Occupying 9 venues and 2 Main Stages, the 7th annual 35 Denton Music Festival proved it is still a force to be reckoned with. Showcasing some 100+ native, as well as international, acts in only three short days, there was a steady supply of talented performers present to satisfy those anticipating summer music festival season.

All photos by Ellie Alonzo.

Here’s how we spent the weekend:

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Day One // Animal Spirit

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To kick things off, we headed over to LSA off the Square and where Fort Worth’​s​ Animal Spirit was serving up a blend of indie-surf-pop goodness and taking the audience out to sea with melodies that would make you weak in the knees. With a small stage and limited floor space, these local babes still managed to make the most of their surroundings and transfix those present with all their shimmery chorus laden splendor.

As if their sense of dynamics couldn’t​ ​get any better, their 3 and 4 part harmonies could make a grown man cry. We also spotted their drummer Parker Anderson slaying the drums with not only his drumsticks, but his bare hands as well. Can’t​ ​wait to catch these guys live again!

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Pearl Earl

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Afterwards, we stopped by PAAC as well as Harvest House to get down with Denton’​s​ reigning psych-pop queens in Pearl Earl who pulled out all the stops in not one, but two performances Friday evening after locals *~~ (pronounced “​A​sterisk Tilde Tilde”​) ​were unable to perform.

Playing standards from their 2015 debut EP ‘​K​araoke Superstar,’ ​t​hose in attendance were pleasantly surprised to find some fresh psychedelic additions to their usual setlist just in time for 35. Imagine if Black Sabbath and the B52s made a baby and their collective love child sprouted wings and learned to fly. That’s what Pearl Earl is like.

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Mountain of Smoke

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For those in need of some darker dungeon-oriented jams, we ventured down into the depths of Abbey Underground to catch DFW’​s​ Mountain of Smoke brimming with all the infernal hellfire of your Mother’​s​ worst nightmare.

This sludgy two piece left our heads spinning after being pulverized by their earth shatteringly heavy riffs jettisoned by speakers stacked ceiling high and adorned with none other than human skulls. Needless to say, this band is not for those faint of heart.

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Tacocat

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To keep ourselves from falling prey to our innerdemons, we headed back over to PAAC to vibe out with Seattle-based Tacocat playing new tracks from their soon to be released third studio album, Lost Time. These palindrome pop-punk princesses brought the heat with their sarcastically-witty lyrics and tongue-in-cheek banter in-between songs such as “​I ​Hate the Weekend”​, ​“​F​DP”​, ​and “​Y​ou Can’t Fire Me, I Quit”​. ​

If only we could all look as good adorned in their leopard spotted, lipstick smeared and sequin coated wardrobes. We’​d​ all exist in a more illustrious and sticky bubblegum wonderland. Good thing we caught these aliens before they headed down to SXSW.

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GUM

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After being covered in all the ooey-gooey bubble gum ooze, we hightailed it to Andy’​s​ Bar to check out none other than GUM (no not the Tame Impala solo side project helmed by Jay Watson of the same name). As it would turn out, these dudes hailing from OKC have actually been playing together for some time. Having formed back in 2008, long before Jay Watson’​s​ initial release of “​D​eLorean Highway”​ i​n 2014, this five piece have been casting melodic spells on audiences for close to a decade now.

Their first full length self-titled album dropped a little over a year ago. Some might say it was a long time coming, however these fellas know a thing or two about keeping a crowd on their toes. With imaginative compositions and overall inventive instrumentation, not only do these guys have tasty jams, but their songs’ overall subject matter is in no short supply of introspective depth.

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HUNNY

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To close out our first night of 35 Denton, we went and danced our asses off with Southern California’​s​ very own HUNNY over at Rubbergloves Rehearsal Studio. If you are in need of some new tunes to go ape shit over heading into Summer 2016, check these guys out stat!!! They recently released their debut EP “​P​ain/Ache/Loving”​ late last year and are scheduled to play a few shows this week at SXSW so go catch them down in Austin while you can.

With songs reminiscent of late 80s dance pop, teamed with a slight punk edge, these dreamy motherfuckers with faces covered in glitter brought down the house Friday night. As huge self-professed fans of Prince, it’s​ easy to see how the Purple One influences this SoCal six-piece to make people want to get down and shake it on the dance floor.

