September got a raucous kick-off with 35 Denton’s summer jam-fest Hot Wet Mess, and boy, did it live up to its name. Hyperactive acts like Big Freedia, No Age and headliners Black Lips kept the good times a ‘rollin and the summer vibe a goin’, so even though fall continues to slowly creep upon us, none of it mattered at the North Texas Fairgrounds on Saturday.
It was hot. It was wet. It was messy. Anything and everything, at all times, and after multiple warnings that you will get wet at the festival from the folks at 35, no one could ever really fully grasp it until the event kick-off.
Let’s break down the day by performance, so you can live them again if you went, or live vicariously through them if you didn’t.
Fergus & Geronimo
You can never truly have a good, local music fest without a good, local band, and Fergus & Geronimo might be Denton’s newest pride and joy, giving them the opportunity to help kick off the killer lineup.
As fans began to trickle in, our boys F&G got started with their low-key, quirky style and drew a substantial crowd from all the way in the back of the grounds. The more eccentric fans wasted no time in getting their dance on, and just a few quick glances left and right showed some pretty skilled hipster hops scattered among the crowd.
It was a short set, but a sweet one, and once the guys exited the stage, people began to scan their surroundings for where to begin their intermission festivities. I, too, got in on the action: Do I go to the giant waterslide?
Do I check out the mini-ramp and watch in awe and jealousy as bikers and skaters defy gravity in every sense of the term?
Do I indulge in some free Vitamin Water? Yes. Yes I do. Several times.
So many options. So many food trucks. So many clothing booths, swag tents, odds and ends. Ah! I don’t know where to start. But it’s OK, because now it’s time for…
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
UMO was already in the day-long fest mood, if ya know what I mean. It was all languid, flowy movement, understated but powerful chord hits and all-in-all ethereal-ness. Lots of crowd swaying. Lots of eyes locked to the stage. Lots of dreaminess.
‘And what? There’s a wrestling ring on the other side?’ said pretty much everyone as the whole crowd moving to the back after UMO’s set. ‘But what can we expect from a wrestling ring at an indie-fest?’
Enter Ironic Mustache, stage left (probably not his real stage name, but he should consider adopting it).
His opponent’s costume has a razor blade dripping with blood plastered everywhere, and carried a bat which he used to threaten everyone, even the crowd. He talked a lot of smack. Mustachio primed his mustache and flexed and “let me at ‘em”-ed. And then this happened:
Razorblade took it home. Mustachio won over the hearts of hipsters everywhere. Everyone else was confused, but entertained. Keep it real, Denton, keep it real.
OK, so we’ve had some low-key stuff going on, minus the wrestling match of course. It’s been overall chill, y’know? And then…
One word: Booty. Booty everywhere.
This was the extent of my booty-shaking photos. I felt so wrong holding a camera and being so close to the stage. So, so wrong. So I took to the crowd, who were moments away from combusting with energy.
Now THIS is where the party starts. Freedia won everyone over in a matter of one song, with the help of four backup dancers who must never tire because I still don’t know how they moved that much. One of them even jumped off the stage and danced right toward me.
Freedia won over everyone’s hearts by explaining how important it was they make the festival coming from Louisiana, right in the middle of Hurricane Isaac madness. I heard several people chattering that nothing could top that set, and that was the point where people began camping out near the front of the stage to get as close to the action as possible, in case anything that feisty were to kick up again.
Fourth bottle of Vitamin Water? Check. But it looked like I was behind the rankings, considering all the festivities behind me.
One look at Reggie Watts’ big hair, mod sunglasses and painted pinkies, and the audience was in love. There were slow jams, there was beatboxing, there was laughter all around.
Reggie’s stream-of-consciousness musical style was a welcomed, quirky intermission between Big Freedia’s antics and No Age’s upcoming chaos. Between the funk parodies, the array of voice-instruments and the tales of otherworldy Dent-on being saved from an intergalactic battle, not a serious face was found. Reggie used the stage and truly connected to the fans to make an unforgettable set.
With much thanks to Reggie for really drawing the crowd in, No Age took to the stage in no time and was ready to rock. I spotted one hardcore fan in the crowd next to me, encapsulated in his own little world where only he and the music exist:
And even a little girl, who I believe is going to have some great music taste when she gets older, joined in on the vivacity.
And after just a couple of songs, the Fairgrounds echoed with driving guitar and fast-paced drumset, sneaking into the crowd’s spirits and causing them to, well, push forward. Bring in the security!
New gateways had to be formed to keep people from tackling the fences down, which actually happened once by accident, thanks to the ever-growing moshpit in the center of the crowd. One song featured choppy, driving riffs that slowed every three seconds, causing a groove in the crowd that shifted between headbanging hops and slow head nods.
No Age introduced headliners Black Lips would be coming up next, and if their set was going to be anything like No Age’s, everyone was in for an insane hour.
It grew dark right as Black Lips took the stage for their headlining performance, an occasional stage light being shone down on the crowd which got them riled up in all kinds of ways.
And then the beer came, and went, and was passed around and splashed around. I had expected to get wet from the water slide, or from water guns, but never from all the beer being tossed around.
And for goodness sake, there were rolls of toilet paper being thrown from the stage and drinks being shared and all kinds of smells and sweat accumulating around. But it’s the Hot Wet Mess, so it’s not like no one expected it (after all, it proves your set is inciting a reaction).
I particularly noticed it while taking this photo from the center of the crowd, feeling hotter than I had when I walked in at 1 p.m. Even the moshpit grew into a monster from the center, and security had to eventually bring in more people to control the crowd (and the people sneaking onstage to stage dive).
But really, there are few other bands as perfect for this atmosphere as the Black Lips, whose punky spirit and loud nature exemplified everything a headlining act should be.
Their performance of “Bad Kids” as the last song was the end all, be all. It’s fitting they finished with that song, because if anyone had gotten any more excited than how much they already were, those gates would have gotten torn down and people probably would have gotten trampled. It was that crazy, and that awesome.
I still can’t figure out who had the performance of the night. So many different acts and styles were put together in one place, so I was just in love with all of them, as I’m sure many others were. (If you’ve got a favorite, go vote on our Facebook poll and let us know your thoughts!)
Here’s to hoping the next product from 35 Denton proves as big and reactive as the Hot Wet Mess, but knowing 35, I think we can all safely expect a good time.
Remember to check out our photo gallery of the festival here!