By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
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Last year at the annual Homegrown Music and Art Festival, director and producer Josh Florence noticed something out of place. The sun was beating on the Dallas skyline at Main Street Garden, which was filled with Dallasites and visitors alike. Hayes Carll's romantic rockabilly sound enraptured the crowd. Everything seemed to be going according to plan. Then Florence spotted John Solis, the festival's organizer and talent buyer, backstage, frantic beyond belief.
Florence yanked Solis aside and forced him to relax for five minutes to enjoy what they had created. This year he won't need the reminder.
The Homegrown Festival started as a way to help illuminate some of the great but unnoticed bands in the area. "At the time, owning City Tavern was so frustrating," Florence says. "When I was watching some amazing bands like RTB2 playing for a crowd of 30 people and not getting near enough love, I couldn't believe it.
"Then this new park opened up and I thought, 'The best way to highlight these bands would be to have an event there.' We would be able to showcase what's going on inside the bars while reaching people who don't see these types of shows all the time. I want someone to walk away being entertained by these amazing artists and know they can see these bands elsewhere."
Florence then decided to follow through with his idea, and Homegrown Music and Arts Festival was born. The first year's lineup was made up of strictly local artists, including Telegraph Canyon, RTB2 and Somebody's Darling. After a successful inaugural year, Florence and Solis decided to expand the scope of the lineup beyond Texas, and the number of attendees more than tripled. However, the founders were still not fully satisfied. The numbers were good, but the direction was wrong. What originally started as a festival highlighting local artists had grown into an event with a few larger national bands and several non-natives. This year Solis and Florence are refocused on a North Texas lineup.
"It's the progression we've always had in mind," Solis says. "The lineup gets back to our roots with some backyard locals. After the first festival there was a lot of pressure to pick bands from all cities, which caused us to be spread a little thin. I think now we can focus on why we started the festival and get back to the original plan we had in mind."
Among the 13 bands playing at the fest this year are several well-known locals, such as The O's, A.Dd+ and the soul group The Relatives. There are some bands situated outside North Texas, such as The Divine Fits — an indie supergroup with Austin ties — but the focus is on bands from DFW.
Among the locals is Datahowler, electronica artist and multi-instrumentalist. Ross Edman, the man behind Datahowler, explains that this performance will be particularly special to him for one main reason: He will be performing alongside a yoga instructor from Super Yoga Palace, Deep Ellum's only Donation Based Urban Ashram.
"It's my favorite type of performance because Homegrown allows me to create such a relaxing environment," Edman says. "The audience is focused on themselves rather than just me, and the vibe is completely different."
Edman hopes to set attendees into a pleasing state of leisure to kick off this year's Homegrown festivities.
"I like to bring positivity to these events and hope people leave feeling healthy, refreshed and just washed away," Edman says. "You can start really calm before going to see all the great high-energy bands that will be playing. It should be a good crescendo."
This year, Solis will take his five minutes of relaxation during Datahowler's yoga performance.
"I'm excited about the yoga session during the show," Solis says. "I will be doing my best to obtain that Zen-like state of mind before it's over and I have to go back to all the craziness behind the workings of the fest."
Solis and Florence had an interesting concept from the beginning, but had no idea what they were getting into. Solis says one reason for his frenzy during past festivals was lack of experience. Without knowing where to start, the founders had to make do with the resources they had.
"When we first started we were learning a lot on the fly," Florence says. "Since we had little to no experience with this sort of thing, we had to figure it out as we went along, but we have always loved the lineup and the concept, so that was enough to see it through."
Florence and Solis say they faced many difficulties behind the scenes, and were unprepared for the amount of work that went into launching it. Now they have a few years of experience under their belts, and are working to make Homegrown a festival worth attending.
"Before we only had volunteers helping us out with everything," Solis says. "Now we've actually got several services helping us out, which is a huge relief. As of last year it's a machine, and this year we have several teams including a production team, hospitality, a variety of social media and a PR firm."