Last year, when Dentonites Matt Battaglia and Corey Claytor set out to bring local bands together for an Oak Street music fest, there was no one who could have predicted what the small, five-stage festival would grow into in just one year. This year's incarnation of their young festival -- known as Oaktopia and set to take place this Friday and Saturday, September 19 and 20 -- is so much broader and larger that it's almost unrecognizable.
Except in the ways that made Oaktopia different from other festivals. Both Battaglia and Claytor grew up in Denton, and spent countless hours in J&Js and other local venues listening to local bands and making friends with promoters and other music scene regulars. Now that Denton has blossomed into an even bigger hub of great local and live music on a national scale, the festival has gotten serious legs.
This year, Oaktopia has been able to double their presence, and will feature shows on 10 stages. Huge acts like Immortal Technique, Aesop Rock and Baths will play alongside bands that are just getting their start in Denton, a component that is extremely important for the festival's organizers.
"We have an unhealthy obsession with Denton," jokes Battaglia. "Our main goal with Oaktopia is to highlight everything about it: The local businesses and musicians and everything else that makes Denton what it is." As a result, over 80 percent of the 100 acts that will play Oaktopia will be from Dallas-Fort Worth, and Battaglia and Claytor want to keep it that way, placing that local talent alongside some of the country's biggest musicians.
As much as these guys love Denton, it seems that Little D loves them back. "Nothing has really been a hassle," says Claytor. "We just already had these relationships with promoters and the venues and everything sort of fell into place." Both admit that the work of running a festival can get tedious at times, but lucky for them, they didn't have to deal with many obstacles in terms of permitting and logistics.
The sheer variety of music on the various stages at Oaktopia is a little staggering. Each stage is divided by genre, meaning that if you want to check out a hip-hop bill on Friday night, you'll head over to Andy's for performances from Ad.D+ and S Good, organizer Corey Claytor's rap game alter-ego. Indie fans can go to Hailey's for a Neon Indian DJ set, and live performances from Magnatite and Blackstone Rangers. There will also be punk and metal stages for those who prefer their tunes on the heavier side. If you don't know what the hell to listen to, just use the Oaktopia app to decide which venue to move on to next.
If you get tired of listening to music for whatever reason, Oaktopia has plenty more to offer. A full stage of comedians, featuring local acts with natural cred like Paul Varghese and Aaron Aayanpur, will be on at Gitmo Comedy. There's also something called the "Barlympics," which likely involves copious amounts of alcohol and people making fools out of themselves, as well as art from creative Dentonites.
As they ramp up for year two of Oaktopia, Battaglia and Claytor are already looking forward to next year. "I can already tell you that it's just going to be bigger next year. We're set to expand, and you can expect us to stick around for at least the next few years." This year, though, attendees should plan ahead for a few secret pop-up shows and other surprises at the festival. "We're going to have drones this year," says Battaglia with a laugh. "It's going to be awesome."
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