This weekend sees the return of the “Strategies of Beauty” mini-festival in Denton and the return is a welcome one. Founded in 2006 by the genre-straddling local band Shiny Around the Edges, the event originally hailed itself as “a floating, evolving music festival based in North Texas, that focuses on an ever-shifting sonic landscape.” If only they knew how right they were.
I wrote a review of the festival at the time that was never posted, presumably because of the harsh tone. And it was a positive review. But, boy, was I angry! The following draft excerpt is a preemptive response to the would-be critics of the extremely improvisational group, Idi Amin:
…like an eighth grader drawing Wolverine in his notebook, laughing about modern art and how you could do the same thing by splattering ink on a page. To the eight grade music fans on this website, I have some advice: Do your homework.
…In a town where once upon a time, I swear I couldn’t escape Lucy Loves f*cking Schroeder peeking at me from every friend’s CD visor when I rode shotgun, thank heavens North Texas can also claim Idi Amin.
So, my point at the time was that I was glad this little fest existed to balance the acts for which I felt had defined Dallas for too long. A lot has changed since the Summer of 2006, and it seems that unconventional music from the region has had more success than I ever could have guessed at that time. Strategies of Beauty 2013 boasts a couple of headlining bands, Pinkish Black and True Widow, who are on the well-known record labels, Century Media and Relapse respectively. Thus granting them both, coveted “national act” status. This separates this “Strategies of Beauty” from the one from seven years ago significantly. What was once a big showcase of the heavy and the strange, meant that obscurity also went hand-in-hand with such a musical path. This is no longer the case; it’s a great time to be a weirdo in North Texas, apparently.
While pondering the various differences, I decided to ask the always-quotable Scott Porter his feelings about the progress made since the first SoB event. Porter did not participate at the time, since he performed in the rather-popular act, Record Hop. Now he plays in a synth-saturated prog act, and he fits right in. “My previous involvement with Strategies of Beauty was limited to participating as a fan. I loved what Jennifer and Mike were doing back then, shining a light on some of the region’s hidden musical gems. It seems the underground is less obscure these days,” Porter said. He then continues about the various trailblazers who may have had a role in the North Texas underground’s increasing notoriety. “The fringe is easier to find thanks to the legacy and ongoing hard work of locally connected operations like Strategies, House of Tinnitus, Paper Stain, Handmade Birds, etc.”
Though it’s likely that not every “out there” band is destined for the modern musical world of micro-celebrity, Porter yields to his co-conspirator and Shiny Around the Edges co-founder, Mike Seman, regarding the success of some of the acts. “I think Mike put it best on Facebook … when he posted, “DFW PEEPS: In light of recent successes for many involved, I imagine this will be the last time many of these bands will be on the same stage together on the same night until, like… Coachella or something.” He then added, “The f*cked up part is that he’s not crazy.”
— Christopher Mosley
Dawn & Hawkes/Mary Walker/Mando Saenz (Dan’s Silverleaf): This music video reminds me of everything that ultimately defines what the hip Austin aesthetic really is: camera angles of a couple’s legs, a pair of thrift store cowboy boots, facial hair, hanging out around open water, and lots of humming. With lines like, “There’s a place for our belongings, we’re just longing to belong to someone again,” Dawn & Hawkes’ lyrics seem like they could be a more romanticized take on the Bob Dylan graffiti on The Drag with the tell-tale lyrics from “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
Piano aficionado Mary Walker claims to have started playing as recently as 2008. If true, then that’s pretty impressive considering almost all of her songs contain mainly piano or guitar (sometimes even both). She’s been playing the Denton circuit a lot recently, which might indicate to some that she’s gearing up for a big year in 2013, but her Heavy Hearts album seems to be lacking that certain sense of excitement that indie pop music tends to induce. Still, her acoustic rendition of “Beautifully” is worth a listen or two.
