The air was cool, the ground was damp, and sky was grey. This isn't typically how you want to explain the weather of a walkable four-day music festival, but that's what Mother Nature had in store for us. The dreary conditions sure did make things uncomfortable but that's about where the annoyances stopped. The anticipation for this year's installment of 35 Denton, or any variation thereof, was at fever pitch and while the weather was not ideal, everyone's spirits were shining bright.
I made my way up to Denton immediately after work, hoping to bypass the majority of the afternoon traffic jams. Within an hour, I was slowly making my way to the Labb to retrieve my wristband and press pass. It was then that I realized that I there were a ton of bands I wanted to see, but I did not plan at all for how I was going to venture between venues. So it hit me. I was gonna try to make as many different shows as I could, regardless of the proximity of the venues. I heard a lot of belly-aching about how Rubber Gloves is 'not close' in regard to the rest of the Square. Really?? At CMJ in New York City, the shows are spread throughout the Lower East Side (LES) of Manhattan and around Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn. Most venues are at least a few blocks away from the next closest venue. It's really not that big of deal, unless you're looking to catch two bands playing during the same time slot. If that's the case, drive yourself there or have a buddy pick you up. Problem solved. Now, on with the show!!
As I waited for the performances to begin, I had a beer here and a beer there, just passing the time away. But as the time finally came for the festival's music to begin, I found myself at the Mellow Mushroom for Dallas Distortion Music's showcase featuring the Rich Hands from San Antonio. These guys were straight from the 1950's, racing through short, to-the-point surf-inspired songs, pleasing to the ears and easy to get you moving. After a few songs, I had to pull myself away from their set, as I was really enjoying their music. But there was music elsewhere to be heard. Still within the same time slot, I walked over to Dan's Silverleaf and caught a couple songs from Dallas's Noonday Morningstar. They're a blend of the rock stylings of the Toadies mixed with the fun, story-driven songs of most bar bands you typically come across. After a couple songs, I was on the move and caught the ending song of Denton's Fab Deuce at Andy's. The group was working the small crowd at Andy's and proved to be a great finish to the 9:30p-10:15p slot.
From Andy's, I walked down to Sweetwater where the A.M. Ramblers were setting their equipment up. I was greeted a woman in her 50's, asking if I was a fan or knew of the band's music. I politely said no but I was interested to hear their songs. Of course, this was one of the Rambler's moms and she was quietly marketing her son's band. The Ramblers jumped off to a great start, the eclectic sound of folk was in full force with their upright bass and janglin' banjo. The vocals were raspy and sincere, and the crowd responded with whoops and hollers. Again, I had to pull myself away so I could make other shows. I then found myself at Rubber Gloves, just in time to catch Terminator 2's final song and a half. A very dark, gut-wrenching sound of heavy rock was in the air, punching your eardrums right in their metaphorical faces. Good thing I brought my earplugs to this performance. I was really expecting to catch more of their set, but by that time, Rubber Gloves was at near capacity and it took a longer to get into the venue. A preview of things to come.
By my own lapse in judgement, I went to Rubber Gloves not remembering that I wanted to catch Bleached at the Labb. If you're not familiar with the geography of the festival, they are the two furthest apart venues at 35 Denton. So I galloped back to the Labb where there was a nicely-formed, thirty-plus people line wait to get in. At first I imagined it was for swiping ID's or purchasing tickets but no, it was because the Labb was at capacity and it was a one-out, one-in process. As I waited to get in, you could hear Bleached starting their set. The crowd inside was bouncing around and people outside could only look and say, "they sound good". By a few strokes of luck, a few groups of five or so people left and I quickly made my way inside. Their infectious pop punk sound was in full swing and the crowd was eating it up. But all too soon, their set was over and I was slightly annoyed that I had missed about half of it. Oh well, it was definitely a good sign that these shows were at or near capacity. It just showed how popular 35 Denton has become.
For the last time slots of the evening, I knew I wanted to catch G-Side, a performer on Main Stage 2 from last year's 35 Conferette, at Andy's. So I found a good spot and waited for them to take the stage. Luckily for me, they started a little early, which gave me extra time to catch more of other performances at other venues. The duo from Alabama mentioned how they enjoy their trips to Denton and then showed the crowd their appreciation by displaying their top-notch rapping skills, which have gained them much critical acclaim the past couple of years. But like before, I had to pull myself away and try to catch some of the last performances of the night. I trotted down to Hailey's to catch NYC's Designer Drugs. And man, he (I only saw one of the duo performing) was putting on an electronic clinic in Hailey's. I love me some electronic dance music (EDM) and this was definitely the place to be for that. The crowd was dancing away as the beats poured down, only to start dipping their heads in unison as he dropped some dubstep on them. It was a lot of fun but the night wasn't over yet. I raced up to Denton Square Donuts and caught Cowboy Indian Bear from Lawrence, KS. And I have to say, they might have been my favorite of the night. Their sound was so dynamic but not overdone. Their music just had a great mix of vocal harmonies and perfectly-timed transitions, it really caught your attention. I just sat there and tried to catch every note they played because the music just sounded so good. It was probably the best way I could have ended my evening but I went over to the Labb to catch one last glimpse of music and that's about all I caught there. I literally walked in as Mikal Cronin was finishing his set. It sounded good to me but I didn't hear nearly enough for me to make a valid judgement.
So needless to say, it was a very productive and somewhat exhausting first day. Can't wait to do it again tonight. See you there.