It was a typical Saturday night in Deep Ellum, Elm Street thriving with excitement as people thronged about, waiting for shows and parties to commence. One couldn’t have told from the crowd in Three Links, though – calm and collected, a certain anticipation could be felt in the group from the warm smiles and anticipation that pervaded the venue.
The night jumped off to an explosive start with a raucous set from local synth-pop outfit Starfruit. From the second the lead singer (known only as Bubbles) jumped onto the stage wearing a flower-adorned golden jumpsuit, the band never once relented in its animated and and delightful performance. Don’t let the synth-pop billing fool you; though heavy on the keys, distorted, frantic guitar and tight, punchy basslines made Starfruit feel right at home on the Three Links stage. With Bubbles’ rapid-fire, high-pitched vocals in the mix, the band proceeded to careen through its small but growing discography much to the delight of the crowd. Stopping only briefly, the band paused for a second to let Bubbles’ get some much-needed rest on the kick-drum. Thanking the audience for their energy and attention, the lead singer gave background on the proceeding track, discussing being queer in today’s society before moving right along into “Churches Fists Puncture Flesh.” Masters of subtlety the band were not, but given the crowd’s eager and vocal reception they certainly cemented themselves as masters of the stage.
Following a near non-existent stage transition, Weaves picked up on the crowd’s energy by rolling right into the running beats of “#53.” It clearly became apparent that this was front woman Jasmyn Burke’s show as she pranced her way about the stage, calmly cooing and screaming into the microphone as the sonic assault of “Slicked” raged about her. For all her antics, however, Burke could hardly distract from the instrumentation – weaving their signature electronic accents in with crunchy bass and slicing guitar lines, the band translated their unique sonic fingerprint well into a live environment.
Though the set was dominated by high-energy cuts and fan favorites such as S/T’s “Candy,” Weaves managed to sneak in a few downtempo tracks while maintaining their set’s pervasive momentum. Fans swayed to the sugary sweet “Coo Coo,” cheered for recent release Wide Open’s standout “Walkaway,” and even got down for the sultry slow-jam that is “Scream.” Swaying effortlessly between cuts, Burke and crew eventually brought the house to a frenzy, ending on the double whammy of “One More” and “Motorcycle” off the outfit’s takeoff debut EP. Hanging the microphone off the stand above her like a lamp, Burke feigned(?) terror at the equipment all the while nailing the coy calls of “Motorcycle’s” chorus. As the last bit of feedback filtered from the speakers, the crowd erupted in applause for what had been a truly stunning set.
Given Weaves’ precedent, Palehound had a high bar to clear. Known more for introspective crooners, one would be justified worrying about a sudden shift in tone once front woman Ellen Kempner and crew took the stage. Luckily, the Polyvinyl standouts knew they had an order to fill and launched right into their set with straightforward rockers such as “Molly” of 2015 debut Dry Food. The grungy guitar leads and thumping bass continued to propel the crowd forward as Kempner wailed into the mic, though at a slower and slower pace as the Boston songwriter brought down the tempo.
This carefully-crafted move brought the crowd to near standstill, all the better a target for the Kempner’s one-two gutpunch of fingerpicked guitar ballads “Dixie” and “Feeling Fruit” The latter, a star cut from recent release A Place I’ll Always Go, moved many in the crowd as the wandering arpeggio on Kempner’s Telecaster accented the tangible loss and pain coming from her soft, breathy vocals. Having brought the crowd sufficiently to its emotional knees, the band then focused the latter half of the set on similarly emotional if more uptempo tracks off of Place, most notably the lackadaisical “Room.” Pausing slightly after the track, Kempner thanked the audience for coming before expressing her thanks for both Weaves and Starfruit. The front woman was visibly moved to be performing with other queer artists, and thanked the other outfits profusely to what was easily the loudest applause of the night.
Ending the night with an encore performance of Place favorite “If You Met Her,” Palehound closed the night out on a resounding note of both sorrow and joy. Capping what could’ve been a wildly disjointed evening, Kempner put the perfect bow on the Starfruit/Weaves/Palehound package Three Links had been privy to with an emotional, unrestrained performance that left the crowd astounded and joyous. Taken on a breakneck ride through performances both chaotic and crippling, Three Links experienced an enjoyable emotional rollercoaster put on by a trio of passionate artists it’s unlikely to experience again soon.