SXSW Music Review: Discover Denton Showcase

North Texans prove their own live music capital

No secret Denton’s musical impact far outweighs the relative size of the North Texas college town, but Monday’s opening night SXSW showcase packed the inside of Sidewinder with something to prove.

Josh T. Pearson (Photo by Doug Freeman)

Hometown support filled the crowd, as if traveling down I-35 to back the home team invading rival Austin. In response, the eclectic bill represented an adventurous sweep, even if hit or miss. Leoncarlo opened by expanding classical violin compositions into a live fourpiece, looping slowly-layered swells that slid from cinematic ambience to dynamic rock crescendos as Harry Zimm’s trio delivered a throwback burst of psych-pop.

Tomkat’s electro-pop and soft jazz blend played better on paper, the quintet never quite congealing despite the fronting energy of Katrina Cain. Her compelling vox were wasted in an inexplicable wash of reverb. Wesley Jensen & the Penny Arcade regrouped with a shot of unruly and driving indie-pop from a pending spring EP, the frontman’s high, nasal twang matching the group’s lilting intensity.

All that served as set-up for the closing run, kicked off by the compelling solo electro compositions of L.A.-based Kaela Sinclair. Her brand of breathy, dark ballads unfolded slowly, showcasing vocals that earned her position with M83 and marked her mesmerizing 2017 EP We Watched the Lights Go Out.

Pearl Earl shifted gears, rumbling raw psych-punk. The fierce female foursome reeled like a heavy, low-end-loaded B-52s. They ripped from last year’s eponymous debut LP, the stage an eruption of hair as they settled into bashing grooves.

Closing surprise came courtesy of Josh T. Pearson, who emerged with a new quartet to debut upcoming Mute LP The Straight Hits. Although playing austere balladeer since relocating to Austin, the Lift to Experience frontman delighted in the raucous backing of the day-old band.

“We’re more of a bar band,” he declared before bashing into a cover of Mojave 3’s “Yer Feet.”

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Discover Denton Showcase, SXSW Music 2018, Leoncarlo, Harry Zimm, Tomkat, Katrina Cain, Wesley Jensen & the Penny Arcade, Kaela Sinclair, M83, Pearl Earl, B-52s, Josh T. Pearson, Lift to Experience, Mojave 3

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