When Untapped festival announced in March it would rebrand, retool and return as Index Fest, many locals felt a mix of disappointment and optimism. Untapped, which paired craft breweries and indie bands, had been a staple of the local festival scene since 2012, at its peak attracting about 9,000 music and beer lovers. But the fest's new name also promised the revival of a beloved music event that was discontinued in 2016.
All things considered, the move was incredibly bold. In addition to having a new owner — The Dallas Morning News subsidiary CrowdSource sold the event to B-Weiss Entertainment Group — the new Index Fest, which came to Fort Worth on Saturday, now carries the expectations of both previous events. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to either one.
That wasn't entirely the fault of the event, however. Index Fest slated five bands, including indie pop outfit Dawes, and more than 80 craft breweries for fest-goers at Panther Island Pavilion, but weekend rain put a serious damper on things. The event start time was delayed an hour, effectively nixing DJ Sober's day-opening set. The grounds were soggy, the air was muggy and the continued threat of rain likely deterred many from attending. Though there was a line to get in when the gates opened, Index Fest didn't fill up like its preceding beer festivals, which was good for keeping beer lines short, but bad for vibe. The event just felt empty.
Although Index had promised to integrate local restaurants into the mix, attendees complained about the lack of food options. Many even left the venue to get something to eat.
That's not to say Index Fest was a wash.
Eight-piece Austin band Shinyribs livened up the crowd with its funky tunes, including covers of Prince's "When Doves Cry" and the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" that summoned dance parties from the stage to the far reaches of the beer tents. Headliner Dawes, too, gave an inspired performance, leading the small-but-mighty audience through sing-alongs of fan favorite "When My Time Comes" and new single "Roll With the Punches."
Index Fest made good on its promise to incorporate visual artists, who were set up throughout the venue creating large-scale murals. One particularly awesome piece took shape near the new-to-Texas Great Raft Brewing tent and featured a joyous Willie Nelson picking his guitar on a canvas shaped by Louisiana. (Great Raft is based in Shreveport, La. Its Grace and Grit double IPA was also tasty.)
The festival also added an improved element on the beer side. Instead of paper sample cards, attendees received scannable wristbands that kept track of how many pours they had left, offering a much more streamlined and hassle-free experience.
It's tough not to have a good time in the company of rocking music and cold beer. While Index Fest had issues, they felt more like growing pains than fundamental flaws. Organizers will get another opportunity to impress locals in November when the festival comes to Dallas. (It also has installments in Austin, Houston and San Antonio.) If they can seize the event's potential and work through the kinks, Index Fest could be a can't-miss party that people buzz about for many years to come.