When I finally set foot in Main Street Garden Park on Saturday afternoon, I knew what Homegrown Fest organizer Josh Florence was talking about. The strip of downtown green is beautiful, well-designed and forces interaction, like any good, walkable park should.
Looking up at the old Grand Hotel, which shadowed us to the South, I wondered about who stayed there, who lived there, who died there. What it would be turned into in the future. I suppose the same could be said of much of the surrounding architecture. For a music festival, Main Street Garden Park is ideal. Saturday didn't feel too crowded, the sight lines for the stage were perfect, the drink lines weren't ridiculous, and the local food (Aaron Barker's Fat Elvis ice cream put me on a cloud made of sugar) and retailers (Nevada Hill's posters, Darcy Neal's gadgets, Dowdy Studio's trailer) added to the fest's mission to showcase its own.
However, I couldn't help but feel the lineup was a little safe. I understand trying to appeal to a larger demographic and keep it family-friendly, and Ben Kweller, the Octopus Project and Hayes Carll did fine jobs motivating the crowd. Ume was probably the most "extreme" act on the bill, and I overheard many concert-goers feverishly saying they were new fans of the Austin group, but I also heard a few lamenting the lack of hip-hop or blues, both genres Dallas - hell, Texas - excels in. We did have the Mohicans, sure, and they put on a great show, even on a bigger festival stage.
I'm not saying Homegrown has to get "weirder" or more fringe - it's still growing organically. It's serving as a reminder that downtown Dallas can be revitalized. The fest was well-organized, accessible and you felt a sense of community you don't always in a festival setting. You weren't just a dot in a sea of dots. Beyond the music, there was a sense that this was a gathering of tribes - folks read, talked to strangers as their dogs played, enjoyed the weather, and boosted the local economy. In that sense, it was a success.