Editor Jon Birondo’s Foreword:
I had always heard that Denton is an under-appreciated city; a city that channels both the cultural and social highlights of Austin, Texas but still maintains that “small town- close knit-community” feel that Austin lacks. I was very apprehensive about this statement for I had never been in Denton long enough to anticipate much. So when I recently moved to Denton to attend the University of North Texas I wondered: what better way to experience this city than to experience it at a music festival with notable acts such as Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Thundercat, and Minus The Bear?
On September 25-27, 2015, me and three other friends had the pleasure of experiencing and covering Oaktopia Festival in the great city of Denton, Texas. I have covered only one festival in the past with a Press Pass, however this was the first time I have done a three day festival. While the experience was exhausting, tiring, and took a toll on our wallets (for food), it was nonetheless enriching and eye-opening. Denton, and Oaktopia, is Texas’ Best Kept Secret – a city with a community that makes you feel at home, and an ever-growing culture of artists, musicians, filmmakers, and skateboarders at the forefront of entertainment and 21st century pop culture. So, without further ado, let’s look back on the amazing weekend.
First off, big thanks to the people who helped me cover this festival (their pictures are in the gallery below).
Michael Bonfante (Photographer)
Matt Spadoni (Writer)
Joseph Nguyen (Photographer/Videographer)
Festival Report: Oaktopia MMXV By Matt Spadoni
Started off the day by seeing Post-Rock act Glasir at the Harvest House stage. Glasir is a melodic post-rock group with passionate drumming and powerful noisy crescendos. Performing both tracks off their first two projects and their new Unborn EP (Available on BandCamp), the band put to use distortion to seamlessly transition between winding epic pieces. Definitely one to check out if you enjoy anything remotely post-rock.
Kundalini Kids (pictured above)
The energetic, eccentric hip-hop group that spit verses involving Pokemon and some clever wordplay, one song using actress Winona Ryder’s name in a hilarious fashion, put on an intense show at Hailey’s. Somewhat Wu-Tang-esque, the four vocalists often screamed their bars. Look them up, but you’ll be disappointed to not find anything – I sure couldn’t.
I Am Clark Kent
With splendorous brass instrumentation and punchy rhythm, I am Clark Kent performed a great show at J & J’s. Obvious Ska/Punk/Math-rock influence formed a sound akin to seminal ska-punk bands like Streetlight Manifesto. Though I couldn’t see the show very well, I heard it perfectly and it certainly sounded good. Check out their new split LP with Cheap Haircuts, Worst Party Ever, and Junior College on Bandcamp above.
Also known as Bayonne, electronic musician Roger Sellers performed the act of the evening for me. As he stood upon the stage at Harvest House, he used noise samples to introduce his folktronica tracks, all of which he developed on stage to a captivating light show, and an even more captivated crowd. It was though people lost the ability to sit during Sellers’ performance, as his gyrations and pleasant vocal melodies vibrated our legs and hearts into motion. Sellers used a physical drum kit throughout his show, creating drum loops on stage to fuel his act and audience. Fans of Neon Indian, Sufjan Stevens, and Animal Collective will feel right at home. Visit his store on Bandcamp above, trust me.
With a very Nirvana-esque sound profile, grunge revival/Psychedelic rock act Moon Waves played several tracks from their recent album Try Harder, Little Hypnotist at Harvest House. Employing both male and female vocals (each stellar), driving basslines, and infectious lead melodies, Moon Waves impressed old fans and new, including myself. Check their album above.
Atlanta rapper Father performed to a packed room at Hailey’s in what was, by far, the wildest crowd of the evening. Performing several old tracks and many off his new album, Who’s Gonna Get F***** First, Father knew how to work a crowd with his brand of southern trap rap.
Thundercat (pictured above)
Among the best shows I saw at Oaktopia, the R&B/Psychedelic Funk musician played on the main stage to a tame but sizable crowd. Thundercat, a common collaborator with Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar jammed several times to massive applause. He, his drummer, and pianist often played back and forth to each other as though communicating in a language long since lost through means of improvisational jazz that both moved the crowd, and lengthened the tracks in a live setting. Thundercat even played a snippet of Kendrick Lamar’s “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” from this year’s stellar To Pimp A Butterfly. Phenomenal show by a phenomenal musician, I highly recommend listening to anything and everything by Thundercat.
Biographies filled the stage at Harvest House with musicians to play lushly instrumented Math-rock/Emo. With obvious post-rock influences and a sound not dissimilar to that of Emo act, The World Is a Beautiful Place And I am No Longer Afraid to Die, the band played an emotional show featuring several tracks from their self-titled album. Biographies is a group of excellent musicians and performers worthy of attention.
The popular DJ and beatboxer Shlomo played on the main stage to a large crowd. Despite his renown in the electronic music community, the audience was tired out from previous shows and not responding as well as could be expected. One interesting thing about Shlomo’s act was his possession and consumption of at least half a bottle of Crown Royal on stage. Truly an artistic genius.
Bright Light Social Hour
The Psych-rock outfit from Austin performed a simple yet powerful show reminiscent of the psych giants of the 60s and 70s. One part Tame Impala, and one part The Black Keys, the four-piece band put on an excellent performance filled with long winding guitar solos and impassioned vocals. Bright Light’s final song of the night was the 10 minute epic titled “Garden of the Gods,” which certainly capped off the show well. If you’re into psych, or just old fashioned rock n’ roll, check them out.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes (pictured above)
The big headliners for the weekend performed to a packed crowd at the Travelstead Main Stage. The large band could barely fit on the stage as well, but they managed. Bursting through songs from all three previous releases like “Janglin,” “40 Day Dream,” and “All Wash Out,” the band performed under some psychedelic lights and a blood red moon eclipse. Even a proposal worked its way into the set and by the end of the show everyone was sitting down listening to lead singer Alex Ebert intimately sing to the excited onlookers as he perched himself in the crowd. Edward Sharpe’s set closed out Oaktopia on a peaceful and communal note, giving some good vibes towards Denton for the following week and closing out a spectacular festival.