Oaktopia took over downtown Denton for its junior year of programming, offering interactive art installations, a mini-skate park set up, outdoor movies, and oh yeah - live music. Once known for being a predominantly hip-hop driven festival, this year they took a heavy indie turn at Isreal Nash and went full speed toward Edward Sharpe and his Magnetic Zeros. We aren’t complaining, though. We like Sarah Jaffe, too.
With the news of Van’s canceling their sponsorship just days before the festival, we could sense a little tension in the air. The smiling faces and friendly greetings as you walked through the metal erect tent on Hickory let you know that the volunteers were not affected by the news, but excited for the weekend ahead. And hey, there were still a ton of people skating downtown.
The festival footprint was different from the year prior and different than other Denton festivals alike. This year Hickory Street was closed from Austin to Industrial and there was a secret stage adjacent to the William’s Square parking lot area that played live-music ping pong to the otherwise known as Main Stage. The flow in between sets seemed smooth and word on the street is that the vendors were pretty happy, too.
Friday night offered a myriad of music options. Hip hop? Hailey’s. Space rock? Abbey Underground. DJ’s or whatever? Andy’s. In fact, walking by Andy’s we overheard that DJ Chris Kennedy aka Lil’ Masterson (we made that up) didn’t get an appropriate back line until well after his set was to start. Our source also says that Andy’s management unsuccessfully scrambled to find a missing piece of equipment compatible with Lil Masterson’s software. DJ Chris Kennedy’s set is said to have only gone on when Andy’s management recalled a trusted DJ from earlier in the evening and transfered Masterson’s files to that set-up. Supposedly this is the same hold-up that kept fans waiting for the dance party that ensued at Shlomo’s set the next night.
Our biggest Friday night takeaways were seeing Kaela Sinclair completely own Harvest House and then watching a portion of Almost Famous outside - on a sofa - while sipping the delicious Audacity-brewed Oaktopia beer. One of the reasons festivals in Denton are way more fun than festivals in bigger cities is because Denton keeps things chill. This town is so rich with talent and opportunity that we do not need the bells and whistles of over produced festivals; we like to keep it local.
The Greater Denton Arts Council hosted three day panel’s on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., with topics like Denton Tech City: Denton’s Thriving Tech Startup Environment and Its Future, How Do We Continue to Build a City on Rock and Roll?, and An Outsider’s Insider’s Perspective: A Conversation with Simon Raymonde.
Raymonde chuckled and advised panel attendees that now-a-day’s he’d rather open a restaurant than a record label, while Midlake’s McKenzie Smith (940’s) & Eric Pulido (Barley & Board) were sitting front and center. On a different note Raymonde said, “don’t listen too much to what other people are doing,” in regards to not getting distracted in the work that you are trying to create. That hits home, and is always a nice reminder.
Later that afternoon, Thundercat took to the Travelstead stage. We personally wondered what the ratio was of people who knew who Thundercat was to the people who were just really stoned. Either way, it was too hot to be wearing a hoodie and we want to know how how Stephen Bruner did that whilst playing bass. If you have any tips, please leave them in the comments section below.
The Polyphonic Spree did their thing at the Audacity Main Stage as dusk fell on Saturday night. While listening to "Soldier Girl" we realized that we (personally) think that every Polyphonic Spree song is about one and a half minutes too long. Meanwhile at Harvest House, our very own Danielle Longueville was belting out funk songs with her band Class Action.
Despite not utilizing the outdoor stage at Dan’s (which, by the way was one of our favorite parts of 35 Denton), we were grateful for the refuge of the patio. College football, water (or more beer?), and familiar faces - what more could you ask for? Oh, that’d be Will Johnson in the other room, dedicating songs to long time bandmate Scott Danbom (who coincidentally tends bar at Dan’s when he is not busy touring).
Other Saturday highlights: There was a selfie stick spotted at DJ Mom Jeans' set. Overheard at Minus the Bear, Oaktopia volunteer walking through press pit, saying “It’s fucking sick, right? It’s insane.” Jessie Frye and like, the whole town painted in super-hero maquillage getting filmed shutting down Harvest House by the CW33. Overall, another successful Oaktopia evening.
Sunday felt like a Sunday. Programming didn’t start until 1:30 p.m., and you could tell the town was having a rough morning. The vibe was more laid back, hardly drawing a crowd for Isreal Nash at 3:30 p.m. Maybe everyone else partied just as hard as we did on Saturday night, who knows.
The line at Beth Marie’s was hopin’ around 4:00 p.m. and we discovered the best way to prepare for Eisley was to start by having two scoops of Bees Knees in a waffle cone. Eisley was everything our hearts desired, including giggling to Sherri DuPree-Bemis saying "Fart the Water" instead of "Part the Water," and singing every word to "I Wasn’t Prepared."
Later that evening Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros took the stage, and one of the festival directors (successfully) proposed to his girlfriend during Home. Y’all. The real question, we guess, is - did he go to Jared, or did he keep it local and go to First People?
When push comes to shove, this isn’t easy work. If it was, everyone would do it. Bands show up late, communications get lost in translation, you’re at the mercy of a completely volunteer-based staff. This crew did it, though. And they all did it all while and with gratitude. That right there is why we love Denton. Great job once again, Oaktopia!