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Fourth Homegrown Music Fest a great showcase for local music

Posted 8:08am on Sunday, May. 12, 2013

If you only have a day to devote to listening to new Texas music, you certainly could do worse than Dallas’ annual Homegrown Music & Arts Festival. The fourth edition, held Saturday at Dallas’ Main Street Garden Park, was once again a solid roundup of what makes the Texas scene vital even if many of the acts have yet to achieve the national recognition they deserve.

As always with these sorts of festivals, bands who play early in the day are greeted with small crowds more concerned about what’s at the next food truck or, this being Texas in May, who’s got some extra sunblock than what’s on stage. That really hurts a band like Houston’s Tontons whose inviting mix of sleek indie-pop rhythms (fueled by Adam Martinez’s impressive guitar playing) and the jazzy vocals of Asli Omar might’ve been better suited to an evening slot. It didn’t help that the mix didn’t favor her vocals.

But it was good to hear the new songs from their upcoming album. If Anita Baker had replaced Michael Stipe in REM, they might’ve sounded something like this.

Austin’s Quiet Company had a better time of it as their long-sleeve-shirts-and-ties look and enthusiastic, athletic brand of power pop got everyone’s attention. Fort Worth’s Burning Hotels, who seem to be regulars at this event, turned in their usual strong set of ‘80s-influenced songcraft.

Somebody’s Darling, a much talked-about new Dallas outfit whose song Cold Hands , is all over KXT-FM these days, turned in a rollicking performance of guitar-driven country blues. Singer/guitarist Amber Farris has a warm, smoky voice that’s set against the dynamic guitarwork of David Ponder. Comparisons could be made to the bluesier Alabama Shakes and it will be interesting to see if Somebody’s Darling enjoys the same career trajectory. No doubt, they made quite a few new fans Saturday.

The O’s two-man folk-rock is always a crowd-pleaser and that was no different on Saturday. But it was the one-two-three punch of the horn-punctuated R&B of Larry G(ee), the crunky Southern hip-hop of A.Dd+, and the gospel-rock of The Relatives where the crowd really came alive. (It also helped that the sun’s intensity was starting to wane.)

A.Dd+, who by wearing their pants backward and opening their set with Jump, made a nod to ‘80s rap act Kris Kross in the wake of the death of the duo’s Chris Kelly several days ago. That was a fun opener to what was an energetic performance (though parents who brought their young children to what they thought was a family festival might’ve been put off by some of the language).

Perhaps only The Relatives, the R&B act back from the brink of obscurity after being rediscovered by the indie-rock crowd, could get a sea of hipsters to drop it like it’s hot and try to twerk like in a hip-hop video and then follow that with a song that praises Jesus. But that was just one of the many charms of their performance Saturday.

The Polyphonic Spree have sorta kinda gotten rid of the church robes they used to wear in favor of matching outfits that look more like psychedelic pajamas. But their choral, strings-and-horns drenched pop remains intact even if some of the new songs from the upcoming Yes, It’s True album seem to get back to the more basic rock of leader Tim DeLaughter’s former band, Tripping Daisy. Appropriately, the Spree closed the set with an old Tripping Daisy track that had DeLaughter reminiscing about the old days in Deep Ellum.

Though it was the tried-and-true, hands-in-the-air sweep of Night and Day as well as a punchy take on The Who’s See Me Feel Me/Pinball Wizard that really got the audience excited.

The night closed with Divine Fits, the side project of Spoon’s Britt Daniel that also features former Wolf Parade guitarist Dan Boeckner. Their jagged, propulsive brand of rock doesn’t quite have the melodicism of Spoon but it was effective nonetheless.

Now, for those who have more than a day to devote to local music should head to Fort Worth next weekend for the Fort Worth Music Festival.

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