Homegrown Fest Delivered the Chill, Though Not Much in Way of Surprises

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Homegrown Fest
With Ghostland Observatory, Neon Indian, Bright Light Social Hour and more
Main St. Garden Park, Dallas
Saturday, May 14, 2016

With better luck than it had enjoyed in 2015, Homegrown Festival didn't have to move indoors on Saturday. Having been forced to relocate to The Bomb Factory last year, the seventh-year downtown concert was exactly as it should have been — with plenty of chill and sunshine in Main Street Garden Park. Maybe a little too much chill to bear, in fact.

The Texas-flavored celebration of local music has gained a reputation for showcasing only acts raised in the Lone Star State. It may just be that cultural pride that has allowed it to survive in a musical-landscape now seemingly saturated with “fests” at every turn of the season. Featuring regular headliners like Neon Indian and Ghostland Observatory, much of the day's momentum built up slowly to those two acts.
But while operations were beautifully orchestrated, there was something lacking that at times made it feel like a tired gig. Perhaps it was variety; besides rapper Bobby Sessions, the day was full of folk and indie dance acts — not an unfamiliar formula for Homegrown, granted. Perhaps the timing, right near the end of springtime festival season (and before the scorching summer that makes it impossible to be outdoors), made it that much harder to stand out from others fests. 

Criticisms aside, it wasn't unpleasant to spend some hours downtown to listen to new and local music, especially for folks taking the chance to spend quality time with each other in a family-friendly atmosphere. In fact, it was as family-friendly as a music fest can get. Of course, it had all the things a festival needs: food trucks, pricey drinks, vendors. Free ice cream was also in effect. And naturally, the music was placed in the center of it all with two stages facing each other within the park confines. 
Houston's Young Mammals gave the show an early start with their cheeky brand of pop rock followed by the hopping blues of Charley Crockett and Pageantry's mellow slack. Bobby Sessions also presented his case of hip hop that's established him as a driving force in the Dallas community. But these choice acts played early enough that most of the crowd, which didn't really begin to fill out until dusk, missed them.

Going into the evening, Will Johnson and Wild Child both did some 21st century folk jams that slowed down the beat of the hour. Ishi livened back things up as front man J.T. Mudd was fun for a growing crowd with his happy-go-lucky dance moves. (He did wait a while to bring out his Native American headdress, though.) Bright Light Social Hour set a different atmosphere with their varied set, which jumped from spellbinding guitar solos one minute to sleepy ambiance the next.
By sundown, Neon Indian took to the stage with a steady retro funk-pop opener that was suddenly crashed by some technical difficulties. Vocalist Alan Palomo almost bummed out the crowd by announcing the lost use of gear that nearly ended their set. But after a several minutes of confusion, the band bounced back to a rallying crowd. The North Texas emigre was a little anxious with all the malfunctions, but he shook it off as he warmed up in the set and finished off with a decent Prince cover.

With disaster averted, the park at last almost filled up as Ghostland Observatory closed off the night. Enshrouded by an impressive light show, the Austin duo added a distinct air of mystery to the proceedings. Guitarist and vocalist Aaron Behrens and drum and synth player Thomas Ross Turner provided the backdrop of electro-futurist numbers to complete the night. Most of the kids were home and off to bed, and the adults could all cut loose. For once, it was a true sensory overload — but still all in good, clean fun.

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