North Texas, and by extension the world, is a better place with 35 Denton around. The three-day music festival in Denton is back this weekend after a one-year hiatus, and we welcome its return with open arms.
However, at first–and second and third–glance, the lineup for the resurrected festival looks a little underwhelming. There’s a certain poetry to bringing in The Zombies to play this back-from-the-dead event, but the British rock group wouldn’t have been the most thrilling headliner in 1969, much less 2015. Sure, I’ll watch these senior citizens shamble out to play “Time of the Season,” before they get wheeled back to the tour bus, but I’ll be thinking wistfully of the days when 35 Denton was able to pull The Flaming Lips, or The Jesus and Mary Chain, or even mid-level (in terms of name-recognition) acts like Thee Oh Sees.
But what initially seems like a weakness (the dearth of recognizable, big-name bands) may actually be 35 Denton’s hidden strength for this go-round. The festival’s always billed itself as a great showcase for local musicians, and this year’s lineup puts its money where its mouth is: Just look at all the “Denton, TX” here. If North Texas’ music scene wants to stand on its own merits outside the shadow of that other Texas city known for incubating local musicians, isn’t a festival that exists largely to show off the area’s homegrown talent one way to go about it?
A scene can’t establish its own identity with big, national acts. 35 Denton’s lineup is a lot of little-print bands with big-print talent. If you’re looking to discover great, local music the good old fashioned way, then for three days, Denton is the place to be. There are plenty of great bands, both local and outsourced, appearing at the festival this weekend, and you can go here for a full schedule. Here are 10 of the best, in the order they’re performing.
1. Sealion–Friday at 9 pm (Dan’s Silverleaf)
This Dallas four-piece has a singer who sounds like an even more mush-mouthed Kurt Cobain, but the band’s a little lighter on its feet than Nirvana. Sealion’s landlocked surf-punk is fuzzy and inviting, friendly for the toe-tappers at the back of the room and the pogoers up front.
2. Doug Burr–Friday at 10:30 pm (The Abbey Underground)
Burr fits an archetype that is all too common in Denton–the bearded, sensitive singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar. Unlike many of those guys, Burr writes real tunes with lyrics that are sentimental without veering too far into sad-sackness.
3. Corners–Friday at 12:30 am (Hailey’s)
You can dance to a couple of these songs, but this California band is a little too moody to lend itself to much hip-moving. The energy level rarely flags, though, and the songs have too much momentum for you to stand completely still. It’s Joy Division turned to 11.
4. DEERPEOPLE–Saturday at 2:15 pm (Outdoor Stage 2)
DEERPEOPLE shares a certain out-there sensibility with fellow Oklahoma act and former 35 Denton headliner The Flaming Lips, but the band taps into its own nervous energy on songs like “New Dance,” which in a perfect world would be a mainstay on alternative rock radio.
5. Mind Spiders–Saturday at 3 pm (Main Stage)
Joyful, urgent, and a little spooky, Mind Spiders is science fiction garage rock from Fort Worth. Imagine if The Ramones had read more comic books and sniffed less glue, and you have a close approximation of Mind Spiders.
6. Marie Davidson–Saturday at 9:30 pm (Service Industry)
This Canadian artist sings largely in French, and I have no idea what she’s saying. If the music–throbbing, dark, slow electronica–is any indication, the translation would be something terrifying and murderous.
7. Kim & The Created–Saturday at 10:30 pm (Rubber Gloves)
Hailing from Los Angeles, Kim & The Created do punk rock doo-wop dressed up (or down, as it were) with scuzzy guitars and a filthy attitude.
8. Warren Jackson Hearne & Le Leek Electrique–Saturday at 11:15 pm (Dan’s Silverleaf)
The lounge singer had too much to drink, just got dumped by his girlfriend, and is going off-script while his ragtag band, a Southern-fried collection of outcasts from jazz and bluegrass bands that wouldn’t have them, works to keep up. The Denton band’s taste for the theatrical and American Gothic lyrics that call to mind Nick Cave in one of his nastier moods make this one of the more unique acts to see this weekend.
9. Monogold–Sunday at 10:30 pm (Hailey’s)
The psychedelic pop group is a perfect springtime band: Hazy, sunny, and relentlessly optimistic.
10. Meatbodies–Sunday at 12:30 am (Andy’s)
The group’s name (a minor masterpiece of punk rock band naming conventions that only loses points for biting the Meat Puppets) paints the picture for what you’re going to hear: loud, sloppy, fast rock and roll.