The 10 Best Festivals From 2012, The Year In Which Dallas Learned To Embrace The Fest Life.
There’s no doubt about it: 2012 was the year of the music festival in Dallas-Fort Worth, at least insofar as recent memory is concerned.
No, there weren’t festivals every weekend in 2012; it just felt that way with old favorites like 35 Denton and Homegrown being supplemented this year by such newcomers as Untapped, Index, Summer Cut, Hot Wet Mess and that Univision-presented H20 Music Festival held in the Cotton Bowl.
Yes, music festivals were everywhere this year. And, hey, that’s pretty cool.
What’s not to like about music festivals? They allow fans to check off long lists of acts they want to see live in a single swoop, they fill area venues, and they’re generally a good time. So, yeah, we had ourselves a pretty good time in 2012 as far as all that goes.
But which were the best? Which have the most potential down the line? Which were most worth the cost of admission?
Glad you asked. Here, we count down our 10 favorite music festivals from the region in 2012.
10. KXT Summer Cut.
Notable Performers: The Flaming Lips, St. Vincent, Fitz & The Tantrums, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
Why We Dug It: Well, first off, let’s get this out of the way: There’s no point in complaining about the venue (Gexa Energy Pavilion) being too corporate a location for a festival from a radio station like KXT 91.7 that likes to portray itself as a fiercely independent entity; that’s just the way radio-hosted festivals go thanks to sponsors and corporate partnerships (see: every festival thrown by KDGE 102.1-FM The Edge). KXT’s first-ever major festival affair made sure it stayed indie in other regards, and specifically with its lineup. And, though they’ve essentially been offering up the same live show for five years now, the Flaming Lips’ live show remains a site to be seen. Plus, snagging the once-local St. Vincent was a nice touch — and something about which the folks behind certain other area festivals (see: Homegrown) were certainly envious.
What We Said At The Time: “There were fog machines and cheerleaders, too. Even some aliens, actually. It was quite the spectacle.”
What We Can Expect From It in 2013: Hopefully, a second run. And, assuming the festival wasn’t a total clunker cash-wise, that’s a fairly safe bet. Festivals remain an all-too-obvious way for radio stations to promote themselves. Update: KXT just confirmed a 2013 Summer Cut via Twitter.
9. Homegrown Festival.
Notable Performers: Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Hayes Carll, Ben Kweller, Centro-matic, Ume, Eisley.
Why We Dug It: What’s not to like, really? Homegrown’s a good, fun, family- and even dog-friendly time, right in the heart of Downtown Dallas — the kind of event that urban devotees have been requesting for years, right there in the flesh. It’s tough, too, not to respect the hometown pride behind this event; sure, this was the year that Homegrown finally expanded outside of North Texas to include performers from the entire state in its roster, but the concept — championing area talent — remains the same. And there’s really nothing like this affair once the sun goes down; watching a band perform immediately under the Dallas skyline is always a trip, and a singular event worth looking forward to each year.
What We Said At The Time: “Unlike 35 Denton, this event’s springtime competition to the north, Homegrown isn’t trying to overwhelm its audiences with a cool factor. This event, impossible a venture as it may be, actually seems to be trying to be everything to everyone.”
What We Can Expect From It in 2013: Back in September, festival organizers took to Facebook to announce that, indeed, there will be a fourth installment of this popular event in 2013 and that, once again, the talent pool will include acts from all around Texas. But with Klyde Warren Park now open just a couple of blocks to the north, will this affair stay in the Main Street Garden Park locale that it’s called home now for the first three years of its existence? That’s the question, it seems.
8. Bryan Street Tavern’s Big F*cking Anniversary Party.
Notable Performers: Turbo Fruits, Those Darlins, Royal Bangs, White Mystery.
Why We Dug It: Held the same weekend as the much-more-hyped Index Festival, this affair stood out, most of all, because it was completely free to attend. But, more than that, it was just a strong offering, mixing local favorites with time-tested regional touring favorites. This fest had no frills. Just a straight-up rock ‘n’ roll bash crammed into a small space that forced intimacy between performer and audience.
