The Eighth Annual Homegrown Music & Art Festival May Have Relied Some On Dallas Nostalgia, But Its Vibrancy Was 100 Percent Contemporary.
All photos by Karlo X. Ramos.
Lest anyone feared that Thursday night’s semi-surprise warm-up performance from Tripping Daisy at Club Dada would somehow damper the euphoria of Saturday’s long-announced return-to-the-stage offering from the revered Dallas band at the Homegrown Music & Art Festival, just know this: It didn’t.
No, Saturday’s showing from Tripping Daisy — this one lasting almost two hours itself, and with just two songs being played twice over instead of Thursday’s whopping seven — was every bit the triumphant reunion that everyone hoped it would be, and in some ways even more so. In retrospect, Thursday’s show from the band now looks even more like the warm-up it was sold as, with Saturday serving as the real deal — one abetted by a bigger stage production, some truly intense behind-stage LED screen visuals and the kind of weather that festival promoters only dream of.
It was an even more emotional offering, too. Before Tim DeLaughter, Mark Pirro, Bryan Wakeland, Phil Karnats, Brandon Curtis and Nick Earl took to the stage for their headlining set at Main Street Garden Park, a projection onto a white sheet covering the stage flashed a video of the band’s first run in the sun, featuring clips of DeLaughter and his old bandmates — most notably late members Wes Berggren and Benjamin Curtis — loving life as they toured Europe, made television appearances promoting their music and goofed off in studios and backstages alike. Following a heartfelt introduction from Dallas radio legend George Gimarc, the video set the mostly sentimental tone that would follow throughout the performance as it bled into DeLaughter playing the intro to the song that would kick off the actual set, “Trip Along.”
When the band would return to that song for a second time as one of the two songs it would reprise for its encore on this night, it would again follow a retrospective — this time a spoken one from frontman DeLaughter, who with a trembling voice offered thanks to the crowd for their support on this night and over the years, as well as heartfelt memories of his time spent making music with Berggren and Curtis. That frog would remain in his throat as he sang through the songs’s opening verse, fighting back tears.
They were happy tears, though — they had to be. The crowd on this night couldn’t have been more welcoming to Tripping Daisy, with fortysomethings pogo-ing and sometimes even crowd-surfing through this Downtown Dallas setting as if the 18 years that had passed between Tripping Daisy runs had never happened. Indeed, if Thursday was best described as Dads’ Night Out, Saturday was Dads’ Day In The Sun: These crowds passionately sang along to every word, cheered on Tripping Daisy for sounding as good as it perhaps ever did, and smiled with glee as vintage umbrellas donated to the cause by Deep Ellum retailer Jade & Clover littered Main Street Garden Park and got hoisted into the air during the band’s main set-ending song, “My Umbrella.”
The scene was a perfect cap on another perfect day — something that, eight years in, Homegrown has seemingly cornered the market on. Between Homegrowns and Old 97’s County Fairs, this was festival co-founders Josh Florence and John Solis’ tenth affair on these grounds in the last eight years — and, in that time, they seem to have cracked the code on hosting laidback events that, somehow, really do find a way to please everyone.
All the excitement over booking Tripping Daisy’s return clouded it, but that meant Homegrown booking bands that, for the first time ever this year, don’t boast any ties whatsoever to Dallas. But while Mutemath hails from New Orleans, Porches from New York and Still Corners from London, the local empowerment of the day didn’t feel tarnished. For one thing, the majority of the rest of the bill was still local — and, better yet, wholly impressive.
Early in the day, RC & The Gritz wowed audiences with a sound that blends jazz, R&B and hip-hop, and a musicianship that delivers on the many Grammy nominations its members boast. Later in the day, the new Dallas supergroup Motorcade (featuring members of Baboon, Baptist Generals and Deathray Davies) sounded impressively vital as opposed to backward-looking with its own rocking offering. The Arlington-connected White Denim too awed audiences with its tongue-in-cheek lyricism and ever-frantic take on ’70s-era rock. And Lower Dens, also from Arlington, took things in a more moody direction, even when covering Hall & Oates’ “Maneater.”
The out-of-towners did their inclusion justice, too. Still Corners brought a chilled-out vibe to the proceedings, and right when the temperatures of the day hit their peak and needed that calming influence. Porches, meanwhile, brought a little Smiths-indebted somberness to the day, with its broken-down lyrics buoyed by cheerful melodies. And Mutemath provided the highest-energy offering of the festival from any band not named Tripping Daisy, with a lively set that saw frontman Paul Meany only breaking from his incessant dancing to run through the crowd, and that saw drummer Darren King living up to his reputation as one of the more compelling behind-kit performers one’s likely to ever see.
Still, as if there were ever a doubt, this day very much belonged to Tripping Daisy, which lived up to the hype that so demanded the conversations out on the grounds before their set. Seems the band will continue to do so, too: During one of his many asides between songs from his band, DeLaughter promised that, following his band’s quick tour of Texas next month, it will likely reform to play even more shows around town in the near future. As it did throughout the night, his crowd applauded that announcement eagerly.
Here’s hoping, though, that at least some of that applause was dedicated to the Homegrown staff, too. Over the course of its eight-year run, this team has done the seemingly impossible, turning what looks on the surface to be just another family-friendly music festival into one of the annual can’t-miss events of the year for Dallas music fans of all stripes. Homegrown is the only event in town where a Tripping Daisy event could’ve happened, really; it’s the only venue in which it makes such perfect sense.
Homegrown may have scored especially high marks this year by using its top billing to look back on Dallas music’s past, but in the future, with its lump sum considered in full, the festival should be remembered for what it is — as vital an event as the Dallas music festival landscape boasts in this modern era.
Year in and year out, we call it our favorite day of the year. And we do so for a reason.
Frankly, we’re already looking to getting back to it next year.