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Review: KXT Summer Cut brings the masses to the fringe

Posted 7:15pm on Saturday, Jun. 02, 2012

The core mission of most radio stations is, pure and simple, connecting people to music.

Whether that's by introducing a market to new acts, facilitating shows by popular and lesser-known bands alike, or just providing a mix of sounds you can't find anywhere else, radio stations are, in the ideal sense, meccas for those who love music. It helps when, as is the case with KKXT 91.7 FM, the staff is almost religiously devoted to the cause (its status as a publicly funded entity certainly encourages the attitude).

With a skeleton crew, including Gini Mascorro, Joe Kozera, Allan Roberts and program director Mark Abuzzahab, among others, KXT has become an (at times, rightly criticized) antidote to corporate-programmed pabulum in the Metroplex.

Whatever your opinions about the station's inclusion of Train or its occasionally narrow focus on only a handful of local acts, it's remarkable, particularly in a competitive market the size of DFW, that this Triple A station is coming up on its third birthday in November. In what seemed like a sort of early celebration of that fact, along with the fact that seemingly everyone else in North Texas is having some kind of festival this year, KXT took over the Gexa Energy Pavilion Friday night, for its inaugural Summer Cut: Happy Funtime Fest (your guess is as good as mine). The evening, nine bands across two stages, was not unlike listening to the station itself: a few hiccups here and there, some head-scratching choices, but overall, an enjoyable, even pleasant experience.

With a crowd that began scarily thin but filled in appreciatively over the course of the evening, the Flaming Lips were the night's headliners, bringing with them their patented, handmade brand of weirdness (it's not every rock band that provides a mini safety lecture about its strobe light set-up before starting). Surprisingly, Wayne Coyne and company have shaken up the setlist since they were last in North Texas -- headlining 35 Denton two years ago -- and despite the chaos of confetti, gargantuan balloons and enough lighting to make you see spots, the band can still make songs like She Don't Use Jelly feel fresh.

Hometown heroine St. Vincent (known to her parents as Annie Clark) fondly reminisced about getting tanked on box wine and menthol cigarettes on the venue's lawn, before tearing into Cheerleader, Cruel and Surgeon, from her superb third album, Strange Mercy. Clark was bedeviled by Gexa's finicky sound system, gesturing at the engineer deep into her hour-long set. Perhaps as a form of release, she capped her performance by stage-diving into the ecstatic crowd, shouting incoherently into her mic.

Other main stage acts included Fitz and the Tantrums (working overtime to whip the crowd into a frenzy), Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (a soporific dud) and Fort Worth's Telegraph Canyon, scaled back to a sextet once more and showcasing moody new material from its in-progress third album.

Elsewhere, on the secondary stage set up on the venue's south side (a "vendor village" dominated the north side), a stream of mostly local acts, with a couple out-of-town guests, paraded past. Most struggled with the sound equipment -- Smile Smile, which premiered new material from its forthcoming LP Marry a Stranger, had a beast of time getting all of its microphones functioning correctly -- but gamely kept going. A pair of food trucks was on hand, and lengthy lines abounded, particularly since Gexa curiously shuttered many of its usual concession stands for the night.

But there was enough good about it, particularly the eclectic line-up (although, if you're going to book a DJ next year, how about featuring him a little more prominently?), to make me hope KXT attempts this again next year. The venue, especially early on, seemed a bit too large for the event -- even during the Lips, I observed scads of empty seats around me -- so, perhaps scaling back in that area would be advised. Otherwise, scan the station's playlist, round up an even more diverse collection of musical acts, and get the DFW public to tune in once more in 2013.

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