There should be no good reason why Mando Saenz’s twangy, and slightly whiny, voice is a relief to listen to, but who knew country music could still sound great without the usual male baritone? — Iris Zubair
GMF Social (The G0ss-Michael Foundation): This art mixer invites you to “Enjoy post-punk music while taking part in a creative experiment.” Sounds like every day of my life! — Christopher Mosley
“Ladies Night” (The Dram): Apparently groups of females of four or more will be treated to “free champagne” on this particular ladies night. The invite doesn’t specify the brand, but if this doesn’t work out, I totally know a guy who will treat you an endless fountain of Andre should you decide to show up in a group at his place off of Haskell. But he’s a total dirtbag. Hosted by Redsean. — Christopher Mosley
Other Thursday Shows:
“Discipline” (Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios)
DJ Virus/DJ Per/Keith P/Anthony Social (The Church)
Mike Dillon and Earl Harvin (The Kessler)
Mount Righteous/New Science Projects/Spooky Folk/Two Knights (Rubbergloves): Mount Righteous has a nine member line-up and a hilariously creepy video to share with you. I’ll have to caution you not to stare directly into their eyes or you may never get the awkwardness completely out of your system.
It’s probably been too long since you watched Dale Jones, the imaginative leader of New Science Projects, mumble and artificially bleed his way through a fantastically eclectic performance. No fear, here he is via Dan’s Silverleaf circa 2008. Of course, the best line of this whole video is Jones proclaiming, “I’m the saddest sack of s*** you ever tried to kick in the face.” — Iris Zubair
Geographer/Daniel Hart (Club Dada): This may not be kosher to say just yet, but dubstep seems to be making a slow exit out of the forefront of the electronica scene, giving way to the less serious pop sound infused with synthesizers and ominous lyrics about interchangeable topics. Cue San Fransisco natives Geographer and their catchy crowd-pleasers like “Original Sin” and “Paris.” As is with the case for a lot of California artists, a sense of existentialism and freedom is ever present in their music
For a preview of Daniel Hart’s set, check out Dick Sullivan’s encouraging words for The Orientalist on FrontRow. — Iris Zubair
Ulnae/Michael A. Morris/Orgullo Primitivo/ (Black Lodge): This wonderfully prickly lineup will also include video art by, Erika Duque, Darius Goodson, Evita Cortez, and Sashenka Lopez. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of Lopez’s past work, including one piece involving several women simulating a castration, finding an unconventional way to make tea, and well, all I can say is: Stand back. — Christopher Mosley
A.Dd+/Tunk/Topic/BrainGang (Granada): How will A.Dd+ top the success of their When Pigs Fly masterpiece, you ask? Well, when I spoke with Slim Gravy and Paris Pershun on the phone yesterday, they didn’t seem too worried. In fact, they assured me that DiveHiFlyLo is a far better record with a handful of new producers. I’m still such a huge fan of what PICNICTYME did on the last one (he’s still signed on for this one, thankfully), so we’ll see how the new sound plays out. Nonetheless, I know we’re all very optimistic and beyond excited for this release party. — Iris Zubair
“Glamorama” (Beauty Bar): Since this is a birthday show for DJ Blake Ward, and you know how DJs love to get themselves something special for their birthdays, the guest tonight may or may not be a DJ whose name rhymes with “Blank Sock.” I can’t say for sure. This is my best guess. — Christopher Mosley
Other Saturday shows:
Cat Power/Christian Bland & the Revelators (of The Black Angels) (South Side Music Hall)
Fungi Girls/Street Arabs/Not Half Bad (Doc’s Records): This event runs from 2:30 pm to 7 pm and will feature free food and drinks, assuming you have an ID for the drinks. All non-new release items will be 20 percent off and of course, the show is free. — Christopher Mosley
Bad Times/Square Business/Genius Party/Record Setter (1919 Hemphill): This is an album-release show for Bad Times.
Strategies of Beauty featuring Pinkish Black/True Widow/Shiny Around the Edges/Nervous Curtains/Strange Towers/Cerulean Giallo/Bitch Teeth (Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios): See introduction above.
Ty Segall/Ex-Cult/Endless Thoughts/The Atomic Tanlines (Club Dada)
Pocket Change/Jasper County Drag Queens (J & J’s Pizza)
Image: Ty Segall, performing in 2012, but will be at Club Dada on Saturday. Photo Credit: Andi Harman.