Friday, March 11, 2011
35 Conferette reviews: Best of Thursday
When Mavis Staples took the stage, the 35 Conferette was transformed from a mere festival to a full on revival with literal dancing in the streets.
DENTON For four days of the 35 Conferette, we'll be on-site reviewing the best bands. Some reviews will be local, some won't – but all will attempt to choose the Denton festival's best acts.
Sarah Jaffe: Main Stage 1
This local music darling, who has had her fair share of the local and national spotlight over the past year, had quite a bit of hype to live up to during her set at 35 Conferette. The buzz around her has been growing since the release of her highly acclaimed album, Suburban Nature, and she delivered. Her vocals are incredible, but her stage presence left something to be desired. Perhaps a large outdoor venue isn’t the best place for an artist of her caliber; a small, intimate venue is definitely a better fit. Those in attendance got to take a listen to some of new, unreleased tracks and see her take a poor attempt at an a capella performance of “Shut It Down” by Drake and The Dream.
Secret Sisters: Main Stage 1
It is probably safe to say that this Alabama duo, who happen to be actual sisters, won over quite a few new fans with their mix of heavenly harmonies and Americana roots-influenced music. These girls were spoon-fed bluegrass and what they call “real country” from the moment they were born, and even though they have only been performing for six months, you can’t tell. Armed with just a guitar and their siren-like harmonies, they enchanted and charmed listeners with polite banter and cute colloquialisms. It was the first time that the sisters had ever performed at a festival, and they did an excellent job. They even won over legendary gospel singer Mavis Staples, who would later tell festivalgoers that their beautiful harmonies sound “like hummingbirds.”
Mavis Staples: Main Stage 1
For such a small woman, Staples has a big voice. But with the kind of gospel music she performed, mixed with a little R&B and a dash of soul, it was vital to have a voice strong enough to command the large audience that seemed to appear out of nowhere as the Grammy winner took the stage. As soon as she sang the first note, 35 Conferette was transformed from a mere festival to a full on revival with literal dancing in the streets. At 71 years old, Staples had more energy than any other performer that day. As she was preaching from her musical pulpit, audience members would shout, cheer, and dance to the words she sang and the beats that legendary drummer Levon Helm provided. The more involved Staples became, the more involved the audience became. One fan even threw a “Keep Denton Beard” shirt onstage, which Staples proudly showed off.
The New Science Projects’ show at The Hydrant was a microcosm of what the 35 Conferette is all about: an exposé on local talent. There was plenty of talent on and off stage Thursday night, as Dale Jones, backed by a full band, semi-coherently stormed across the stage while the audience sang along. Sort of like a rowdy Irish bar where everyone’s favorite song is playing, the crowd and band bonded in the hysterics. And who could blame them? Many who were there were from Denton, and a local favorite was rocking a packed house at their hometown music festival. We successfully made it through Day One.
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