Before Kicking Off Its Two-Day Run In Deep Ellum, Let’s Break Down What The Formerly Denton-Set Music Festival Is Bringing To Dallas This Weekend.
When this year’s Oaktopia Music Festival was announced in September, that news came with something of a bombshell reveal: The adored Denton-hosted affair was moving its efforts from the college town to Dallas.
According to the festival’s organizers, that decision was made shortly after the even lost its main investor in Denton. But, rather than see that as a sign that the fest’s run should end, its brain trust instead saw it as an opportunity to bring their effort to a bigger market.
That’s when Deep Ellum power couple Clint and Whitney Barlow swooped in and offered up their three venues — The Bomb Factory, Trees and the brand-new Canton Hall — as a new home for Oaktopia, helping festival organizers avoid going on hiatus before getting the chance to celebrate its fifth anniversary this year.
Sure, the fact that Oaktopia is now a Dallas event and not a Denton one sounds like a big change, at least on paper. But is it in reality? Maybe not. Although hardcore Denton music fans whipped themselves into something of a tizzy when rumors of a potential move to Dallas for Oaktopia started swirling over the course of the summer, festival co-founder Matt Battaglia has maintained that only about a third of ticket-purchasers to past Oaktopia events have come from Dentonites themselves when the festival was right in their back yard. Conversely, he’s also said, Dallasites represented about a quarter of ticket sales — a percentage he expects to rise with an hour commute no longer standing in their way.
Interesting stuff! That in mind, here are some other interesting things to keep in mind before the fifth Oaktopia kicks off its two-day run in Deep Ellum tonight.
• What is Oaktopia? Well, as the above should’ve made clear, it’s a music festival heading into its fifth year. And it’s made big strides over that time, too. Last year in particular, the festival seemed to really puff out its chest as it filled the void left behind by the still-on-hiatus-we-supposed 35 Denton festival and booked Norah Jones to headline the event. Somewhat shockingly, that booking was Jones’ first in Denton since she’d attended the University of North Texas.
• Why is Oaktopia called Oaktopia? That’s an easy one: Its name is a reference to Oak Street in Denton. But, like the long-gone Fry Street Fair before it, Oaktopia will keep its name as it moves to Deep Ellum, even if the name “Elmtopia” might be more fitting.
• Where is Oaktopia? Again, we kind of answered this one before, but it’s in Deep Ellum this year for the very first time. And not just in one spot, either. The festival is going down at three venues owned by the same ownership group — the 600-capacity Trees, the 1,150-capacity Canton Hall and the 4,400-capacity Bomb Factory. Area music fans should be well familiar with Trees and The Bomb Factory already, but Canton Hall is a new player on the scene, having just opened last Saturday night with a headlining set from Grizzly Bear. This weekend’s two nights of Oaktopia offerings at Canton Hall will represent just the second and third times Canton Hall has been open to the public, which is a pretty cool coup for the festival and a pretty neat feather in the cap of attendees who check out the space this weekend, as they’ll forever be able to say they were among the first couple thousand people to see any shows in that revamped room, which was once upon a time known as Deep Ellum Live before the Barlows got their hands on it and brought its vacant space back to life
• Are any local acts on the bill? Yep! Per usual, this year’s bottom-half of the bill consists of solid locals from across a wide variety of genres — among them pop acts Kaela Sinclair, Jessie Frye and jACQ; rappers Blue the Misfit, Bobby Sessions and Juicy the Emissary; R&B tinged rock outfits Cure for Paranoia and Medicine Man Revival; garage rock acts War Party, Pearl Earl, Loafers and SuperSonic Lips. See the full lineup of performers here.
• Who are this year’s must-see acts? There are a bunch! Lil Yachty is among the headliners, although his performance on Friday at the Bomb Factory will be his second in less than four months. Most of the performers on this year’s bill are acts that haven’t played Dallas in some time. New York electro-pop duo Phantogram will comfortably headline at The Bomb Factory on Saturday at 11 p.m. after having performed in prime slots at fests such as Bonnaroo, Lollapallooza and Coachella in the past. The secretive and masked performer known as Tobacco will bring his distorted electronic sounds to Trees on Friday night. Rapper Azizi Gibson, who takes the stage at 8 p.m. on Friday at The Bomb Factory, has been plenty busy this year, touring in the U.S. and Europe after releasing Memoirs Of A Reaper back in May. 21 Savage, who headlines the Bomb Factory on Friday, maybe idn’t have such a great time at an Atlanta Hawks game a couple of nights ago, but he’s had a fantastic year going certified platinum for his work on rockstar” alongside Post Malone and watching his own hit “Bank Account” chart on the Billboard Hot 100 for 18 weeks. Producer icons A-Trak and Baauer (yes, the “Harlem Shake” guy) will team up for a tandem, b2b headlining offering at Canton Hall on Friday that’s sure to turn that room into a space reminiscent of the raves thrown at Deep Ellum Live back in the day. And, when Mystery Skulls takes to the stage at Trees on Saturday night at 11:30 p.m., it will be something of a homecoming for him, as the electro-pop performer got his start here in Dallas, having gotten his first taste of music industry success back when he was known as The Secret Handshake.
• Do you have to buy tickets to the whole festival in order to see the acts you want to catch? Nope! In addition to passes that give purchasers full access to all venues on both Friday and Saturday, Oaktopia is also offering both single-day and single-venue passes at this year’s offering. Convenient! Find the pass that’s right for you right here.
Cover photo of Lil Yachty by Annie Devine.