UTOPiAfest 2016 Summary
UTOPiAfest 2016 review: idyllic pastoral settings are surrounded by scenic vistas that are far superior to any other Texas music festival. Overall, the eighth annual UTOPiAfest on September 29 through October 2, 2016 was an uplifting, rejuvenating, and refreshing weekend.
Check out the review from 2015.
UTOPiAfest 2016 Review | Scenic Festival
The picturesque Sabinal River Valley contains a feast of scenery that unfolds along Hwy 187. The highway passes Lost Maples State Natural Area (the Sabinal River’s headwaters) at the north end of the valley where you can find true canyons of the Hill Country. Heading south, the valley broadens between the rugged hills until it slowly tapers-off to an end at the edge of the Balcones Escarpment.
Utopia, TX is one of two towns located in the Sabinal River Valley. It is just over halfway between the north and south end of the valley. Utopia is a rural community that dates from 1852. It currently has a population of about 250. This curious place is the namesake of UTOPiAfest, which is located about six miles northwest of town—practically on the edge of the Sabinal River Valley.
To be clear, UTOPiAfest is surrounded by scenic vistas that are far superior to any other Texas music festival. Situated in a natural amphitheater on the Four Sisters Ranch, this idyllic pastoral setting features live-oak groves that stretch to the dramatic hills of Edwards Limestone and Glen Rose material thick with sotol, ashe juniper, flameleaf sumac, and the occasional prickly-pear cactus.
UTOPiAfest 2016 Review | Elements
Camping and exploring on this land is a huge part of the appeal and success of UTOPiAfest.
There is a two-mile hiking trail, a 9-hole disc-golf course, a five-mile mountain bike tour hosted by REI, many hidden trails that traverse the surrounding peaks and a night sky filled with stars.
As if the lure of the hills isn’t enough, other elements of UTOPiAfest add to the appealing experience: learning workshops, vendors (food, art, etc…), fun loving people, yoga and an awesome bring your own drink and food policy. You won’t find many fences or barriers that impede your ability to freely go where you choose. Absent from the festival are overbearing ego driven security personnel rummaging through your backpack every time you enter the grounds.
UTOPiAfest 2016 Review | Live Music
As an added bonus you get live music. You won’t see Bassnector or Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters rocking the Cypress stage anytime soon. But, you do get 3 days of high quality music that spans genres in an interesting and satisfying way. With over 25 performances, you’ll appreciate non-overlapping shows and a relatively sparse crowd that is capped at 2,000 attendees.
Headliners for UTOPiAfest 2016 included RATATAT, Victor Wooten, Thao & The Get Down, White Denim, Rubblebucket, Givers, CHALI 2na, Man or Astro-Man, Vapors of Morphine and the Whiskey Shivers.
My Friday Favorites, September 30, 2016
Friday featured 12 performances that alternated between the Cypress and Arrowhead stages. The shows ran uninterrupted from 2:15pm through 1AM. Afterward, late-night jams continued with a silent disco at the Four Sister’s Tent and/or non-amplified acoustic sets at Tank Goodtimes. My personal favorites for this UTOPiAfest 2016 review include: Vapors of Morphine, Rubblebucket and Victor Wooten.
Vapors of Morphine
Vapors of Morphine is an American rock band founded in 2009 from the ashes of internationally acclaimed Morphine.
“Morphine was undeniably one of the coolest bands in the world… and no one since has come close to capturing the magic in a bottle the trio conjured; that is, until surviving members Dana Colley (a true rock ‘n roll horn bad-ass, if there ever were one) and Jerome Deupree (with the chops of Mitch Mitchell) got together with guitarist Jeremy Lyons… They have a lot of their own stuff to say, but you know they can still tear up the old material that so many of us will never, ever forget… Don’t kick yourself the next day for missing this one.”
– Cincinnati City Beat
Rubblebucket was awarded SPIN Magazine’s “Must-hear artist from the 2009 CMJs” and the Boston Music Award for Live Act of the Year. In 2010, Paste Magazine included their Beatles cover “Michelle” on the list of 50 Greatest Beatles Covers of All Time. The band performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2012. By 2014 Rubblebucket was firmly supported by many online publications, radio stations and the track “Came Out Of A Lady” was featured in the film Drinking Buddies.
Victor Wooten is an American bass player, composer, author, producer, and teacher. He received five Grammy Awards, won the “Bass Player of the Year” award from Bass Player magazine three times in a row, and was named #10 in the “Top 10 Bassists of All Time” by Rolling Stone. Wooten is bassist for, and an original member of, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. He also enjoys a prolific solo career with many collaborative works.
My Saturday Favorites, October 1, 2016
Saturday featured 12 performances that alternated between the Cypress and Arrowhead stages. The shows ran uninterrupted from 2:15pm through 1AM. Afterward, late-night jams continued with a silent disco at the Four Sister’s Tent and/or non-amplified acoustic sets at Tank Goodtimes. My personal favorites for this UTOPiAfest 2016 review: Man or Astro-man?, Whiskey Shivers, Thao & TGDSD, Chali 2na, and RATATAT.
Man or Astro-Man
Man or Astro-man? is a surf rock punk inspired group that came to prominence in the 1990’s alternative scene. They recorded 10 albums between 1993 and 2001 before going into deep space. They returned to earth in 2010 and produced another album in 2013. Thankfully, a sighting was reported in the remote Texas Hill Country in 2016.
“Austin’s Whiskey Shivers are bluegrass-fueled Americana for a generation that grew up listening to punk rock. This group of 20somethings plays banjos, fiddles and washboards at breakneck speeds while singing high, lonesome harmonies about love and video games.” – Washington Post
Thao & TGDSD
Thao & the Get Down Stay Down is an alternative folk rock music group based in San Francisco, California.
Ratatat is a New York City experimental electronic rock duo consisting of Mike Stroud (guitar, melodica, synthesizers, percussion) and producer Evan Mast (bass, synthesizers, percussion).
UTOPiAfest 2016 Review | Keep Utopia Beautiful
A special recognition to Keep Utopia Beautiful. Their volunteers kept the land clean, recycled your trash and provided an educational booth with free tools to keep your butts off the ground.
UTOPiAfest Official Websites/Social Media
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