We’ve only been here for an hour, and I already felt like I’d entered some sort of time-space continuum littered with super sensitive artists. Sunday and sunshine seem light years away.
We caught all of Seth Sherman and split halfway through Daniel Francis Doyle, which was too bad, really, since he was performing with a purple glove over his mic and I thought that was a nice touch. We were just shy of completely soaked and absolutely freezing. I loaned Mark the thick gray scarf my best friend Pam crocheted for me last year. He wrapped it up around his face, serious-like, and we braved the main stage. Brad payed attention to Devin the Dude while I huddled under my umbrella and wished for spiked hot chocolate. With the size of the rapper’s on-stage entourage, Brad renamed the whole act “Devin and the 14 Dudes.”
Beach pop group Best Coast was next. The crowd was a sea of umbrellas and couples huddled close together for warmth. Lead singer Bethany Cosentino gave a shout out to Planned Parenthood, which I appreciated not just because I’m a lady, but because I’m a sentient human being. The organization has some on-the-ball social media types, since everyone who mentioned Bethany’s “Don’t Mess With Texas Women” PSA on Twitter was retweeted within seconds. Along with familiar songs like “Boyfriend” and “When I’m With You,” Best Coast tried out a bunch of new tracks, slower, fuzzy-sounding sad-girl tunes that worked surprisingly well in the rain.
After Best Coast, poor Brad headed for Bun B on the Dos Equis stage. The rest of our drenched group headed indoors to Rooster’s Roadhouse next to Dan’s Silverleaf for food, shelter, and fuel in the form of $3 double wells. I love onion rings, so I ordered “Rooster Tails,” which were the best non-onion ring deep fried onion pieces I’ve ever had. Was that tempura beer batter? Amazing. Brad liked them, too, after he got in from the cold. He ordered a bourbon and ginger and when the waitress came back in with a gin and ginger, Brad just said “F*** it. This is delicious.”
And then…things took a turn. Chris went to Dan’s, figured out that the line was too long, and then headed to Rubber Gloves; Mark, Brad, and I went to The Labb to see Sundress and Oberhofer. What we ended up seeing was a bunch of sidewalk, some girl folding a million t-shirts in the back of a van, and two different couples acting out the Blue Valentine movie poster against the window of a formal wear shop. We were total amateurs— sullen, freezing, whiny amateurs. We waited in line for a soul-sucking hour and a half before giving up and making a run for Hailey’s where some belligerent jerk in a bucket hat didn’t understand the concept of one in, one out.
We bounced inside in no time, and headed for the steamy stage area where Main Attrakionz was tearing the stage apart like a kid with a grilled cheese. It was the most energetic thing I’d seen all day, and probably the first beer I was actually warm enough to enjoy. Body heat helped, and Hailey’s packed people in. By the time we left after Danny Brown, you could have told me I’d been in Denton for days, Rip Van Winkle festival-style. Since I missed Oberhofer, I didn’t have a clue what I’d write about— I’d spent those rap performances trying to decipher lyrics and subtly encouraging the white guy bouncing behind me to go do his Energizer Bunny thing somewhere else. But our buzz was back.
Woke up to sunshine and a message from Mark: “What time do you think we’ll be home tonight?” Nobody was backing down or dropping out, even though I felt like I’d been run over by a truck. I stuck my dried-out notebooks in a Ziploc baggie, just in case, and we left Dallas with a much more positive outlook. Brad pulled off the most insane parallel parking job I’ve seen, and we made it to Main Stage 2 in time for The Raincoats, a British band that didn’t have visa issues. The square was teeming with people, easily double the crowd from Saturday. The 35 Denton balloons were flying high, people were singing along to “Lola,” and nobody looked like being there was akin to swallowing battery acid (which, coincidentally, is sort of what the whiskey I drank out of a boot flask later tasted like).
I went solo to Dum Dum Girls, where I ran into yet another person I knew, this time from high school. He was playing hacky sack, but stopped to say hi and asked what I was doing there. I gestured to my press pass with my half-finished can of Shiner. “Working,” I said. “Of course you are,” he said. Tough job. Hard life.
The Dum Dum Girls, a group of pretty brunettes wearing a uniform of sunglasses, black tights, black dresses, and a bold lip, was a huge change after the slower paced nostalgia trip we took with Raincoats. Their style of distorted pop is slick and undeniably cool, with a well-composed product. They ripped through tracks like “Wasted Away” and “Bedroom Eyes” despite some serious feedback from the monitors and vocals that were hard to hear until lead singer Dee Dee asked to turn her mic up. But the crowd was filled in, the giant glitter balls came out, and a light breeze carried the smell of marijuana. Their sound might not have much of a shelf life, but they’re fun, right here, right now.
I met up with friends at Rooster’s, where we came up with our game plan for the rest of the night: beer, Built to Spill, then Rubber Gloves. I couldn’t tell you much about the Built to Spill concert except that nobody seemed to care that they weren’t the original headliners for the Dos Equis stage. They drew the biggest crowd, and everyone had presumably drunk enough by the time their set started to put up with Doug Martsch‘s endless noodling. At one point I was gesticulating so wildly that I punched a finger-sized hole in Mike Mooney’s makeshift whiskey Coke. The Styrofoam cup sprung a geyser-style leak, so Mike finished that sucker fast and we decided it was time to find some food. Two tacos later, we were on our way to Rubber Gloves, where we planned to hole up after yesterday’s disaster. We crossed the railroad tracks and into the smoky den, where things were running a little behind. Midnite Society went on late, and Brad and I ducked out after their set. He had an 8 a.m. city council meeting to cover; I had to be able to function like a person at the office.
Walking back to Brad’s car, we hit the railroad tracks just as the red lights started flashing and we heard the horn in the distance. We could have made it across, but we waited and watched the train flash past.
Photo at top: Not the author (Credit: Sara Kerens)