Now in its fourth year, 35 Denton is maturing into a must-hit destination for serious music fans.
The four-day festival (having finally shed the baffling "conferette" tag) is one of the few North Texas -- if not the only -- festivals devoted to a finely calibrated mixture of indie stars, next big things, local favorites and a sprinkling of fondly remembered cult heroes from the bookers' halcyon youth.
Again spread over four days, 35 Denton will fill the clubs, bars, restaurants and public spaces in the college town with more than 150 bands. (Along with two main, outdoor stages, 11 venues are participating in this year's festival.)
Headlining acts include a rare set from Scottish alt-rockers the Jesus and Mary Chain, en route to this year's South by Southwest, as well as appearances from Built to Spill, Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls.
Lots of area musicians, including a fistful from Fort Worth, will make the trek up north over the course of 35 Denton. Here are five national and five local bands worth catching when the festival kicks off at 9:30 p.m. Thursday and continues through Sunday.
The Jesus and Mary Chain (8 p.m. Sunday at Main Stage 1): It's been two decades since the infamously combustible Reid brothers, Jim and William, last set foot in North Texas (they were on Lollapalooza's main stage in 1992). Anticipation is intense for this headlining performance, born out of nostalgia's powerful grip and despite the fact that the Jesus and Mary Chain hasn't released any new material since 1998's Munky. Still, if the Reids can get through the evening without succumbing to their legendary enmity for one another, this could be a high-water mark for the festival.
Best Coast (7 p.m. Saturday at Main Stage 2): The drowsy, surf-pop duo of singer-songwriter Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno made a splash with 2010's Crazy for You, a glittering collection of lo-fi gems bridging the gap between then and now. The Los Angeles-based pair is working on its as-yet-untitled, follow-up LP, due out later this year, with producer Jon Brion and within the plush environs of Capitol's legendary recording studios in Hollywood.
Danny Brown (12:30 a.m. Saturday at Hailey's): One of the buzziest rappers around not associated with Odd Future, the mangle-mouthed Brown released his second full-length, XXX, as a free download last year. If you miss the 30-year-old Detroit native this time around, don't fret, he's hitting the road with Community actor-turned-rapper Donald Glover and his Childish Gambino alter ego later this year, and they'll be stopping at the Palladium Ballroom in April.
The Romany Rye (12:30 a.m. Friday at Sweetwater): The Long Beach-anchored, folk-rock outfit has the Kings of Leon seal of approval (which is either a warning or an enticement, depending upon your point of view) and a stomping, full-throated presence in concert. With one EP to its credit (2009's Highway 1, Looking Back Carefully), the band, led by singer-songwriter Luke MacMaster, digitally released its debut full-length, Quicksilver Sunbeam, this year.
Dum Dum Girls (6 p.m. Sunday at Main Stage 1): Los Angeles indie-pop foursome Dum Dum Girls, which counts fellow headliner the Jesus and Mary Chain among its many sonic influences, has steadily ascended from obscurity over the last five years, culminating in 2011's well-received sophomore effort Only in Dreams, released on influential Seattle label Sub Pop.
Jeremy Buller (9:30 p.m. Thursday at Banter): Buller is a tireless musician about town, having logged time with Bosque Brown, the Hope Trust and Sarah Jaffe, at various points in the last few years. Now, Buller (who also does web design for several of his fellow Dentonites) is striking out on his own. Surf over to jeremybuller.bandcamp.com for his spine-tingling take on Best Coast's I Want To, recorded as part of 35 Denton's locals-covering-nationals promotional campaign.
Roy Robertson (11:30 p.m. Sunday at Denton Square Donuts): Although massively talented troubadour Roy Robertson once went it alone (witness his superb 2010 EP Wonderness, with its delightfully fractured, gorgeous pop confections), he's now backed by a full band (Pablo Burrull, Ramon Muzquiz and Benny Bailey), which changes his sound in dynamic ways. The Denton-based Robertson says he is working on lining up some studio time, ostensibly to lay down some new tracks for potential release this year.
Baptist Generals (7 p.m. Friday on Main Stage 2): One of the area's more revered acts, the Baptist Generals (which counts 35 Denton head honcho Chris Flemmons among its ranks) hasn't released new music since 2003's Sub Pop debut No Silver/No Gold. The band, featuring a fluid roster of local musicians, has been fitfully active, and is reportedly working on material that could see the light of day soon -- the follow-up to No Silver/No Gold has been in the works for nearly five years.
The Phuss (9:30 p.m. Saturday at Abbey Underground): A rising star in the North Texas rock scene that signed to Denton's indie label Do for It Records last year, this trio recently wrapped work on its second full-length album, produced by none other than the Toadies' frontman Vaden Todd Lewis and Red Star Recording Studios' Robby Baxter. (The band undertook a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for local luminary Stuart Sikes to master the record.)
The Blurries (11:30 p.m. Friday at Mellow Mushroom): One of my favorite local albums of last year, the Blurries' Paper Cuts proved a fine reintroduction to the criminally underappreciated fellas formerly known as Slider Pines: Andy Lester, Bill Spellman and Joey Shanks. Moving easily from roots-tinged rock to gleaming power-pop, the Blurries are one of the area's best-kept secrets -- but they shouldn't be.