Oh, festival season. The yearly time when promoters around the area say, “Why not get all these bands together, get a booze sponsor and sell some VIP tickets!” The thing is, this is North Texas, the weather tends to stick to cycles, and we have roughly 8 million independent promoters in the area, so it feels as if there’s a festival every other weekend, so festival season isn’t really a season, it’s more like festival yeason. (Jokes, friends.)
With so many festivals going on, it’s hard to figure out which ones to go to, and really which ones are going to last. That’s probably why these five festivals are the best, because with the exception of one whippersnapper, most of these festivals have been going strong since about 2009. Age might be nothing but a number to some, but when it comes to things like music festivals, age means everything. Age means the fest has been able to grow and keep going, because as we often see in these parts, sometimes a fly-by night festival is just that: they appear out of nowhere and go away without a whisper. These fests, however, keep on keeping on, because they’ve figured out the system.
Despite tornado warnings, vicious humidity and Noah-building-an-Ark-level rain (which actually didn't ever hit the day-of), Dallas’ Homegrown festival still managed to elevate itself in its sixth year. Moving into the cavernous space that is Deep Ellum’s The Bomb Factory was a byproduct of the weather, but in the end seemed like a smart move for a festival that’s walking a dangerous line by occurring in the bipolar month of May. We're at an odd impasse with Homegrown, there is a limit to the number of artist that are truly "homegrown" in this state, and over six years the festival has been operating it feels like they've used them all, so it'll be interesting to see where the festival goes from here.
The upstart Denton fest grew into its own in 2015 with an expanded lineup and better organization. Though the skate demo didn’t appear, the fest did bring in a movie screening, festival panels and a surprise marriage proposal during the headliner’s set. This all lends credence to the idea that this is a festival on the rise, and its fan base seems to be growing with each event they put on. If you think about it, Scrappy isn’t just the mascot at Denton’s largest university; it’s also the attitude the town’s numerous festival promoters seem to have.
Every year SXSW gets more and more out of control, and the desire to drive to Austin grows smaller. Every year Parade of Flesh pops up with their Spillover Fest that features the most buzzed about bands going through Texas on their way to and from Austin, thus making the drive pointless. Why stand in lines forever in Austin when Dallas already has all the best bands coming together for one day? John Iskander has been out there bringing the best bands to Dallas for years now, and Spillover is his chance to really flex his booking muscle. We should be thankful for that, and the drive he saves us, every spring.
Beer, bands and sometimes barbecue. Texas is wholeheartedly about each of these things and the folks at Untapped have built a small empire around the concept, with Untapped now fully entrenched in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and San Antonio. With their line-ups getting more diverse and their fan base growing by full cities, it's doubtful we see interest in Untapped waning anytime soon. Who would have thought a concept as simple as craft beer and festival bands would work out so well? Oh right, everybody.
The zombie fest that shuttered after 2013’s rain soaked installment came back to life in 2015 with a vengeance, and literally with The Zombies. What now seems like a much tamer fest takes over Denton every March. 35 now caters a little more to families than it had in previous years, and that statement isn’t a bad thing, as it felt like the festival tried a little too hard to appeal to the hipster set in previous years. With new directors, new bookers and a new direction, it seems like 35 Denton is back for good, thus proving that Denton is North Texas' festival central.