Pushing the boundaries with Denton’s Molten Plains Festival

A singer on stage

MATTIE’s presence on stage is commanding and unique. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Denton has long been a locus of path-breaking art in North Texas, so it’s entirely fitting that the Molten Plains Festival has its roots there.

Returning for its second year, the two-day festival, which builds upon a monthly series, will showcase “a unique aural experience,” per festival organizers Ernesto Montiel and Sarah Ruth Alexander, on Dec. 8 and 9 at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios.

Fourteen sets featuring more than 30 artists hailing from 10 different cities will unfold at Rubber Gloves, pulling from an array of eclectic genres. Everything from free jazz to prog rock will be on hand to sample. (A special “Before the Molten Plains” concert will be held Dec. 7 at the Wild Detectives in Oak Cliff.)

“We see the festival, and the series, as a whole, in the sense that we don’t schedule the artists as opening acts, local support [or] headliner,” Montiel said via email. “It is more organized by building according to energy and like-purposes to provide a complete experience.”

Here, as described by Montiel, are just five can’t-miss artists to catch in action.

Mattie and Melanie Little Smith

“Mattie is one of the fiercest Dallas artists [and] Melanie is at the core of the Denton based ensemble Wenepa (with Jesse Chandler, Suzane Terry and Des Smith),” Montiel said via email. “We invited them to perform together — they are opening Saturday, and we are very intrigued about what they will do.”

Joe McPhee and Zoh Amba

“A first-time saxophone duo, and an intergenerational one,” Montiel said via email. “Joe just turned 84; Zoh is 23. Joe has been recording since the late 1960s; Zoh is a fast-rising young artist, who already has played and recorded with William Parker, Tyshawn Sorey, Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt among others. Her first recording, last year, was released on Tzadik, John Zorn’s label.”


“A trio of Christina Carter (Charalambides), Andrew Weathers (a super versatile musician who runs the incredible label Full Spectrum Recordings) and David Menestres,” Montiel said via email. “They will be on their first Texas tour, and it’s their first time in North Texas as well.”

Sean Meehan

“A very unique and influential percussionist who has played North Texas only once before, a duo with Toshimaru Nakamura in 2019,” Montiel said via email. “Sean is performing solo on Saturday. Just a snare drum and a cymbal. Sean is born, raised and still lives in the Bronx.”

Water Damage

“A drone-rock unit from Austin with ‘maximum repetition minimum deviation’ as a motto and with Nate Cross at its core,” Montiel said via email. “They are closing the festival on Saturday, and some artists who are coming to Molten Plains (Patrick Shiroishi, Andrew Weathers [and] Wendy Eisenberg) are joining the group … like the grand finale for our petit festival.”

Molten Plains Fest at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, Denton. Dec. 8-9. Tickets are $18-$35.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.