This Saturday, the heart of downtown was buzzing with a sense of local pride specific to the fifth annual Homegrown Festival. Upon entering through the shut-down stretch of Main Street between Hardwood and Saint Paul, the barrage of sights, sounds and smells were enough to put a smile on the face of even the most curmudgeonly Dallasite. Vendor booths lined the first half of the block, followed by a stretch food trucks where patrons did lunch or dinner, depending on how long they were able to withstand the park's sweltering daytime heat. Dogs on leashes scurried about while parents smeared sunscreen onto their children. The sun was brutal, but the water was free, the beer was cold, the bands were local and the vibe was good.
In its fifth go-round, Homegrown Festival has grown into a Dallas institution. What was once an experimental upstart aided by Downtown Dallas Inc, and attracted about 1,100 patrons at it's inaugural fest in 2010 is now a neighborhood staple that draws a crowd of nearly 4,000 and is worthy of a street closure.
Originally, Homegrown booked strictly North Texas bands and artists until the lineup was opened up to the entire Lone Star State in 2012, a necessary talent-buying strategy in order for the festival to continue thriving the way it has. While North Texas artists effectively held court during the 12-hour day of live music, it was exciting to see a band like the Suffers, hailing from Houston, make an impassioned and soulful debut Dallas performance this year. In building a Dallas audience for Texas bands outside of the immediate area, Homegrown stands to strengthen both their business model and the Texas music scene as a whole.
Festival staff ran a tight and effective ship from the inside out. Though the crowd only grew as the day went on, lines at the park's only entrance gate never got too congested. In a very diverse and family friendly crowd, security didn't have much to bother with in the vein of overconsumption or rowdiness. The sound system was loud, clear and echoed throughout the entire downtown area, bouncing off highrises and skyscrapers.
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The only logistic issue patrons experienced is one that Dallas fest-goers are becoming all too familiar with: offensively long beer lines. Given the extra space afforded by closing off Main Street, one would hope future events will find a way to work around the problem. There's just got to be a better way than one big centrally located bar area.
As the sun began to set and the heat died down, the park really began to fill up as Sarah Jaffe serenaded the audience through the transition from day to night. North Texas' indie rock sweetheart was a soothing and welcome edition to an evening of hard, fast, and loud guitar-driven music. Booking Austin's ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead to play their 2002 cult classic Source Tags & Codes in its entirety preceding the Toadies' Rubberneck 20th anniversary set was an undeniably brilliant move by festival organizers.
After night fell, the blue lights of the now vacant Dallas Statler Hilton illuminated Main Street Garden Park, and two consecutive generations of Texans got an exhilarating fix of nostalgia they won't soon forget, taking in the native music of their adolescence. Twenty-somethings lost their minds slam dancing to Trail of Dead's stirring and uproarious finale of fan favorite "A Perfect Teenhood" with an added interpolation of Patti Smith's "Gloria." Thirty-somethings sang as loud as they could as the slow-building and amorous power chords of the Toadies' "Tyler" inched and crept over the Dallas skyline.
Though the lineup at Homegrown is often familiar, it's comforting in the sense that it's proprietary. It has also always properly represented progressive artists and bands of every genre within the Lone Star State. Homegrown Festival continues to be an important contribution to Dallas music and Texas music alike with every year that passes.