Over The Weekend: A Spune Christmas! at Hailey's in Denton

Telegraph Canyon, Doug Burr, Seryn, Monahans, Birds & Batteries, Glen Farris
Hailey's Club, Denton
December 4, 2010

Better than:
paying for your own wassail.

Thumbnail image for telegraphlaugh.jpg
Telegraph Canyon
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The folks at Spune have not only established themselves as a leading local label and promotion company. They've also become quite the hosts.

Every few months, the company puts together a great big showcase, books a bunch of local favorites, hands out free food or some such, and, more or less, offers up a grand ol' time.

Last Saturday, Spune hosted its annual A Spune Christmas! show at Hailey's in Denton, and, as is par for course, they invited their whole arsenal of bands to play. Considering how stocked Spune's roster is with talent, suffice it to say that this show was something of a hot ticket.

Amidst the extra Christmas lights, free wassail and tacos, Glen Farris started the night tucked away on a tiny side stage with an intimate and affecting set of folk music. While pretty and quiet songs may not be everyone's cup of tea, Farris is quickly becoming a must-see act in North Texas.

Next up was Seryn. For a band whose set has changed little over the last year, it's amazing how much they've grown as a group. And, judging by the reaction of the crowd, the hometown fans are no where near sick of hearing it. While the band has never sold itself short, it's striking how confident they have become on stage. It's also interesting to see how they've incorporated their shared love of post-rock into their set, showing they have no problem putting the folk aside.

Doug Burr was next, and what could I possibly say about him that hasn't already been written? It's indisputable that Burr is one of the area's greatest talents, and that fact is on full display in every one of his performances. Besides the songs, one of Burr's great traits is his endless re-interpretation of his own work. Depending on any number of factors, Burr plays with his delivery of a song -- his inflection, the tempo, the song's energy level -- to fit what he's feeling. Every performance is fresh, and a must-see.

Then came the wild card: Birds & Batteries is Spune's latest act, and the one with whom Saturday's audience was probably least familiar -- not because they're a new band, or even one particularly new to the region, but because they're actually based out of San Francisco.  In spite of any infamiliarity, though, they were as big a reason to attend the show as any other of Spune's bands. Singer Mike Sempert's throaty, David Bazan-esque drawl was like icing on top of the band's esquisite mix of roots-rock rhythm and indie keyboard pop. Their melodies aren't cold or cynical, but moving and sincere; they'll make you feel as often as they'll make you dance. And their new album, Panorama, is a gem front to back.

Austin's newly expanded Monahans performed next on the tiny side stage. Now joined by Joshua Zarbo, formerly of Spoon, the band's dark, brooding sound had grown ready for the arena. In fact, it's almost like the small corner from which they played served to concentrate their sound. The majority of their short set featured songs from their download series, in which they're offering one new song a month for download to make up their next album.  

Finally, Telegraph Canyon took the stage and continued to roll out the high-level, professional set they've been effortlessly cranking out for the better part of the past year and a half, if not longer. One looks forward to them recording their next album -- not because the old stuff is growing stale but just to see how long they can continue riding this crest. In case you are growing bored, though, Chris Johnson and crew can always throw out curveballs, as was the case at this show -- like when Johnson dismissed his band at one point, choosing instead to step out in front of the monitors and perform My Morning Jacket's "Hopefully" directly to the crowd.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Something's going on at Hailey's, and it's not good; the club had very recently been Denton's marquee club for local and national touring bands, but for the past few months things haven't looked, or felt, right. The once glorious wall of beer taps has dwindled down to a hand-full of boring options. The men's room (ladies' room information not available at this time) is a complete wreck with one wall partially gone. And the sound system seems to be plagued with technical glitches. To say it's not the same place would be an understatement.

By The Way: Yes, the wassail was free, complete with a shot of spiced rum (in case you wanted it to count).

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