I remember a lot of the 2019 Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards Festival in snippets of funny, strange, and even mundane encounters with various people –– blurry vignettes between the performances. After watching Tornup at the Boiled Owl Tavern, I enjoyed a brief chat with Sur Duda frontman Cameron Smith on the subject of the perils of modern parenting. Then there was my bizarre conversation about social anxiety with some woman at Twilite Lounge right after the Polydogs’ scorching set. I’m trying to block out my white-knuckle ride in the car of Weekly associate publisher Michael Newquist during the heaviest part of the storm.
All that was secondary, nay, tertiary to the two things I’ll remember the most: the bands and the crowds. Maybe I just cherry-picked the right venues at the right time, but everywhere I went was packed, and the bands all sounded amazing. I will never take for granted the fact that every act I booked for this festival was professional, tight, and polished.
My festival-going strategy was to check out bands I’ve never seen before, so I began my daylong journey of a thousand notes on the Near Southside at Republic Street Bar, where Svenny Baby! promised and delivered pure booty-shaking piano groove-pop to an enthusiastic audience. I always worry whether or not people will show up to the early shows, so seeing that scene assuaged a lot of my anxiety. After a few songs, I hopped over to an equally crowded MASS, where newcomers Keanu Leaves dazzled the throng with their melodic, bright, and precise sonics –– imagine if The Sea and Cake and Sunny Day Real Estate had a lovechild.
After the first hour, inexplicably, I totally abandoned my plan to check out only acts I’d never seen before. I think Tornup’s most recent release of You Will Never Understand (The State of Soul) is one the most important local releases in years, and I was curious as to how those tunes would translate to a live setting. With just a sampler sharing the stage, the rapper also known as Torry Evan Finley delivered the most poignant, thought-provoking sets of the evening. He never spoke after a song. Instead, he played samples of himself explaining the meaning of each tune. The effect was chilling. The only times he opened his mouth were to deftly rap about topics ranging from race to corruption and money.
As odd a pairing as it seemed on paper, Tornup’s politically minded hip-hop was the perfect segue into Heater’s driving, thunderous brand of high-IQ punk. The foursome shook the windows of the Owl as everyone in the packed-out room watched with reverence. I intended to stay for only a song or two but stuck around for about 20 minutes, so I caught only the last three tunes of Polydogs at Twilite. The Matt Tedder-led foursome’s blend of psyched-out blues and rock entranced what my memory tells me was the most crowded room of the day.
I stuck around for a few of Vodeo’s groovy tunes at Twilite and then grabbed a ride with a total stranger who was headed to Shipping & Receiving. (Thanks, dude!) Dagger Club’s thick, precise riffage and layers of distorted sonics hit me in a way that few bands have in many years. Dagger Club doesn’t presume to have your attention –– the five-piece grabs you by the collar and shakes you to order until you can’t look away.
By the time I arrived back to MASS, Son of Stan & The Boat Club Road Band had already started their captivating set to what had to be the most raucous audience of the festival. The band’s energy was palpable, and that party-on vibe permeated the room. I recall screaming, hugging, and a lot of dancing (or at least my clumsy approximation of it).
Every year I say it, and it’s always true –– the music scene in this town is special. If the festival accomplishes nothing else, I’m glad that it may remind us just how much talent and passion we have in our own backyard. As always, thanks to our amazing volunteers, the bands, everyone who worked, and those of you who braved the threat of a looming storm to come support local music. Thanks for the memories.