Ryan McAdams said he started Stella Fest for two reasons.
To do a little something nice for Denton, the city that created his band, Sundress, and to show college students just how much music they can find in their own backyard on the weekend they start moving into the dorms.
You know — start ’em young, before college life becomes more about preparing for the job market than discovering yourself through music, studies and meeting new people.
The two-night festival starts Friday, just after happy hour, and ends in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
McAdams, the lead singer and guitarist of Sundress, makes no apology for the festival’s location in the snug confines of Hailey’s Club.
“I just want to keep giving back to Denton, because Sundress started in Denton,” he said. “And I think it needs to be in a smaller venue, in that I don’t want to get out of my realm, or get in over my head and get into a situation where I’m owing people money.”
This year marks the second of Stella Fest, a reference to both the film Detroit Rock City, in which female disco fans are labeled “Stellas,” and to Sundress’ song of the same name.
“We never play that song anymore,” McAdams said.
Stella Fest 2012 boasts 21 bands. Darlings of the Dallas music scene True Widow headline on Friday night. Austin outfit Ringo Deathstarr headlines Saturday night.
McAdams said the main stage is Hailey’s stage, with a side stage set up next to the sound booth.
“The bands are going to play 30-minute sets — boom, boom, boom, boom. Back-to-back sets,” he said. “While one band is setting up, another is playing. You don’t have to walk anywhere to see your next act. You literally just do a 180 and you’re set. And there’s a bar nearby. I think it’s a good setup.”
McAdams, who moved from Denton to Austin a few months ago, said he’s pleased the headliners wanted to be part of the festival.
True Widow is busy busting out of Dallas with its somber rock, complete with ethereal vocals and fuzzed-out guitars. The band makes the kind of music that helps tell the story of modern-day vampires. Vocals are distant and aching. Guitars, bass and drums suggest a trudge through the sticky shadows.
Right before True Widow’s performance will be Sundress, in the band’s first show back in Denton.
“We’re kicking off our East Coast tour with the festival,” McAdams said.
Sundress released a self-titled EP a year ago and immediately touched off buzz. McAdams, bassist Drew McCary, guitarist Kennon Talley, keyboardist Jim Harrington and drummer Derek Kocich have all graduated from college, and some have left Denton.
“That first tour we went out on the East Coast, and it was a rough tour, but I think we all felt like we made the most of it,” McAdams said.
And the band did get a lot out of the tour, most especially management by Gold Mountain Entertainment (Nirvana, Beck). Sundress also picked up the Windish Agency to do its booking and a lawyer.
“That was our first time out of state and we got all those things covered. I think we’re seeing the benefit of it just now,” McAdams said. “As a band, you have to do a lot to get management and a booking agency, and you can do one thing to screw it all up. It definitely was a big sigh of relief for us.”
The only achievement left for Sundress in terms of representation is a record label.
“It’s not the ’60s anymore, where a band could hook up with a label before touring,” McAdams said. “A label now wants to know if you can do the tour, if you can handle the abuse, before they take you on.”
Saturday’s headliner, Ringo Deathstarr, is murky rock with goth leanings. The three-piece shrouds vocals in thick reverb and thudding drums. The headlining acts at the fest could be described as moody deluxe.
McAdams said the lineup is a cornucopia of Texas music.
“The way I look at it [the fest lineup] is that it’s more progressive in sound than the typical Denton folk scene,” he said. “We want the students moving in to town to see that this is Denton. It’s known for its music. There’s punk, there’s rock, there’s a lot more than just your typical North Texas folk scene we’re known for.”
McAdams said he’s already at work on Stella Fest 2013, and is in talks with companies that have signaled interest in sponsoring the fest.
“I’d like to see another venue come on with the event, and be able to have more bands,” he said. “But I want to be able to always keep it cheap.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
STELLA FEST 2012
• What: Two-night festival with music by 21 Texas bands
• When: Friday and Saturday
• Where: Hailey’s Club, 122 W. Mulberry St.
• How much: $5 in advance, $10 at the door.
• Get your grub on: Food trucks will be parked near the club.
• On the Web: Buy tickets at http://bit.ly/NH7BKA
Doors open at 5 p.m.
• 6 p.m. — Goblin
• 7 p.m. — Freak the Mighty
• 8:30 p.m. — Cozy Hawks
• 9:30 p.m. — Ronnie Heart
• 11 p.m. — Sundress
• 12:30 a.m. — True Widow
• 8 p.m. — Ari Roar
• 9 p.m. — Holy Mammoth
• 10:15 p.m. — Bloodwitch
Doors open at 4 p.m.
• 6 p.m. — School of Rock DFW Summer Tour
• 7:15 p.m. — Ice Eater
• 8:30 p.m. — Soviet
• 9:30 p.m. — DJ Yeahdef
• 11 p.m. — Darktown Strutters
• 12:30 a.m. — Ringo Deathstarr
• 5 p.m. — Pi
• 6:45 p.m. — Feather Face
• 8 p.m. — Terrestrials
• 9 p.m. — Sacco and Vanzetti
• 10:15 p.m. — New Science Projects
• 11:45 p.m. — Gal Pals