If you've never heard of Denton music festival Oaktopia, this is the year to take note.
Organizers made something of a snap decision to run with the inaugural festival in 2013 despite limited time and resources, and even when it returned in 2014 with a makeover -- and roughly 80 additional bands -- the event seemed only to cater to local music nerds. This year, however, Oaktopia is poised to break out.
The event, slated for Sept. 25-27, takes over three outdoor stages and eight local venues for a weekend of non-stop music. The lineup, which includes a hefty 125 bands, features more national acts than any year before. There will be a Friday night screening of Midlake's concert documentary, too, with a post-movie Q&A with producer, actor and recent Denton resident Jason Lee.
But most importantly, the festival's latest incarnation is finally a realization of the big dreams its founders had in 2013.
"We always wanted skateboarding to be part of the fest," says Matt Battaglia, co-founder of the production company Monocle, Inc.
He and his cohorts, Brent Camp and Preston Ehrsam, secured Vans as a sponsor, which will work with Lee's company, Stereo Sound Agency, to build a half pipe on the Denton Square and fill it with pro skateboarders for the weekend.
Additionally, Oaktopia has its own beer, a pecan lager, brewed by the local Audacity Brew House that will be sold at the main stages. All this to say Battaglia is expecting more attendees than years past -- about 4,500 compared to 2,200 in 2014.
With so many bands on the schedule, it can seem overwhelming to choose which will be worth your time. Take it from me, these are five you don't want to miss.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
This Los Angeles-based band is like a traveling hippie commune with enough good vibes to go around. Its sound straddles the line between folk and pop, but the live experience is more like a spiritual celebration, with singer Alexander Ebert leading the congregation. That's not say the music religious (although the message can be at times) -- it's uplifting, danceable and offers plenty of opportunity for onlookers to join the chorus.
Catch Edward Sharpe and the Magnetics Zeros Sunday, Sept. 27 at 8:30 p.m. on the Travelstead Main Stage.
Stephen Bruner is lauded as nothing short of prodigious when it comes to bass guitar. His resume alone lends enough credibility -- Bruner's worked alongside Erykah Badu, Flying Lotus, and most recently Kendrick Lamar on the rapper's 2015 album, To Pimp a Butterfly. His sound encompasses funk, soul and jazz as well as other, more ethereal elements, and in a live setting, the energy is contagious.
Catch Thundercat Saturday, Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. on the Travelstead Main Stage.
Minus the Bear
It's tough to pinpoint Minus the Bear. The Seattle-based five-piece has enough character to satisfy pop-rock, alt-rock and emo audiences, but maintains an underlying groove. Whatever the genre, the band's music is always poetic and emotionally evocative. Of note for longtime fans: Minus the Bear is celebrating 10 years since Menos El Oso, so there's potential to hear throwback favorites.
Catch Minus the Bear Saturday, Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. on the Audacity Brew House Main Stage.
Rootsy Americana vibes are Israel Nash's specialty. The Midwest native now resides in Dripping Springs in the Texas hill country, which he's said is a major influence on the band's sound. "I wanted the album [Rain Plans, 2014] to sound like the hills," Nash told American Standard Time. It certainly feels like a collection of songs from the heart, propelled by haunting harmonica, gripping pedal steel and Nash's silky voice. He has a new one on the way too; Silver Season, out Oct. 9.
Catch Israel Nash Sunday, Sept. 27 at 3:30 p.m. on the Audacity Brew House Main Stage.
Atlanta rapper Father has been creating buzz as one of the hottest things in underground hip-hop. He runs his own record label, Awful Records, and is praised for offering something "different" to the scene; namely, a sort of minimalist approach that's as groovy as it is raw. His style is reserved, but his flows about drugs and sex are also in your face. It's a push and pull dynamic that is attracting listeners and suggests he'll be one to watch.
Catch Father Friday, Sept. 25 at midnight at Hailey's.