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Day Two // Purple

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Saturday required some much needed hydration after the monumental drunken dance party the night prior, so after a little breakfast and ample recuperation we were back at it again and moving full steam ahead.

We hit up Main Stage Two and jammed out hard with the smoking hot trio out of Beaumont, Texas known simply as Purple. If their album cover for their debut album “​4​09”​ i​s not enough of an indicator of how hard these guys party you need to go get your eyes checked. With a style as expansive as they are badass these three pull off a fusion of Garage Rock/ Hip Hop/ and Reggae with a rhythm section funky enough to compel the shyest of souls to bust a move.

Needless to say, you’re undoubtedly in for a good time if you can catch these guys live. We copped a copy of their vinyl after their set and spoke with their bass player Joe Cannariato who told us they’r​​e set to drop their upcoming album “​B​odacious”​ ​April 1st after an eleven show stint down in ATX for SXSW. Them some busy bees, but when they rock out it’s sweet as honey.

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Bad Beats

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Next up we headed on over to Dan’​s​ Silver Leaf to catch a couple Denton natives. The venue was alternating indoor and outdoor performances and we were happy to catch a crowded set for local favorites Bad Beats outside on the back patio with plenty of people in attendance. Keeping with the theme of power trio’​s​ from the previous set these three fellas killed it. After releasing their debut album “​T​ough Luck”​ ​early last summer their punk-infused garage rock is always met with warm response from their audience.

Known for putting on energetic performances Josh Banks and the boys got down to the nitty gritty without any hesitation showing us they’r​​e not afraid to get their hands dirty to show a crowd a good time. They closed out their set with their self-titled track “​B​ad Beats”​ ​ending their set on a high note collectively chanting their name in unison. “​W​e Are Ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-ad Beats!”​

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Dome Dwellers

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Soon there afterwards we caught yet another super groovy set outside on the back patio at Dan’​s​ with local golden boys Dome Dwellers. Having recently returned from a West Coast tour this experimental and melody heavy two piece has got it all. Good vocals. Excellent instrumentation. And a drummer who holds his own entirely without the need of the traditional drum and bass pairing. These guys are fantastic in all senses of the word which is only further exemplified by frontman Michael Slack’​s​ artistic vision and integrity as an artist. They recently released a solid EP entitled “​I​vory Tower”​ l​ate last summer adding new tracks to their repertoire that definitely compliment and add new dimensions to their always stellar sets. Melodic math rock has met its maker amidst this band’s forward thinking attitude and you can be sure big things are on the horizon for these guys so keep your eyes peeled to see what they think up next.

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Thin Skin

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Hungry for some dope pizza and cold beer we migrated on over to catch the up and coming local degenerates in Thin Skin tear up the pizza basement over at J&Js. They’​v​e stayed extremely busy in a little over a years’ ​t​ime releasing a 6 track EP as well as recordings from a live set they played at Double Wide in Dallas last December.

The start of 2016 saw this bizarre trio undertaking a West Coast tour out to California and all the way up the coast with a number of shows including tour stops in both Seattle and Portland. Talk about some productive sons of bitches. These post-punk-noise-rock aficionados blew the roof off the damn place all the while serving as the backdrop for Evan Henry of Dallas Distortion Music’​s​ trippy glitched out projections. The band cranked out a handful of their standards such as “​S​loppy”​, ​“​T​rump Is A Pig”​, ​and “​F​lip Flop Baby”​ i​n all their convoluted noise brutality. When it comes to Thin Skin all you need to know is political correctness need not apply with these artsy noise rock weirdos. They are here to fuck shit up come hell or high water so get the fuck back and brace for impact.

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Charles Bradley And His Extraordinaires

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After having our faces melted beyond all conceivable recognition we ran over to the Main Stage to get funkafied by Saturday nights incredible headliner Mr. Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires. First off if you’r​​e unfamiliar with this man and his career he is a Soul a​nd R&B legend! This 67 year old Funk God got his start moonlighting as a James Brown impersonator under the moniker “Black Velvet” during the 90’s just before being discovered by Gabriel Roth, co-founder of infamous Daptone Records.

