Like those who attended North by 35 last weekend, Denton itself is probably still recovering from the sprawling extravaganza. In its second year, NX35 was not without its hiccups. But the minifestival, meant as an appetizer for South by Southwest, also was not without its charms and promise.
Over the course of four days, a healthy selection of bands from Fort Worth, Dallas and Denton, as well as a fistful of national acts, like the Walkmen, performed in bars, coffeehouses and nightclubs throughout the city that sits where Interstate 35 splits in two. The unrushed nature of the "conferette" -- nary a start/stop time to be found on the schedule -- and the erratic nature of some of its showcases gave the weekend an air of tantalizing possibility. Here's the blow-by-blow of some of the bands I saw. For a full recap of NX35, click here.
The Hope Trust
NX35's second night got off to a bit of a slow start but with a burst of Americana-tinged rock from hometown heroes the Hope Trust, things kicked into high gear. The band sounded tight in J&J's Pizza's peculiar but charming basement. The group is working on a follow-up to 2007's The Incurable Want.
Altobelli's plaintive, almost hushed folk songs demand a far more intimate environment than Jupiter House, just off the square. He grappled with talkative audience members, hissing espresso machines and street noise, all of which threatened to overwhelm his songs. He soldiered on, though, delivering a set heavy on dark, gripping tunes and spiked with some hilarious asides about all the tribulations surrounding his set.
One of the more surreal snippets of the evening, I arrived upstairs at the Hydrant to see (maybe) four people watching Museum Creatures exert themselves. Throbbing synths and stabs of drum machine made for some hypnotic moments, but mostly, it felt altogether odd to hear such propulsive music with so few people around.
To say that Tim Smith and the fellas in Midlake were excited to be playing NX35 would be quite the understatement. More than once during their 45-minute set, the Denton collective shared its enthusiasm with the adoring crowd, which cheered staples like Roscoe and newer material like Core of Nature, from Midlake's just-released The Courage of Others. The lovely, autumnal music fit the rapidly darkening evening, with just a nip of coolness in the air, like a glove.
The Flaming Lips
The three-and-a-half-hour free party at the North Texas State Fairgrounds reached its apex with Oklahoma's own Flaming Lips. But the celebration did experience some technical snafus; frontman Wayne Coyne, in true DIY fashion, refused to be deterred by the difficulties and exhorted the crowd to give itself over to the band. The new material, from last year's Embryonic, fit snugly alongside classics like Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. A bit messy, thoroughly original and fiercely proud: I can think of no better representation of this scrappy festival.