Ruminations On 35 Denton 2013.
If you were looking for a metaphor for the final day of the 2013 version of the 35 Denton festival, it wasn't too difficult to spot a particularly large one looming on Sunday night.
Right there, just to the left of Main Stage One, one of the two festival banners flanking the stage was starting to pull loose from its moorings. But as it flailed almost triumphantly in the progressively chiller winds of the evening, the banner refused to give up its fight.
Instead, it remained mostly fastened in place, hanging on for dear life, seemingly well aware of the fact that, in just a few hours, the whole four-day event would mercifully reach its end and things would be OK.
Attendees of the four-day festival no doubt felt similar wear and tear as the sun began to set on Sunday night. Alas, there was plenty more to see before the festival would take its final bow — perhaps nothing more greatly anticipated than the first Texas performance from Sonic Youth mastermind Thurston Moore's new Chelsea Light Moving project.
Moore, who began his set by shedding his winter park (a sign of solidarity with the audience, no doubt), was indeed in pretty good spirits during that set, if also somewhat restrained. The was louder, perhaps, than expected, but a visual dud as the band barely moved at all from their original posts on stage. Still, it was nice to hear Moore retaining some of Sonic Youth's earlier sound, if not its antics.
Things were significantly more mellow over at the fittingly named Mellow Mushroom once the night shows kicked off. Blessin', a four-piece of Denton young 'uns with a thing for jangly beach pop, started things off and impressed with their innocent, but undeniably catchy, offerings. Too bad it was mostly the band's teenage fans checking out their set.
Following Blessin' came another local act, Blackstone Rangers, who were one of seven Dallas bands (almost half of the fest's count) booked to play this not-quite-a-venue. Not content to let the setting affect their performance, guitarist Derek Kutzer nary gave his fog machine foot pedal a break — much to the dismay of the diners still eating dinner, but much to the pleasure of those actually watching his band perform their catchy brand of electric pop..
But it was Dan's Silverleaf that seemed the place to be on Sunday night, as the venerable Denton venue played host Atlanta scuzz punks The Coathangers, New York-based guitar heroine Marnie Stern and a rescheduled performance from San Francisco-based synth droners Midday Veil, whose patio stage set at Dan's had been rained out the night before.
Performing their first-ever Denton show, The Coathangers, without question, were the biggest draw of the night. A crowd some 40 festivalgoers long stretched out from the venue's door by the start of the all-female quartet's set; as the performance would go one, though, most everyone would get in — and just in time to see the band have a minor meltdown. With the band's members switching instruments and all set long, there came a moment about halfway through the band's set when one of the Coathangers just couldn't get her equipment to work. Still, the band — enthralled — cheered the band on, and, in turn, the ladies soldiered forward, the crowd all too happy to receive whatever the band would give them.
Out back, Midday Veil stole a page from Blackstone Rangers' playbook, demanding that the cigarette-smoking patrons pay attention to their set — if not for their dramatic sound, then for the smoke that billowed from their onstage machines.
Finally, Marnie Stern closed out the night with something of a treat — and fittingly a pretty punk rock end. Stern, forever hailed in the press for her guitar-playing proficiency, employed a healthy dose of finger-tapping in her play, which was perhaps a little surprising to see, but not to hear; her whole set was fairly rocking, if a little poppier than anticipated. And though the crowd on hand didn't seem too familiar with the material being played, there was a reason for that: “That's the first time we've ever played our new album live,” Stern said, referencing her upcoming-later-this-month The Chronicles of Marnia release, just after taking off her guitar and right before she calmly exited the stage.
“Oh?” a man nearby in the crowd responded out loud to no one in particular. “Awesome!“
It was a fitting end for the festival, which, this year, was forced to deal with more than its fair share of issues between Saturday's rain, Sunday's chill and all those unexpected band cancellations.
Sometimes, you get something nice, even if you don't expect it.