At its best on Thursday night, 35 Denton accomplished what even its most conservative supporters and detractors originally idealized it for: To put smaller local acts in front of the eyes of an otherwise unobtainable audience.
It’s hard to call an act like Terminator 2 “small,” considering they have an entire wall of equipment to make their rather unsubtle sound. Though I have found bassist and singer David Saylor’s never-satisfied approach to add more speakers and more distortion almost pornographic, the trio had an appropriate amount of space, along a healthy crowd at Hailey’s, to match its intimidating noise.
Terminator 2, and Pinkish Black who performed after them, are live staples in the area, but as much as they may be on the more interesting spectrum of bands that play anything resembling loud rock music, they usually don’t have the luxury of such an attentive and sizeable audience.
That’s the great hustle of any smart festival: To make completely routine occurrences seem special, by way of mixing them into a hopefully worthwhile batch of national acts. That’s the part where you should really pay attention, and as I mentioned yesterday, it’s what 35 Denton does best.
The lines for claiming tickets were extended until 11 p.m., something that seemed essential considering the line stretched down Industrial Street after 10 p.m. But that’s not to imply things were not running smoothly; they were, to the point where if I was even a little bit late, I would miss an act. That rubbery liberty with the schedule is something that you can usually rely on in Denton, but not this year. The entire operation seemed to be running with a nonchalant confidence.
The Hive was probably the biggest controversy of the evening. At the bar, mixed drinks were listed as ten dollars, something that must have appeared as Zimbabwean hyperinflation to the average drinking Denton-ite. After all, for ten dollars you could purchase twenty mixed drinks at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios once-upon-a-time. The bar even closed early.
But the attendees didn’t seem to mind, as they made the most of the situation by goofing around, playing with hula hoops, and even actually dancing as DJs Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990 shared the stage in the organic manner that is their preferred working method, rather than having one act follow another in robotic fashion. A DJ from Dallas told me that it would be the only time he would make it out to the festival, and it occurred to me that as good as this showcase was, it would have been even better stretched out over the course of the weekend.
Elsewhere, Ralph White put on a lovely solo display of banjo, guitar, and African thumb piano known as a kalimba. His emotion is so deceivingly surface level; like a seemingly harmless Balkan lake that you know is a hundred feet deep were you to slip. But when he sings of dying or what will be done with vehicle’s remains after his death, you can almost make out weeping in his ancient falsetto.
Fellow FrontRow music writer Dick Sullivan had asked for consideration and silence from the crowd in his preview of White’s show, and of course, the crowd was not having it. I see him shoot a look over his shoulder at one particularly chatty cathy, and I wonder if he knows it’s Dan’s Silver Leaf namesake Dan Mojica. The whole scene was charming and amusing, rather than annoying however. Ralph White was oblivious to the conversations; he makes these anachronistic instruments seem so seductively out of our own era that you want to throw your iPhone in a creek and follow him around while he plays in an abandoned railroad station. And that’s some power, because trust me I never daydream of such hippie garbage.
Amusingly, the door guy at Dan’s, complete with gelled faux hawk and plaid shirt, complains as the crowd rushes out following Spooky Folk’s set. “Wow. What a bunch of hipsters,” he says with unhidden disgust. I’m immediately offended, as I always am by this have-it-both ways philosophy. “Oh, yeah?,” I shoot back. “What did you expect?”
“I didn’t have expectations. That’s the problem, “ he says. And before I launch into a tirade about how these “hipsters” have forked out a considerable amount of money to be here and are directly helping him to pay his bills, and yet here he is bashing people on looks alone, but hey, as long as the green keeps rolling in—I stop myself. I walk off. I realized I didn’t know what my expectations were either. But in any case, on the first night of the this festival, they were exceeded.
All Photos by Andi Harman