Festival season has really gotten into full swing of late in Texas. Those peak summer months have finally given way to (slightly more) seasonable weather, and suddenly the big music events have been coming seemingly every weekend: Oaktopia was two weeks ago, then came Index, and now Austin City Limits will run for two weekends straight down in the capitol city. (And Fun Fun Fun Fest isn't too far off, either.)
So in honor of this glorious time of the year, we've pulled together a list of the best music festivals that North Texas has to offer. From big outdoor stages to overflowing clubs, these our favorites.
Homegrown Music and Arts Festival
Of the handful of Homegrown Fests that have taken place in downtown Dallas' picturesque Main Street Garden Park, none embodied its name better than one held last May. The Phuss and Baptist Generals played early in the day, a mix of power and promise followed by revered regional greatness. Sarah Jaffe simply beamed as she previewed new material months before her new album came out. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead put on a killer rendition of Source Tags and Codes. Under a calm, temperate black sky, the Toadies closed the night it with one of their celebratory Rubberneck 20th anniversary sets. With the layout expanded this year to close off Main St. and pull in more vendors and food trucks, the festival vibe was stronger than ever.
Elm St. Music and Tattoo Fest
With apologies to other Deep Ellum festivals and showcases, no party in Deep Ellum quite touches the party that promoter Scott Beggs and world-renowned tattoo artist Oliver Peck throw every year when Friday the 13th rolls around. Certainly, none seem to tap into the gypsy mentality at the heart of the neighborhood quite like this one. This year's fest kicked off on a Wednesday in May, picked up steam and rolled all the way to a Sunday that saw hundreds of freshly tattooed festival goers taking in as much music as they could. and planning on what "13" they're going to get in 2015.
Fort Worth Music Fest
It feels liket year four of the Fort Worth Music Fest was the year that the festival really hit its stride. Sitting on the shores of the Trinity River, FWMF provided 20 bands over two days for a mere $40, and fans flocked in droves. A lot of this had to do with the Saturday night performance of Jimmy Eat World, which brought out every 30-something in the area who wanted to recapture that 2001 magic, even if just for one night. It'll be interesting to see what direction the fest goes in 2015, but wherever it goes it'll be a good time.
Parade of Flesh's Spillover was the festival Dallas forgot. After, thankfully, changing the name from "Bro Fest" in 2012, Spillover excelled by utilizing the booking wizardry talents from Club Dada and Three Links. From its size, it may not have looked like a festival but it had a killer festival bill: Ty Segall, Deafheaven, Astronautilus, Dum Dum Girls, the Orwells. Even with just three stages between two venues, Spillover showed that if a festival can book the right bands, the people will follow through. The crowd braved rain and even sleet on a bizarrely cold day in March because of a strong bill at the exact right venues.
Untapped Music and Beer Festival
The first of many stellar Panther Island Pavilion happenings of 2014 was a chilly, rain-soaked affair this past March. But if the finest brews of the country from over 60 vendors and powerful sets from Lucius, Felice Brothers, Allen Stone and the blazing Joy Formidable, who simply set the main stage on fire, couldn't warm folks up, then nothing was going to. The less-than-ideal weather made for shorter beer and food lines and great concert sight lines. Who needs sunshine when you can get an imperial stout from Colorado and an Easy Slider burger in a few moments time before getting a prime spot for a great band?
March Madness Music Festival
On the now flat, grassy site where Dallas hosted the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four in 1986, a corporate-powered music festival took place in early April. With apologies to Tim McGraw and the Killers, the weekend-long, free-of-charge event would be rather forgettable in the big scheme of things if the Boss hadn't turned in an MVP-caliber, almost three-hour performance on a drizzly, cloudy evening. In front of far less than the expected 40,000 attendees, Springsteen, his E Street Band and temporary helper Tom Morello brought together university alums and those of us who just might prefer "Badlands" to basketball. Sadly, the site of that festival will soon be generic apartments, meaning the madness will never manifest there again.
Not quite the little festival that could, Oaktopia proved in its second year that it's a festival to keep an eye on in the future. Now in its second year, the fest went for broke by adding a second day, and expanding its bill to 100 artists. This led to some growing pains, but the fans showed up to prove that Denton still has an unquenchable thirst for festivals. And with a lineup including the likes of Immortal Technique, Aesop Rock and Neon Indian, there was little to complain about in the quality of the bands.
Lights All Night
For the past five years, Dallas has responded to Miami's colossal Ultra Festival with Lights All Night, a two-day EDM festival and monstrous rave. Candy ravers have their greatest conference during LAN weekend, and kids dressed in onesies, pacifiers and tutus hula-hoop in bear suits flock to the Dallas Convention Center. The madness of Lights All Night spans two stages, a silent disco area, endless arrests and ladies getting proposed to. With the throbbing beat dreamt up by the likes of Deadmau5, the boundless affection is chemically sincere, and the air is pierced throughout with laser lights, heavy with hedonistic indulgence. And this year they'll have Skrillex.
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Last spring, JMBLYA took over Main Street Garden Park just a few weeks ahead of Homegrown. The two couldn't have been much different in terms of lineup, with JMBLYA focused on hip hop with the likes of Chance the Rapper and RiFF RaFF. All in all, it proved a well-run and thoroughly enjoyable affair, but just as importantly it was an event with its heart in the right place: Working in unison with local organization Support Our Students, JMBLYA hosted a student forum ahead of the show in which DISD students had the opportunity to meet the headliner.
Index Music Festival
Much like Oaktopia, which took place the week before, Index Festival got ambitious this year in what was its third go-round. And it didn't disappoint. Expanding its lineup to more than 90 bands spread across three days, the Spune-curated event moved from the lot behind Trees to a more festival-worthy space across from the Prophet Bar with three stages, a beer tent and food trucks. Acts like Local Natives and Future Islands topped the bill, Dan Deacon hosted an insanely fun dance party. And that doesn't even account for the influx of club shows that took over Deep Ellum each night after the festival grounds had shut down.