He is best known for his revivalist approach celebrating the feel of old school funk and soul music of the 60’s and 70’s. Not to mention this daring R&B dynamo has been sampled by the likes of modern hip hop greats that include Jay-Z and Asher Roth to name a few. His band was on fire Saturday night as he belted out cosmic revelation after revelation of soulful heartfelt genius putting on quite a show for the various concertgoers of this year’s 35 Denton Music Festival.

Calling on the audience to make the changes necessary for the universal benefit of all mankind, Mr. Bradley’s borderline religious funk gospel was felt by everybody in attendance. With elaborate costume changes and sultry dance moves to boot his performance was definitely a major highlight of this year’s festival. Beach balls flying. Good vibes vibing and Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires delivering the truth to anyone within ear shot.

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Felt & Fur

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Filled to the brim with the higher frequencies brought on by such a spectacularly soulful R&B performance, we made our way back over to LSA Burger to step deep inside the dark cavernous electronic cathedral that is Denton’​s​ Felt & Fur.

How they all fit on that tiny stage we have no idea with their wide array of amplifiers, synthesizers, drum machines and the like. But they jumped right into their set upon our arrival and within seconds the dance floor was a blur of bodies bumping and grinding to the dark gothic beats of this brilliant local band. Singer Alizsha Pennington’​s​ haunting vocals set the tone for the sacrificial funeral-pop that played menacingly for those getting down. Arpeggiation after arpeggiation of synthesized greatness bouncing off the ceiling and out onto the square reverberating back off the eerily monolithic backdrop provided by the old Courthouse situated just beyond the bands’ heads.

These local electronic alchemists have been making waves since their formation in 2014 and has only been further solidified upon the release of their album last September entitled “​N​ear Death”​. ​If you’r​​e looking for a doom disco these guys have got you covered and for those that enter beware. Shits about to get scary.

 

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The Garden

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We wiped the sweat from our brows after the gothic dance party and journeyed back into J&Js pizza dungeon this time to get weird with Orange, California’​s​ The Garden. These experimental punk-wonder twins, Wyatt and Fletcher Spears (previously associated with Burger Records) got freaky in a hurry for all parties present on our last stop of the festival Saturday evening. They have released numerous records since their inception in 2011 and have toured with several big name bands including Dana Point, California’​s​ the Growlers. So it was a pleasant surprise to see them featured on the 35 lineup this year.

Their set was an interesting mix of trip hop loops and basement wall acrobatics jumping off of the walls and handing people in the audience litter in between brutal drum and bass experimentation. With strange antics in full effect, they abandoned their instruments at one point taking to the microphones to get everyone in the cramped and confined space nice and rambunctious swinging from the rafters and jumping off the kick drum in fairly rapid fashion. If you didn’t​ ​know better you might feel you had walked into.

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ABACABA

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Sunday came and went in a blur of bright colors and brilliant sounds. For starters, we made our way over to the second main stage just in time to catch local greats ABACABA jump into action. Featuring two members from the highly celebrated psych-pop outfit Pearl Earl, this psychedelic/blues/rock collective kicked out the jams with soulful intensity and warmth waking up weary stragglers still plagued by the previous nights over indulgences.

Lead singer and guitar player, Ben Copeland, ripped through the sound waves delivering passionate guitar fluidity solo after solo clad in heart shaped shades. Watching these lovely locals is like stepping back in time to witness rock and roll greatness transplanted from the golden age of the genre itself.

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Brothers In Law

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Immediately afterwards we drifted over to the Main Stage to catch the sonically profound Italian noise-pop foursome known as Brothers In Law. Having formed in 2011 these internationally renowned musicians possess a chill laid back atmosphere while still managing to perform some of the heavier jams made available to listeners at this weekends 35 Denton Music Festival.

Balancing between a state of sheer melodic melancholy and spacious synth drenched walls of sound these guys exhibited a dreamy sense of dynamics both self aware and mature beyond measure. If we didn’t know any better we’d say these Italian lof-fi go getters were capable of shaking the Earth to its core with their expansive rumbling bass reminiscent of early 90’s shoegaze notoriety.

