DALLAS Yes, they indeed partied like it was 1999.
Tripping Daisy, the Dallas band that broke up 18 years ago, reunited to headline the eighth Homegrown Festival Saturday at downtown Big D’s Main Street Garden Saturday, and for anyone who was in DFW during Daisy’s heyday, this was something to celebrate. Along with The Toadies, Old 97’s, Erykah Badu, and MC 900 Ft. Jesus, Tripping Daisy brought North Texas to the wider pop world in the ’90’s, a world that didn’t know Deep Ellum from Deep Purple, a world that thought Texas was just Austin surrounded by gushing oil derricks and sun-baked Wal-Mart parking lots.
So when Tripping Daisy -- fronted by Tim DeLaughter, the man who would go on to found another iconic Dallas band, the Polyphonic Spree -- took the stage for a two-hour set Saturday to an ecstatic reception, there was a definite you-had-to-be-there-back-in-the-day vibe.
From the opening video clips of the guys being interviewed by the late legendary British DJ John Peel, who lived in Dallas in the early ‘60s, about what Gaston Avenue was like, to the reformed group’s introduction by George Gimarc, the DJ/program director who put the first generation of The Edge radio station on the map, this show was for the homers, those who still get misty-eyed and pour a funereal 40-oz. for such long-gone venues as Theatre Gallery and such bands as Course of Empire.
For the rest of us, those who weren’t here at the time, Tripping Daisy staged a giddy, colorful, and entertaining run through their catalog of psychedelicized rock and trippy, punkish power-pop, even if it didn’t have that deeper emotional pull of memory. Playing against a backdrop of a giant video screen showing everything from surreal imagery to clips from disaster films, the band turned out energetic takes on much of their catalog, from “Creature” to “Bang” as well as an especially shimmering “My Umbrella” (dedicated to WFAA/8 meteorologist Pete Delkus) to, of course, the sing-along hit “I Got a Girl.” For that extra throwback touch, there were even some stage-divers and crowdsurfers.
Now a six-piece featuring DeLaughter, bassist Mark Pirro, drummer Bryan Wakeland, guitarist Philip Karnats, guitarist Nick Earl, and keyboardist Brandon Curtis, Tripping Daisy sported a punchy, full sound. But the memories of the late guitarist Wes Berggren (who died in 1999) and drummer Ben Curtis (Brandon’s brother, who passed away in 2013) hung over the otherwise jubilant night. It’s something DeLaughter acknowledged at the end of the set, telling the crowd “we all went through this together. It’s a given we miss Wes. It’s a given we miss Ben.”
DeLaughter also said this reunion wasn’t a one-time thing and a farewell -- well, to be accurate, it has been a two-time thing since they’d played a warm-up show at Club Dada Thursday night -- as there will be more performances scheduled. He also wanted to play at least one more song Saturday but said they’d already busted curfew and, with that, they sent everyone off into the warm night.
Yet it was a disconnect that a festival called Homegrown, launched as a celebration of Lone Star State music and with a Tripping Daisy reunion as its main drawcard, featured so many imported acts this year from afar afield as, gasp, London (though, according to Homegrown’s site, each of the acts has some tie to Texas. At the concert itself, it wasn’t clear what those were.)
Porches (New York), Still Corners (England), Lower Dens (Maryland, though singer Jana Hunter is originally from Arlington), and second-billed Mutemath (New Orleans/Nashville) helped round out the 12-act, two-stage line-up this year.
Mutemath turned in their usual crowd-pleasing set of angular, funky rock with singer Paul Meany twice diving into the crowd and drummer Darren King, one of the most athletic pounders in the business, keeping the energy level high.
The barreling, bluesy rock of Austin’s White Denim was similarly ferocious.
Earlier in the afternoon, the music of RC & the Gritz (Erykah Badu’s backing band) turned out to be perfect for a laid-back, sunny day as much of it was devoted to instrumental jams inspired by the likes of Mos Def and A Tribe Called Quest. Motorcade’s infectious, 80s-inspired rock, echoing with the strains of The Psychedelic Furs, The Church, and New Order, also toyed with the past while staying current.
But two of the day’s most memorable performances came from Porches, whose moody, electro-tinged rock left an indelible impression, and Lower Dens, whose brooding yet melodic sensibilities (including a downcast cover of Hall & Oates “Maneater”) were especially effective.
The second time was the charm for Dallas hip-hop/R&B act Cure for Paranoia who were supposed to play Fort Worth’s Fortress Festival two weeks ago but their set was canceled due to the expectation of bad weather. On Saturday, they showed off an engaging style and some convincing beats but, considering some of the lyrics, perhaps didn’t get the memo that there were going to be enough children (kids under 10 had free admission) running around that early in the day to make Homegrown look as much like a grade-school playground at recess as a music festival.