For three days, 35 Denton is taking over downtown L’il d to bring all kinds of fun and awesomeness to town. We’ve got a roving team of intrepid writers who are hitting the shows and sharing their highlights throughout the fest.

Words by Alise Gray

Friday signaled the kickoff of 35 Denton 2016 — featuring 120 bands from all over the country and world and loads of other great daytime programming, including yoga classes, informational panels, poetry showcases and so, so much more.

The Single Issues – PAAC at 7 p.m.

As they joined the PAAC (GDAC forever!) stage, The Single Issues met a buzzing crowd of onlookers and volunteers who were anxiously awaiting for the night to begin. This female-fronted doom pop-rock band had us subtly swaying and unconsciously tapping our feet to their funereal-esque lyrics, which was accompanied by an unexpected upbeat melody. Lead singer Ali Gorey has enough vocal power to carry herself for miles, but is systematically complemented by two harmoniously intense male vocalists on songs such as “Robot.” Currently in the studio recording their newest work of art, The Single Issues’ first and second releases are available on:

Cozy Hawks – PAAC at 8 p.m.

Hailing from our very own Denton, this power-pop trio is no stranger to the Denton music scene. Bringing an energetic aggressiveness to the stage of their second 35 Denton showcase, frontman Adam Bertholdi stood stage right and the crowd followed suit. A few fans began singing along, and soon most of the crowd was moving and shaking. Their single, “Water Wings,” from their debut album, No Blues, has been part of many best-of lists and was in constant rotation on the gone-but-not-forgotten Adventure Club with Josh on 102.1 FM The Edge. Cozy Hawks has an upcoming album titled End Era, featuring their stellar single “Sweet Talk.” Hear their sophomore album Pan Pacific (and more!) on:

Cameron Matthew Ray – Lone Star Taps & Caps Denton at 8 p.m.

Cameron Matthew Ray | Image by Michael Dunlap
Cameron Matthew Ray | Image by Michael Dunlap

Kicking off a Texas tour, Cameron Matthew Ray made the trek up 35 North to entice our hearts and engage our ears — and that he did. Showcasing his folksy roots, CMR performed at Lone Star Taps & Caps Denton (Denton’s newest hub for craft beer enthusiasts) and swooned us with his beautiful ballads of sadness. Cameron’s unique sound was accompanied by Las Colinas Symphony clarinet player Brent Buemi, delivering a symphonic sound to the harmonic balladry. With influences such as Damien Rice and Iron & Wine, Cameron Matthew Ray’s pure and honest lyrics subtly seep through his rugged vocals, delivering a certain serenading air to the room. We. Got Chills. Hear more at:

Will Johnson – Dan’s Silverleaf at 9 p.m.

Will Johnson | Image by Michael Dunlap
Will Johnson | Image by Michael Dunlap

When Will Johnson took the stage at Dan’s Silverleaf, a setting he’s quite familiar with, a few hushes were heard trickling throughout the room. There is a certainty — a sort of truth — in his lyrics that has seemingly engulfed the emotions of the crowd. This longtime Texas resident, Metroplex mainstay, avid house-show player and Centro-matic (RIP) frontman has the intense lyrical prowess of Archers of Loaf while maintaining an emotional and persuasive presence similar to Bonnie “Prince” Billy or Jay Farrar. When he performs, Johnson has a way with connecting the people in a room together, and Friday night wasn’t any different. Swan City Vampires, his latest endeavor, is rich with harmonic swagger while remaining sonically elegant and is sure to become a Denton classic revered for years to come. Hear more at:

Stay tuned over the next couple of days for more of what we saw during 35 Denton 2016 and don’t forget to follow along on Instagram for more images of the fest!

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