The flames could be seen for miles as the fire consumed the corner structure on Fry Street in Denton, Texas, igniting the well-known sign and signature name. "The Tomato is burning down" says one resident, who doesn't sound near as surprised as one would expect upon realizing an iconic shop is burning to the ground.
"If it's going to go, then this is the way it's going to go," said Matt Battaglia, who was at a friend's house when he learned of the fire. But he wasn't surprised. People had been chaining themselves to the upstairs bedroom, trying to prevent the wrecking ball from tearing their home to the ground. Someone set fire to the Flying Tomato instead of allowing construction workers to demolish the building. It was a fitting end to a legacy of community was the communal thought among Fry Street rats and former Tomato patrons whose memories of Fry Street are all they have left.
To help create memories for a new community, Battaglia along with his partner (rap artist S Good, a.k.a. Corey Claytor), created Oaktopia, a one-day art/music festival with 64 bands on five stages located at Andy's, Banter, the Basement in J&J's, Hailey's, and William's Square. Food trucks, vendors, live art installation, and beer are just some of the amenities awaiting you on Saturday. A recently added scavenger hunt offers participants a chance to win an autographed guitar by the band Midlake.
"There are no more rock stars, man," said S Good. "Hip-hop artists are my rock stars."
S Good believes Oaktopia will offer Dentonites something other festivals have sometimes failed to offer: a solid lineup of local/regional indie and hip-hop acts. Fab Duece, Afro Deezy Axe, and EWOK! the Kid are just some of the talent blazing the stages at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.
"Hip-hop is basically poetry," S Good said. "The rhythms and stuff are very similar."
Battaglia enjoys S. Good's poetry, and wanted to book a show for him. He called several venues to see if they were open for the night. All of them were available. "Fuck it," he said. "Let's just throw a big show on one night," which spiraled into contacting every band they know and bands their friends know.
The one-day festival is shaping up to be a success.
People started hearing about the bands, and word started to spread. Battaglia and S. Good had money saved, so they inquired about booking Del the Funky Homosapien. The artist was within budget, and they had money left over, so they hired another band, and then another followed suit.
Some of the musicians think the guys are a big company with big backers and sponsors, "but we're just a couple of dudes with a little bit of money," says Battaglia. "They treat us like we're trying to dick them around, and we're just like trying to have some fun for our home town."
Oaktopia is a community-based festival. It's for people who want to hang out with their friends or meet new people and create new memories as opposed to just attending a festival to see this band or that one.
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"We want it to be something where people can come together and make memories, you know," Battaglia said.
The festival begins with the scavenger hunt at 2:00 p.m., followed by live music at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.