DALLAS – The Rangers imploded, the temperatures dipped, legendary rock act Dinosaur Jr. headlined the Prophet Bar, the Rebirth Brass Band played the State Fair and one of the region’s most consistent booking agencies held its inaugural festival in a parking lot at the northern edge of Deep Ellum.
It was a busy weekend in Dallas, but Spune’s Index Festival still packed plenty of attendants with its varied, something-for-all-tastes lineup.
A parking lot off July Alley behind Trees featured two small stages situated in its east and west corners. Both were reminiscent of the small, humble, tucked-away Blue Stage at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest when it still called Waterloo Park near the Capitol home.
The smaller Red Hook Stage even shook as Grimes bounced about to her bass-heavy electronic pop Friday night. Claire Boucher, along with excellent openers Myths and Elite Gymnastics, was booked to play Trees on Friday weeks before Spune expanded the lineup to two days.
As a result, the Vancouver native was moved to an outdoor set before headliners Portugal. The Man. Somewhat ironically, her touring partners and openers would help close the evening inside.
Those artists –– Myths and Elite Gymnastics –– were some of the highlights of the nascent festival. Alternately demanding and engaging, the two are thematically linked with Grimes but take their brand of electronic to further reaches than Boucher, who crafts phenomenal pop songs around slow, rumbling bass lines and her sometimes-shrill, high-pitched vocals.
Myths, a two-piece from Vancouver who donned keys onstage with Grimes, transformed their dark electronica into a pulsating dance party inside an at-capacity Trees. Shouting like sirens and nearly never standing still, they captivated an audience that likely didn’t see them coming.
Elite Gymnastics, now a one-piece consisting of Minneapolis native James Brooks, offered a refreshingly honest, bare performance. Brooks is a sort of shy genius –– his lyrics are impactful and often devastating, but they’re typically buried under dense, rave-influenced sounds. Live, especially on songs like “Here, In Heaven,” his lyrics came through more clearly than on record, which can be tough to make out without clutching his expertly designed liner notes.
Brooks took the stage Friday night alongside an oversized plush animal of Totoro, from the famed Hayao Miyazaki film My Neighbor Tortoro. Playing for about a half-hour, he fought through technical stutters –– he couldn’t get his second microphone to work, slyly commenting, “This is a festival so I guess these things happen” –– sat next to his computer under a traditional Japanese umbrella and later stomped on a MIDI controller after introducing a guitar solo.
His set was divisive –– check this Instagram image from an attendee for proof of that –– but it stood out, especially in comparison to the night's relatively middling, proggy headliners Portugal. The Man.
It was these smaller moments from the not-as-widely seen acts that managed to steal the festival. Brooklyn’s DIIV gave a near-perfect crisp afternoon performance in front of a decent outdoor crowd, as their shimmering, grooving guitar lines eased listeners for about an hour.
Locals Yells at Eels played a tightly wound set of free-jazz Saturday evening. North Dallas duo A.Dd+ once again reminded the crowd of just how good they are on stage –– this was perhaps amplified by the fact that they played after Wu Tang veteran GZA, who, playing an assortment of tracks from his masterpiece Liquid Swords, kept the energy at a minimum when he wasn’t interacting with the audience.
The presence of a 9-year-old in the crowd caused him to edit each of his songs, occasionally stopping to apologize for a tongue-slip. While respectable, it sounded more like a strange glitch until he acknowledged that he was consciously biting his tongue. The girl was later invited onstage and stayed maybe a song too long before getting freaked out and asked to return to her father.
GZA’s set was highlighted by the audience interaction –– bizarre shout-outs to Whole Foods and his promoting of reading instead of playing videogames stood out –– but much of his performance had him simply going through the motions. Still, it’s always nice to hear that album live; the problem is he knew that and coasted.
Nevertheless, this was a fine first outing for Spune’s Index Fest. Its relaxed feel, ideal locale and diverse lineup of local and touring acts made for a really enjoyable way to ring in the cooler temperatures.