Backwoods Battles Come to Dallas as Local Acts Vie for Spots on Festival’s Lineup

Children of Indigo is one of the local bands competing for a slot at an upcoming Backwoods event in Dallas.
Children of Indigo is one of the local bands competing for a slot at an upcoming Backwoods event in Dallas. Mikel Galicia
Backwoods at Mulberry Mountain, one of the Mid-South's biggest multi-genre music-and-camping festivals, is co-hosting three events in Dallas this month, including a band battle and a DJ battle, with the winner of each earning a spot on one of Backwoods' stages.

The Trail to the Woods battle events happen Wednesday and Thursday, May 15-16 at Deep Ellum Art Co. Night 1 will offer sets by five Dallas-based bands competing for that Backwoods gig, and Night 2 will offer sets by six local DJs.

After votes are cast by fans in the audience and by Backwoods judges, one band and one DJ will be named the winners and go on to perform at the festival, which takes place May 31-June 2 at Mulberry Mountain – the former home of Wakarusa festival, near Ozark, Arkansas. Fans who attend the Trail to the Woods events can also enter to win Backwoods merch and tickets, according to the festival's website.

Backwoods' lineup this year includes REZZ, Umphrey’s McGee, Zeds Dead, G Jones, Lettuce, Space Jesus, Aqueous, and dozens of top bass, jam band and jam grass acts like Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Grammy winners The Infamous Stringdusters, Yonder Mountain String Band and Keller Williams.

Also already on the bill is Try More Mojo, an up-and-coming jam band based in Dallas. Last year, Backwoods' first time at Mulberry Mountain, more than 5,000 people attended the festival, with its four stages of live music and DJs performing from mid-day through the night until sunrise each morning on a 600-acre mountaintop ranch near hiking trails, the Mulberry River and numerous swimming holes.

The two battles and a May 30 Backwoods pre-party also at DEAC are among a string of 18 battles and showcases leading up to the festival, with events in Denver; New Orleans; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Lawrence and Wichita, Kansas; Chicago and West Peoria, Illinois; St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia, and Springfield, Missouri; and Little Rock, Arkansas. The Trail to the Woods series is hosted by the festival, Connector Presents and Counter Collective.

But Dallas is the only city where both a band and a DJ will win performance spots at Backwoods, said Michael Kervin at DEAC, who is organizing the Dallas events. The five local bands competing at the May 15 DEAC Trail to the Woods battle are Children of Indigo, Electrik Ants, Sagacious Zoo, DTNS (live band set) and Mahagonie.

The DJs who will be competing on May 16 are expected to be named this week, Kervin said. Children of Indigo is a five-man funk/soul/hip-hop group with — you guessed it — several brothers by the last name of Indigo among their roster. Their repertoire often includes classic rock and blues licks thrown into their funky delivery.

Electrik Ants first came on the Dallas scene last year, and they've since played over 30 shows in the DFW area as well as Austin and Houston, opening for Turkuaz, Chris Dave, Shaun Martin and others. Their debut album Rhetorik One came out last June. The seven-piece Electrik Ants blends hip-hop, funk, psychedelic and groove and features a saxophone, a DJ, drums, bass and three members who rotate between rapping, singing, guitar, keys, synth and percussion. They count among their biggest influences Gorillaz, Lettuce, Tame Impala and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Sagacious Zoo, a four-piece progressive indie-rock band based in Dallas, performs an accessible blend of rock, folk, punk and jazz, with Brighton Dwinnell alternating between driving guitar and sassy mandolin, plus a bassist, a drummer, and a lead guitarist. The group's wide influences include Punch Brothers, Snarky Puppy, At the Drive-In, of Montreal, Led Zeppelin, Pixies, Neon Indian and Alabama Shakes.

Mahagonie is a brand-new Dallas-based trio that John LaRue, owner of Deep Ellum Art Co., says he discovered performing at open mic night and invited to fill some support slots at shows. The group has enjoyed a warm reception among the jam-band crowd in the last few months.

The fifth competitor in the May 15 band battle will be DTNS, a relatively new but versatile jamtronica act with drums, a DJ/producer and a third man on auxiliary/percussion/drums.

The official Backwoods Dallas Pre-Party will take place Thursday, May 30, starting at 8 p.m., and includes  Groovement, a lively, six-man funk-rock group from Fayetteville, Arkansas; some would say Groovement is what would happen if Led Zeppelin caught a Soul Train with Grouplove and they threw a party while headin’ down the tracks to Motown.

Also supporting will be Dallas' Try More Mojo, with its blend of funky riffs, modular soundscapes, energetic vocals and heavy grooves; and Shreveport-based quartet Fluff, a well-established funk, blues and jam act. Headlining the night will be Denver-based jamtronica act Lucid Vision, combining self-produced beats with live guitar and ukulele to achieve a high-energy yet soulful sound.
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