Scenes From Saturday’s Untapped Festival in Fort Worth.
Amid the insanely unpredictable Texas weather — Seriously, 40 degree weather and rain? What the hell, Mother Nature? — hundreds of 21-and-overs gathered at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth for the first Untapped Festival of the year on Saturday.
And it was a doozy for reasons beyond the frigid conditions: The musical lineup of Sam Lao, -topic, Le Femme, Quaker City Night Hawks, Lucius, People Under the Stairs, The Felice Brothers, Allen Stone and headliner The Joy Formidable were backed by over 200 brews from 65 breweries, ensuring that everyone was suitably intoxicated for the six hours of festivities.
Granted, the conditions forced everyone to challenge the day in their own way. Some tried to make the best of the earlier hours and tasted as many beers as they could, then got the hell out of dodge by nightfall. Others cared more about the music and ran from stage to stage for every act — sometimes having only one or two minutes between the next band starting on the opposite stage. Still others challenged themselves by discovering how many taste-test cups of beer it took to get drunk.
Luckily, there was some cushion for the alcohol consumption present in the form of food trucks. Parked along the grounds’ highway overpass, these motorized kitchens sat waiting to feed the masses an to prevent an epidemic of drunks wandering around ruining and everyone’s fun.
At 3 p.m. the gates opened to the festival for the VIPs, allowing them a full hour head start on the taste-testing. Among the most popular brewery tents was Revolver Brewing from Granbury; people packed out their double-wide tent (complete with two ping-pong tables and couches) and their three tapped kegs and two tapped coolers. Along with their early access, VIPs also had their own private set of taps with freely flowing booze. It was a beautiful sight, indeed.
At 4 p.m., with the rest of the ticketholders finally allowed entry, the French electro-pop band Le Femme kicked off the musical festivities on the Boulevard IPA Pop-Up stage. Despite playing an energized set, most of the crowd seemed timid about the foreign music — or maybe they just hadn’t downed enough beer yet. The crowds gathered in clumps simply looking on as the band did all the dancing on stage.
Following Le Femme, local artists Sam Lao, -topic and KoolQuise took to the Goose Island stage, and the crowd seemed to finally wake from their pre-intoxication slumber and joined in on some dancing and jumping while Lao and -topic performed alongside one another.
With the last of the dying, cloud-obscured light waning, Fort Worth’s own Quaker City Night Hawks set up in line-singing fashion on the Boulevard IPA stage, belting out their folksy and bluesy rock tunes, and kicking off the noisier half of the night. The crowd seemed to be warming up as the evening cooled off; dancing and cheering finally took over.
Following the two local acts — and adding a little bit of support to the hip-hop part of the bill — L.A. rap duo People Under The Stairs immediately kicked off one of the most energetic sets of the night, both for them and the crowd. Thrusting forth his pint, emcee Thes One assured the crowd that their love of beer “ain’t no bullshit” as he and Double K spun into their song “Beer,” which appropriately threw the crowd into a frenzy. Throughout the rest of People Under The Stairs’ set, the crowd was electric, screaming, shouting, cheering and chanting hysterically.
Naturally, this act was a hard one to follow. But, with a set list boasting the dexterity of this one, the crowd was sent reeling as they were forced to transition from the beats of People Under the Stairs to the next act, The Felice Brothers. The folk-ridden, woe-infused, sultry and Dylan-esque sounds of The Felice Brothers took over the entire area. Though the vocals sounded like the second coming of Bob Dylan, the amount of noise those guys made was a force all its own. From the worn lacquer of their instruments — including oddities such as a washboard and accordion — the band created something that was equal parts fast-paced, articulate instrumentalism and noisy ruckus. It stung the eardrums, while simultaneously entrancing listeners.
After a brief sprint to the other stage — because these sets were going off without a hitch, back to back — the crowd was greeted by the electric, duet sung melodies of Lucius. It was a powerful set, as the group jumped from the poppy “Turn It Around” to the high-pitched, synth- and percussion-driven “Nothing Ordinary.” The New York-based group had the crowd dancing as they kept upping the energy of their songs, ending the set jumping and head-swinging while pounding on the drums.
Again, it was a hard set to follow. And, you’d think, the crowd would by this point have exhausted their food truck-fueled energy reserves. But where the calories of the food failed, the carbohydrate-ridden bulk of the beer took over.
And so, when Allen Stone took the stage, introduced by a minute or so of his band wailing on their instruments, the crowd was ready for the swoon-worthy, bluesy, groovy sounds that Stones’ vocal chords produce. And swoon this audience did. As into the music as the crowd was — dancing with each other, hands in the air — Stone seemed to be even more into it, taking regular breaks to face his band and dance like a jittery Elvis. By the time he got to one of his most popular tracks, “Sleep,” the crowd was in a full-bore groove. And, as he sang “Say So,” he let the crowd know how much he loved them each and every time the chorus swung around. He even shared two new tracks that caused the crowd to sing along, much to his surprise. It was undeniable just how much power Stone had to sway the crowd and get them moving like no other act did this evening. It was the best performance of the night, and, as Stone walked off the stage, the crowd immediately began its encore chant. Ever the polite showman, Stone walked back onto the stage and sorrowfully told his fans that time constraints didn’t permit any such secondary offering.
Too bad. Even the headliners — the powerful The Joy Formidable — couldn’t top Stone. It was a bit surprising — this is a band that has toured with both Muse and The Foo Fighters, so it was expected that this band’s set would be the most intense, loud and involving of the night. But the band, posted up six or so feet from the edge of the stage, stayed spread out for most of their set. At one edge of the stage stood bassist Rhydian Dafydd, in the middle stood guitarist and front woman Ritzy Bryan, and at the far right sat drummer Matthew Thomas. The only one who seemed to move on the stage at all was Bryan, who alternately moved laterally to jam alongside both Dafydd and Thomas. The most energy shown was when Bryan did a slight jump off of Thomas’ drumset. The music was loud, as expected of the Welsh alternative band, but, beyond that, they provided one of the more forgettable experiences of the night.
But even that slight folly was forgivable. The event as a whole was a great one. The brews, coupled with the diversity and depth of the live music, provided a month’s worth of enjoyment packed into a single six-hour day.