DENTON – While digesting the schedule for the first day of the NX35 music festival in Denton, it rapidly became plain that tonight’s docket was the weakest of the inaugural event’s four days.
Also plain: that it was by design. Thursday isn’t a critical live-music night in most music towns, much less Denton – and particularly here now as spring break at the University of North Texas begins to wane past halfway. Downtown traffic, both on wheels and on foot, was sparse, and half of the attendees at the fest’s nine active venues tonight were band folk or their hangers on.
Besides: The first day of the first year of any mildly ambitious music showcase is going to sprout slowly, even awkwardly. So details such as tonight’s set-time delays (at least three clubs were behind by a half hour or more), the poor venue map in the otherwise decent fest brochure, and having to swipe IDs and log signatures at most sites were hiccups to be expected and tolerated.
So, too, is the familial vibe that anchors Denton’s music-scene archetype. Loose and experimental bands pour forth from this town because the players talk frequently and openly about being loose and experimental. The long-standing tradition of secret house parties here is Exhibit A for that socially jazzy approach, which with the rise of online social networking and self-directed, grass-roots (or maybe glass-roots, as in the fiberglass optics that allowed broadband internet to explode) music marketing has this music town potentially poised to grow from curiosity to major player in advancing American rock and pop.
I ran into Brave Combo‘s Jeffery Barnes at the Boiler Room just before grrl duo Gun Gun‘s raggedy but promising set of power-puffy riff punk. His NX35-sponsored talk tomorrow with Art&Seek’s own master eclectician Paul Slavens about “Bringin’ the Weird” to music – something that Brave Combo has won Grammys for doing – should be exceedingly piquant in light of something he discovered while reading up on the word ‘weird’.
“Back in the middle ages, its meaning was actually closer to something similar to fate,” he said. “You know the three weird sisters in [Shakespeare’s] Macbeth? Seems like they were actually meant to represent the three fates.”
Perhaps NX35, piggybacked as it is to next week’s gigantic, industry-mandated South by Southwest Music Festival and Conference in Austin, is part of Denton’s fate as a music-generating town. After all, much of Austin’s cultural cognoscenti already campaign to keep their city weird – and NX35’s genesis was as an unofficial showcase of Denton bands at SXSW in 2005.
Musically, though, Denton is today’s truly weird Texas town. And the next three days just get better and better in terms of showing that off at NX35.