After Concerns About Possibly Cancelling Its Ninth Annual Offering, The 2018 Homegrown Music & Arts Festival Managed To Hold On And Prove Its Vitality Once More.
All photos by Pete Freedman.
If you looked closely enough, you could see the signs.
The most obvious one: The fact that the ninth annual Homegrown Music & Arts Festival, which in each of its eight earlier incarnations featured stages set up on either end of its home within Downtown Dallas’ Main Street Garden Park, only featured one stage this year, placed on the western edge of the park space.
If not outright expected given the talk surrounding the festival in advance of its ninth go, the smaller production was at the very least a fair concession: Just a few weeks out from taking place, there was a very real question as to whether this year’s Homegrown would happen at all; festival organizers, for better or worse, had outwardly acknowledged as much, openly sharing concerns surrounding low advance ticket sales with the local media in advance of this year’s event, which promised sets from Explosions In The Sky, The Black Angels, Roky Erickson, Alvvays and more.
In fact, it it was only nine days out from the event taking place that organizers announced that they were 100 percent moving forward with this year’s event — a close cut by any estimation.
On the Saturday of the fest itself, though, no one seemed too concerned with those specifics. Hot but not as overheated as past Homegrowns, the 2018 offering of the festival was blessed with pleasant weather and, perhaps because of those questions over it actually happening, a real amenable spirit among attendees, a large chunk of which was probably just happy to be inside the gates at cost. To make up for the lacking ticket sales, festival organizers had papered stacks of free tickets all around Downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum in the days leading up to the event, hoping to solve their stated financial woes by cramming as many butts as possible into Main Street Garden Park as possible, and praying that the owners of said butts were in the mood to spend big at the bars set up throughout the grounds.
At least two Homegrown attendees for sure did their part: In the middle of the afternoon, two drunken pals stood near the port-o-potties lined up along the park’s south border and remarked with awe how impressed they were with the newness of said facilities. (In those bros’ defense, those were impressively new and clean units.)
Fortunately, more people seemed impressed with the festival’s other offerings. As is usually the case, spirits were high across Main Street Garden Park on Saturday afternoon and smiles abounded throughout Homegrown’s offering, even with this year’s bill featuring a more psychedelic bent among its performers than past offerings had.
Those acts seemed almost uniformly in good spirits, too. For a band with a rather menacing sound, Austin’s The Black Angels smiled its way through its set, despite things started on a bit of a rough note due to the power going out on some of its amps. Psych rock forefather Roky Erickson and his band too seemed gracious for the chance to play, even if the 70-year-old is forced to play from a seated position these days with his backing band handling all of his between-song banter. (There’s still something hugely chilling about a legend like Erickson, especially in his current state, ending his set by screaming “You’re gonna miss me!” at his fans.) Even the wordless wonders in the at-once massive- and delicate-sounding Explosions in the Sky seemed content with their after-dark set under the bright Downtown Dallas skyline, which provided a nice, if on-the-nose, backdrop for the band’s sweeping scores.
The lone exception? Canada’s Alvvays, whose indie pop delighted (lucky for them) where its attempts at charm and humor greatly floundered. After going out of their way to differentiate itself from the rest of the bill by pointing out that their band was “not Homegrown,” the band then insulted the Stick Dog Artisan Corndogs food truck by calling it “Stinky’s” and threw shade at its last festival appearance in the region, bemoaning the fact that it played on a floating stage at last year’s Fortress Festival. It all felt forced, and none of it went over particularly well.
The opposite was true of Homegrown itself, which felt necessary and welcomed as the sounds of its bands washed over the eastern edge of Downtown Dallas, cascading through its skyscrapers. No, maybe its crowd numbers didn’t reach the heights they did last year as Tripping Daisy reunited to headline the eighth edition, but the festival still treated a couple thousand Dallas music fans to yet another wonderful Saturday in the park.
Will that be enough to get Homegrown the tenth annual offering it’s been eyeing to present next spring? That remains to be seen.
But if decisions truly are made by those who show up, then Homegrown’s organizers have plenty of proof on their hands that there’s still demand — some version of it, anyway — for what they’re bringing to the table.
You didn’t have to look too closely to see those signs, no. You just had to open your ears and your eyes, and it was obvious: Even given this year’s extenuating circumstances, the best day in Dallas remains pretty damn great.