KXT Awards by House of Plates
-- Kelly Haser
GEXA ENERGY PAVILION -- Last Friday night, we had the pleasure of kicking off the summer festival season at KXT's Summer Cut: Happy Funtime Fest at Gexa Energy Pavilion in Fair Park. The first-ever festival from KXT 91.7 FM, the Dallas-based public radio station devoted to local and independent music, featured an eccentric line-up of nine bands that included sets from Oklahoma City's The Flaming Lips, Dallas' St. Vincent, and Fitz & the Tantrums. The experience was true to the radio station itself: a mix of artists and sounds catering to local music enthusiasts.
The crowd was populated with Dallas-area hipsters. We happily joined them -immersed in the music of diverse bands (some of which I knew and some of which were new to me). Although the festival included a number of well-known artists, I couldn't help thinking back to my high school days when attending the local "Battle of the Bands" competition marked the beginning of summer. Although there were some obvious differences (most notably a significant improvement in venue and talent), the excitement of watching multiple bands take the stage felt the same. Each act played with a contagious enthusiasm for music with the same goal in mind: to connect with the audience.
While I'm sure the objective of KXT was impart to a concert audience the same sort of local focus that they bring to the airwaves every day, I couldn't rid my mind of the "battle" mentality. In that spirit, and with great respect for all who "competed" at the inaugural Summer Cut: Happy Funtime Fest, I hand out a few awards of my own.
The Winners of the 2012 KXT's Summer Cut: Happy Funtime Fest:
Best Ensemble - Fitz & The Tantrums. Fitz & the Tantrums know how to have a good time when on stage. Between the lead vocals of front-man Fitz, the soulful saxophone playing of James King, and the tambourine accompanying the powerful voice of the bands leading lady Noelle Scaggs, one couldn't help but wiggle one's hips and clap along to songs like "L.O.V." and "Picking Up the Pieces."
Best Use of Banjo - Telegraph Canyon. I have to admit I have a soft spot for the banjo, so when Telegraph Canyon front man Chris Johnson began strumming on one I couldn't help but swoon just a little. It didn't hurt that the seven-member band from Fort Worth set an excellent precedent as the first act on the main stage with their rustic and acoustic sound.
Best Secondary Stage Act - Quiet Corral. Set up on the south side of the venue near the food trucks stood a secondary stage where four bands got their chance to shine: Walk of the Earth, Quiet Corral, Smile Smile, and Air Review. Quiet Corral owned the side stage with, their unique use of percussion that included a xylophone and snare drums. At one point, multiple members pounded on various drums in the coolest makeshift drumline I've ever seen.
Best Dressed - The Pit. It was a close call between St. Vincent (a.k.a. Annie Clark) in her leather shorts and Judy Jetson-esque shirt and the concertgoers watching from The Pit at the front of the main stage, but the best-dressed award goes to the denizens of The Pit. Individual standouts included a girl in a Davy Crockett coonskin hat who brought her favorite accessory, the hula-hoop; the man who probably lost five pounds in sweat in his Where's Waldo hat and sweater; and last, but certainly not least, the middle-aged woman unafraid to show her midriff in a crocheted bikini top and peasant skirt. Honorable mentions go to the vendor tents, where members of Art Con were decked out in neon and a woman selling purses channeled a gypsy fairy.
Best Hometown Hero - St. Vincent. A huge perk of attending concerts in one's twenties is being able to buy beer from the vendors as opposed to sneaking wine coolers before the show. However, in my teens I wasn't above that kind of debauchery, and clearly neither was Annie Clark. During her set the Dallas-native reminisced with her fans about the last time she was at Gexa Energy Pavilion, which included sitting on the lawn whilst drunk on boxed wine and smoking clove cigarettes. "We thought we were so cool," she exclaimed as the crowd burst into cheers.
Best in Show - The Flaming Lips. I think it only fair that the headliner of the festival take the coveted crown of Best in Show. After all how many bands can whip an audience into a frenzy singing about a girl who puts Vaseline on her toast ("She Don't Use Jelly") and a woman battling evil robots ("Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots")? Not to mention I owe the band a big thank you for allowing me to cross "seeing a laser light show" off of my bucket list. Between the band entering the stage through a giant vagina (Who knew?), front-man Wayne Coyne crowd-surfing in a giant bubble, balloons and confetti in a constant free fall and a steady stream of lights playing backdrop to the psychedelic electronic music, it was a sensory overload that swept the entire KXT Summer Cut: Happy Funtime Fest off its collective feet.