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White Reaper

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The next act we caught was the incredibly fun balls to the wall garage-punk rockers known as White Reaper. These Kentucky natives who are signed to Polyvinyl Records share label rosters with the likes of several other stand outs that include of Montreal, Deerhoof, Japandroids, STRFKR, and Jacco Gardner just to name a few. So it should come as no surprise that this overwhelming ecstatic handful of a band were so especially explosive during their Main Stage performance late Sunday afternoon. They ran through their set at a dizzying pace leaving the audience just enough time in between songs to catch our breath while covering a wide range of tracks from their self-titled debut album as well as their recently released follow up entitled “White Reaper Does It Again”.

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Eliot Sumner

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Following these punk rock powerhouses, rock royalty and English musician Eliot Sumner took to the Main Stage. In case you were wondering, Sumner just so happens to be the daughter of the world famous singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, activist, actor and philanthropist, Sting. Eliot is currently on tour promoting her newly released EP entitled “Information” which just so happens to be her first release to date under her own name. Wielding what appeared to be one of her father’s vintage 51’ Precision Fender Basses, Sumner got the whole audience to dance.

Sarah Jaffe and Ronnie Heart were spotted amongst the audience. With such notorious local A-listers present in the crowd, all lines of division soon blurred as we were all ushered to get down as equals to Sumner’s thunderous sonic offerings. If you caught this electrifying set, you may now be of the same opinion that the up-and-coming Eliot Sumner may very well be giving her legendary father a run for his money.

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Biz Markie

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Gravitating around the Main Stage we stuck around and caught all the insanity as the festival headliner Biz Markie finally took the stage. He started things off with a Dj set of assorted sounds and genres ranging from the early roots of Hip Hop incorporating samples of Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie and even working in the Southern Rock staple Lynyrd Skynyrds “Sweet Home Alabama”.

All the while the Clown Prince of Hip Hop kept the audience grooving to the beat of an eclectic mix of sights and sounds as he scratched and fused a little bit of anything and everything you could dream of. Intermittent circles opened up across the crowd displaying dancers far and wide living it up before the festival slowly motioned to draw towards its close. Before we headed out to go catch a couple additional acts Slobberbone took to the stage and Biz commandeered the microphone working the crowd like a seasoned veteran. Just as we were leaving a cascade of confetti began to fall on the audience as everybody lost their shit in reverence to the hip hop maestro’s phenomenal performance.

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Helen Kelter Skelter

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Filled with excitement from the turnout at the Main Stage, we headed back down stairs over at J&Js to grab a couple slices of Za and catch Norman, Oklahoma’s Helen Kelter Skelter in all their psych-rock glory. Having caught these guys playing 35 Denton the year prior, we knew exactly what to expect from these deviously amazing sounding devils. Their debut self-titled album was released early last summer. We spoke with guitar player Tim Gregory who confirmed they’re putting the last finishing touches on their upcoming album. As they ran through their setlist, those present headbanged and chugged beer to the atmospheric spacey grooves of this incredible group of musicians.

These guys are constantly on the move playing in and around the DFW metroplex, as well as the surrounding areas of OKC. If ever you get the chance, we highly recommend jumping at the opportunity to catch these guys doing what they do best: melting fucking faces off of unsuspecting showgoers.

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Acid Dad

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Just as we were about to call it a night, the fellas in Helen Kelter Skelter convinced us to stick around and catch the last set of the evening down in the decrepit pizza basement so we grabbed a couple tall boys and were pleasantly surprised by NYC’s psych-punk madmen Acid Dad. Looking around, we noticed a handful of familiar faces in attendance as we were accompanied by members of HKS as well as Kentucky’s White Reaper from the main stage earlier Sunday afternoon. Slowly the crowd filled in and before long these boys were brandishing their heavy hitting rock riffs into the stratosphere much to the amusement of the engaged audience.

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Overall, 35 Denton was full of spectacular performances and a wide variety of impressive artists, confirming this music festival is alive and well and still has a lot to offer. Now if only we could rest and hibernate until next year so we can see what 35 Denton will have to offer in 2017. Whatever it is, we’re sure it will be well worth the wait provided our livers are capable of recovering.

 

 

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