What We Said At The Time: “The drinks were cheap, the food was great and, for a free bill, it was really stacked. We look forward to seeing to seeing if next year’s five-year anniversary offering can even come close to topping it.”
What We Can Expect From It in 2013: Maybe nothing, actually. Recent managerial changes at Bryan Street and new venue commitments from Parade of Flesh might mean that this affair falls by the wayside, which would be a shame.
7. Hot Wet Mess.
Notable Performers: The Black Lips, Reggie Watts, No Age, Big Freedia, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Fergus & Geronimo.
Why We Dug It: Because, for the most part, this North Texas Fairfounds-hosted event was exactly what it promised it would be — an underground-oriented affair centered around a grimy, messy concept. Attendance could’ve been better for this back-to-school, Denton-hosted affair (and, yeah, there could’ve been more water available on this hot-as-balls day), but, for a first run, this festival showed some immense promise. Plus, the giant water slide was a nice touch. Same with the semi-pro wrestlers.
What We Said At The Time: ” It was a good time, a nice kiss-off to the still-very-much-here summer season, and a welcome bow from a hopefully annual newcomer to the suddenly crowded North Texas festival block.”
What We Can Expect From It in 2013: More of the same. Festival organizers tell us that there will indeed be a second go of this affair and that some other, necessary adjustments will be made.
6. Untapped Festival.
Notable Performers: Givers, The Antlers, Akron/Family.
Why We Dug It: Good bands and lots — lots — of good beer. Seriously, we’re still daydreaming about that Green Tea IPA that the Deep Ellum Brewery folks had on hand this day. No wonder this Trinity Groves-hosted sucker had such a ridiculous turnout, selling out 2,600 tickets in advance.
What We Said At The Time: “By 4 p.m., the event was in full swing, with lines for 2 oz. beer samples long, but not unbearable and music fans crowding each of the grounds’ two performance stations. Both the music and the beer were hits — perhaps more so than could have been anticipated.”
What We Can Expect From It in 2013: Maybe more than one Untapped Festival? That’s certainly what organizers seem to be implying on their Facebook page, where they’ve already teased a Fort Worth event set to take place on April 20. Don’t expect that to replace the fall season Dallas affair, though. Looks like we’ll be seeing double in 2013 as far as this festival goes, and in more ways than one.
5. Index Fest.
Notable Performers: Grimes, Washed Out, GZA, Portugal. The Man, Cold War Kids, Surfer Blood, DIIV, Heartless Bastards.
Why We Dug It: Between Untapped and Index, the North Texas concert calendar really did belong to area talent buying agency Spune Productions this fall. And, though perhaps less obviously successful than Untapped — the two-day, Trees-hosted Index affair didn’t sell out in advance and almost certainly had a higher overhead — this affair’s stacked bill really didn’t leave much room for disappointment or debate. Plus, GZA serenaded a tweenager on-stage at this event. And that’s just adorable.
What We Said At The Time: “Overall, the festival produced an eclectic line-up of respectful indie artists. From indie hip-hop to jazz to folk, Spune mixed together the finest of all genres on this bill.”
What We Can Expect From It in 2013: Round Two, for sure. Spune confirmed it just yesterday.
4. Lights All Night.
Notable Performers: Tiesto, Avicii, Diplo, A-Trak, Calvin Harris, Bassnectar, Ghostland Observatory, Flux Pavilion, 12th Planet.
Why We Dug It: Fifty thousand people can’t be wrong, can they? Not really — and not even when the City of Dallas dictates that this Fair Park-held bash still had to call each night of its shows by midnight (the lone exception being New Year’s Eve itself, during which the city granted the affair an extra half an hour, to 12:30). Face the music, everyone: Dallas loves EDM.
What We Said At The Time: “Since launching two years ago as a standalone Ghostland Observatory show, the affair has grown into the largest EDM-centric New Year’s celebration around the globe. And it’s seen an exponential growth, too. Last year, it made a splash as a two-night New Year’s Eve celebration. And this year’s three-night offering hardly felt excessive; it felt demanded.”
