By Greg Ackerman
Photos courtesy of Mike Manewitz
For the past nine years, Dallas has hosted a small-format live music festival called Homegrown Fest featuring top Texas acts. Last Saturday the tradition resumed at Main Street Garden park in the heart of Big D. Headliners Explosions in the Sky performed with neo-psychrock veterans, The Black Angels and one of that band’s inspiration, Roky Erickson.
Homegrown Festival was in danger of being cancelled due to poor ticket sales but an article that appeared in the Dallas Morning News seemed to have helped boost ticket sales. Organizers also elected to cut production costs, striking the second stage from the site plan and slashing the number of production and security personnel on hand. To their credit, the show ran on time all day in spite of that fact.
We arrived at the park as Denton’s Acid Carousel was preparing to kick off. The scraggly bunch of musicians looked like they’d been beamed in from another era, sporting 60’s vintage striped pants and bell-bottoms with rock star accessories as they worked through their set. The audience response was favorable from the handful of fans who showed up early to catch the group.
A hot, humid day in Dallas meant attendance ramped up slowly with only a handful of fans on hand to see local legends [DARYL] perform with an expanded lineup that included new and former members of the band. The extra guitars and keys filled the park with sound as fans drew closer to the stage to inspect the oddly configured “supergroup” of Dallas musicians.
Earlier in the day we were wowed by Fort Worth’s Duell who aggressively attacked their set list of hard rock songs. There was a lot of headbanging and hair flying (see photos). A five-piece with three guitars meant the group is capable of producing a “wall of sound” as mentioned in their Bandcamp bio. We think it’s an apt description. We also think a double bill of Duell and Austin’s The Well would be a dream lineup.
After Dallas act Vodi performed, axe-wielding Austin rockers Ume, fronted by all-around badass Lauren Larson took the stage to display their power-trio chops to the Homegrown crowd. The response was overwhelming. It was nice to see after Ume took a bit of a hiatus as Larson took a bit of a hiatus to start a family. Word is the group has a new record coming.
Roky Erickson and his band took the stage next hitting on all cylinders as Erickson played and sang seated while the rest of his band stood alongside the legendary musician. The band played classic 13th Floor Elevators’ songs “Two-Headed Dog” “Levitation” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” The performance was arguably the best Roky Erickson performance we’ve seen since the singer re-entered the music world following his battle with mental illness with the collaboration record he made with Okkerville River in 2010.
The festival changed it up for a set following Erickson with Toronto’s Alvvays. The indie-popsters are touring in support of their sophomore album, Antisocialites. Although the Canadians may have appeared a bit out of place among the Texas acts sharing the stage with them, we found the group’s 12-song performance a nice change of pace. The shoegazey, indie-rock songs lightened the mood a bit. We saw a number of fans dancing and singing along to singer/guitarist Molly Rankin’s sweet voice.
Austin’s lords of psychedelic rock, The Black Angels took the stage next for a superlative sunset performance that made up for the sound issues that plagued the band at LEVITATION last month. That’s not to say the performance went perfectly. Sound issues at the beginning of the set required an amp swap that fixed the issue. TBA’s light man, Bob Mustachio had to wait until the sun went down 40 minutes into the band’s set for fans to be able to see his eye-popping projections. Then flood lights automatically came on that washed out half the screen behind the band. Eventually organizers shut off the floodlights just before the set ended.
The Black Angels’ music sounded great though. Set highlights included fan favorite, “Bad Vibrations.” early on. Other deep cuts such as 2006’s “Black Grease” off debut album, Passover was particularly good as were tracks from their latest record, Death Song. We enjoyed the fact that the band offered up new material but kept the setlist interesting by including cuts from their back catalog.
By the time headliners, Explosions in the Sky took the stage nightfall had come. The space between the sound board tent in the middle of the park and the stage had completely filled in with fans eager to have their minds blown by Austin’s most successful post-rock act.
The slow, then loud trademark sound transported the audience to a surreal soundscape. Along with a simple but effective lighting scheme, the band delivered an impassioned performance. Guitarist Munaf Rayani was particularly entertaining to watch. Rayani’s performance style is fun to watch. At one point, he grabbed his Fender with one hand by the neck and swung his axe in a large arc brushing the stage floor with the body of guitar. We’re certain his guitar tech works overtime after watching the man beat up his instrument.
View the complete EITS Homegrown Fest setlist here. If you were one of the few who witnessed the set, consider yourself lucky. The band’s only other tour date listed this year is May 26 at Sasquatch Festival in George, Washington according to their website.