Day two of the Fort Worth Music Festival was hot -- both onstage and off

Posted 9:09am on Sunday, May. 19, 2013

Singer ZZ Ward perhaps put it best at the second day of the Fort Worth Music Festival Saturday afternoon. She said there was one advantage to it being so hot as well as windy: her fedora was sticking to her head. I guess she didn’t have to worry about it flying off into the Trinity River.

Well, that’s one way of looking at it. The other is that the generally shade-free Panther Island Pavilion isn’t the most pleasant place to spend a sunny Texas day -- unless you’re surrounded by lots of good music, cold drinks, and food trucks, and they all were in abundance.

In fact, Ward’s set -- hat or no hat -- was one of the highlights. Opening with her alt-radio hit Put the Gun Down, she and her expert band played a crisp set of rock-R&B that had the crowd -- especially some of the women who seemed to know all the lyrics -- singing along. Everyone seemed to enjoy her performance so much that they even forgave her geographic faux pas. She told the crowd she wanted us to be heard over “these mountains” which had everyone thinking that maybe that hat had gotten too tight on her head.

While Ward was wowing a large crowd on one of the two large stages, New Orleans’ mainstays Dirty Dozen Brass Band was unfortunately playing in front of a considerably thinner audience at the smaller Community Food Bank Stage. To be fair, their set time had been changed -- from a single show at 7 p.m. to two sets, one at 5:15 p.m. and another at 6:50 p.m. -- so many more of their fans probably arrived for their second performance. Still, their first round of rousing, horn-driven Crescent City jams deserved a larger audience.

Though perhaps that was emblematic of changes in the festival itself. Along with Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk (and the concert-closing Galactic who would come on much later), the Brass Band was one of the few links Saturday to the Fort Worth Music Festival’s previous life as the more jazz-oriented Jazz by the Boulevard.

The Sheepdogs may come from the Great White North -- Saskatchewan to be exact -- but their influences are all from well south of that border. Their throwback, ‘70s guitar rock, with its soaring twin Gibson guitar leads, bears echoes of the Southern rock invasion of 40 years ago: Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Marshall Tucker Band with a hint of contemporary Kentuckians My Morning Jacket thrown in for good measure. While not particularly original, it was very well done and perhaps a revelation for some of the younger members of the crowd who grew up in an era of indie-rock guitar minimalism.

Delta Spirit makes well-crafted, lyrical rock but they dirtied it up on Saturday, turning in a raucous performance that showcased singer Matthew Vasquez’s rock’n’roll personality. Fortunately, they didn’t trash their melodic side and the chiming wistfulness of California -- with its touch of Beach Boys harmony -- proved to be the perfect accompaniment for a Texas sunset.

Hamilton Leithauser, the lead singer for The Walkmen doesn’t look like a rock singer. With his sport jacket and sunglasses hanging from the front of his long-sleeved shirt, he looked more like an actor having a casual Hollywood lunch. (It didn’t help that he looks like he could be Dennis Quaid’s son and sometimes seemed a bit distracted.)

But when he let loose on tracks like the jangly Heaven, he was very much a singer and in the moment.

New Orleans’ Galactic closed the night with a spirited, 90-minutes-plus display of funk-jazz that was very much in their hometown tradition of great acts like The Meters and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. While much of their work is instrumental, they’re known for teaming with various vocalists and lately they’ve been using Corey Glover from the ‘90s-era group Living Color. He was on hand Saturday for a few songs, including a stirring version of his old band’s hit, Cult of Personality. But the highlight was their jazzy take on the Beatles’ I Am the Walrus.

Though many were streaming towards the exits by the time Galactic was finishing up, their set was a nice reminder that, without jazz, we might not have these two days of musical celebration at all. Now, Fort Worth Music Fest -- along with Dallas’ Homegrown (which was last weekend), 35 Denton, and the Fort Worth Weekly’s music-awards festival and others -- is turning this region into an area that is almost as rich in music festivals as Austin -- without the choking crowds. And that’s a good thing.

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