What We Can Expect From It in 2013: If trends continue, I guess 2013 will see a four-night Lights All Night bash? OK, probably not. But Highland Entertainment, the entity behind this massive party, keeps teasing that their party will be “going global” in the future. Meaning? More fests in other parts of the country? In other countries? Seems like the skies the limit with this one.
3. Gorilla Vs. Bear Fest II.
Notable Performers: Glass Candy, Chromatics, Twin Sister, Taken by Trees, Laurel Halo, A.Dd+, DJ Sober.
Why We Dug It: Dallas native Chris Cantalini’s Gorilla vs. Bear blog has long established itself as perhaps the premier taste-making music blog out there, and this event, which aims to highlight some of the site’s favorite acts on a early basis pretty much does the same thing the site does, only in a live music format. And this year’s event, the festival’s second go, showed Cantalini and the Granada booking staff pouring more thought and money into the affair. That much paid dividends this year, too, as the powerful, Italians Do It Better-infused bill drew a packed house to Lower Greenville.
What We Said At The Time: “Toward the end of Glass Candy’s set, frontwoman Ida No launched herself from the stage and onto her ecstatic fans, crowd-surfing across outstretched arms throughout much of the venue’s floor area. It felt like a massive release — the single moment the whole night had been building toward. In other words: It thrilled. So did the whole affair, really.”
What We Can Expect From It in 2013: Based off conversations we’ve had with both entities behind this affair — Cantalini and the Granada Theater, alike — it’s clear that everyone involved here seems intent on continuing this affair into the foreseeable future and growing it, too. So it’s safe to only expect more and more from this adored event as the years go on.
2. Bro Fest.
Notable Performers: OFF!, The Men, Crystal Antlers, Titus Andronicus, The Coathangers, And So I Watched You From Afar.
Why We Dug It: Dragging your festival-worn ass out of bed and over to Bro Fest for a long, fulfilling Sunday of music and drinking has become a favorite annual pastime of ours, and for good reason. Like the fans in attendance, the bands, similarly worn out from a week of South by Southwest-ing in Austin, are accessible and looking for some punctuation to tack on to the end of their grueling week-long experience.There’s something magical about it; it shouldn’t work, but it always does. The whole thing feels like a blend of summer camp and rehab.
What We Said At The Time: “Bands have every right to hate Bro Fest, the post-South by Southwest bash that John Iskander of Parade of Flesh for five years running. After playing a grueling stretch of shows in Austin, they have to hop in the car, drive three-and-a-half hours north and play a show in Dallas that looks and feels remarkably like the ones they’d just played. Thing is, they don’t hate it. Uniformly, they seem to get a kick out of it.”
What We Can Expect From It in 2013: Most pertinently, a change in name and venue. In December, Iskander told us that his annual post-SXSW bash will be moving to the Sandbar Cantina and that it will change its name to “Spillover.”
1. 35 Denton.
Notable Performers: The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Raincoasts, Best Coast, Danny Brown, Built to Spill, Bun B, Mountain Goats, Devin the Dude, Atlas Sound, John Vanderslice, OM, Thee Oh Sees, Dum Dum Girls.
Why We Dug It: This walkable, four-day affair in Denton is always a good time — even in the rain, which came down this year as Bun B, Best Coast and Devin the Dude entertained the crowds around the Square. Still, the best moment of this year’s event? Danny Brown’s incredible and incendiary show — his first-ever in North Texas — at Hailey’s Club, which just might have been the year’s best concert on its own.
What We Said At The Time: “It may have taken 35 Denton a few extra days to wrap up its festivities this year. But at least the festival did so in style.”
What We Can Expect From It in 2013: More of the same. Over the past few months, the 35 Denton crew has been slowly leaking a 2013 bill that features the likes of Eyehategod, The Spits, Marnie Stern, Roky Erickson, Killer Mike, Sleep, Thee Oh Sees, The Coathangers, Astronautalis, Black Moth Super Rainbow and many more.