News Column

Concert review: Homegrown Music and Art Festival

May 11, 2014

By Cary Darling, Fort Worth Star-Telegram



May 11--May has become musicfest month in every corner of North Texas.

Last weekend was Plano's inaugural Suburbia Music Festival. Next weekend brings the Fort Worth Music Festival and Richardson's Wildflower! Art and Music Festival.

But on Saturday the attention was on Dallas for the fifth Homegrown Music and Art Festival at downtown's Main Street Garden Park which was headlined by The Toadies. It has now established itself as an important part of the local-music scene. For anyone who wants to get a glimpse of what's happening locally in one nearly 12-hour stretch -- indie-rock division, hip-hop and dance music are more the exception than the rule -- Homegrown is a good place to start.

As always happens at all-day events like this, deserving acts scheduled for early on the schedule play only to a few sun-resistant souls. So the likes of Goodnight Ned and Calhoun delivered punchy sets to a relative few. Houston's Wild Moccasins, who cheekily threw in a bit of Donna Summer's I Feel Love into their new-wave flavored pop, were hampered by a mix that buried the vocals of singer Zahira Gutierrez.

Fort Worth's The Phuss attracted a bigger set of fans down front for their energetic garage-rock but singer Joshua Fleming still tried to command those lolling in the shade along the sidelines to come out of the shadows. He didn't have much luck.

Things started to improve for the seductive hip-hop of Sam Lao who, with her DJ Imperial D, turned in a groovealicious set with tracks like Paradise (built around the hook of the Coldplay track) and the infectious self-empowerment of Frizzy-Haired Swag.

And it wasn't just about the beats. Lao is a coolly commanding figure onstage with both rhyming skills and a sense of humor. Such a combo should take her far.

Making an even stronger impression were Houston's 10-piece The Suffers who were making their North Texas debut. The group's retro soul-funk, fronted by the lung power of singer Kam Franklin, got the gathering crowd talking. After Franklin announced that the band would be returning to Dallas for the Index Festival this fall, no doubt many made a mental note to check them out again.

The set from Denton-scene veterans The Baptist Generals started off a bit disjointed but came together by the end. Austin's Black and White Years followed in Wild Moccasins' footsteps in terms of bringing back the '80s -- though more of in a Pixies-gone-pop way -- but had more luck connecting with the gathering crowd.

The revamped folk-rock outfit Seryn got their big "hit," We Will All Be Changed, out of the way early in the set, as if to say, "the old stuff was cool and all, but there's a bunch of new stuff you need to hear." And the set-closing Paths made that point artfully.

Mystery Skulls -- aka Luis Dubuc -- was the odd-man out Saturday. Not only was he the only EDM act on the bill but he doesn't live in Texas anymore. The former Dallas resident is now based in LA.

But the producer/DJ/singer turned in a rousing set of funky, surprisingly soulful electro, culminating in his club hit Ghost. Unlike a lot of other EDM DJs, Mystery Skulls doesn't just oversee a cascade of beats but he sings, too, giving his music a more personal edge.

Sarah Jaffe is a North Texas mainstay but if someone didn't know that Saturday, they got the idea when she was introduced by Rangers' manager Ron Washington. The singer-songwriter turned in her usual strong set, including a compelling new song, Lover Girl, and her best-known track, Clementine.

The set from Austin's Trail of Dead -- full name And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead -- was loud, cacophonous and seemingly unending, even though it was only an hour or so.

It was a walk down memory lane for Toadies watchers Saturday. Not only was the band introduced by long-time local writer Robert Wilonsky, who said he's known these guys for half his life, but they kicked off the 80-minute set by playing the Rubberneck album in its entirety. That means they palyed their North Texas sing-along rock anthems Possum Kingdom and I Come from the Water within the first half-hour .

The momentum dropped off a bit after that but the band's set of tense guitar rock, which also included a ferocious cover of a song from the Georgia post-punk band Pylon, still proved energizing.

Now, for fans of local music, it's on to Fort Worth next week.

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Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX)