Texas and music festivals go together like peanut butter and jelly. Like rice and beans. Like Johnny Manziel and autographs.
Austin, the hipster capital of the south, reigns king of the Texas music festival scene, with Austin City Limits (ACL) in the fall, Fun Fun Fun Fest around turkey day, and South by Southwest (SXSW) geeking everyone out in the spring. Houston plays ball in the summer during Free Press Summer Fest and Dallas' Breakaway Music Festival tries its best to give Big D a piece of the action.
But have you been there, done that? Tired of the overcrowded, overpriced, claustrophobia-inducing, corporate, can't see or hear the music because you're hundreds of yards away festivals? Enter UTOPIAfest. A festival that encourages freedom. A festival with its own rules. A festival with soul.
About an hour and a half west of San Antonio, nestled snugly at the intersection of Ranch Road 187 and Farm to Market 1050 lies 3 square miles and 230 citizens that make up Utopia, TX. This little slice of hill country paradise welcomes in top-notch musical acts and true music lovers (not just posers) every year in September for UTOPIAfest, a weekend music festival started by Travis Sutherland in 2009 on his family's massive (1000+ acre) ranch.
This year's 5th Annual UTOPIAfest, happening September 19-21, is primed to be the biggest and best yet, with its most diverse lineup ever. The party starts Thursday night, with the highlight of the evening being the little known but insanely talented EOTO. An electronic duo from Boulder, CO, EOTO's shows are basically the best dance party you'll ever go to, and get this... THEY ARE ALWAYS IMPROVISED. No two shows are ever the same.
Two must-see shows on Friday are: Blackalicious and Hooray for Earth. Blackalicious is the first hip hop act to ever play UTOPIAfest, and they are a good one. Hailing from Sacramento, California, the duo features gifted lyricist and tongue-twisting emcee Gift of Gab. Hooray for Earth is a very unique indie rock outfit from Boston, Mass, known for their creativity and experimental sounds.
Also on Friday, don't sleep on 1960's psychedelic Texas legends, Bubble Puppy. Ask your mom if she remembers their 1969 hit song, "Hot Smoke & Sassafrass". Rock 'n' roll nostalgia? I guarantee it.
Saturday has some relatively heavy hitters in the music world. The appropriately named !!! have made huge waves in the alternative scene, and their dance rock will make you feel very !!! that you hadn't heard them sooner. Their albums are great, so I expect their live show will have you dancing under the West Texas stars..
Be sure to post up for a good spot to check out the Wheeler Brothers on Saturday night. The Austin, TX folk/Americana/blues quintet just released a new album in 2013, and are well on their way to becoming a major force not only in Austin, but across the states. They have a fun, unique sound, caught somewhere between Band of Horses and Modest Mouse. Do not miss.
In addition to great music, UTOPIAfest offers much more than the typical music festival. UTOPIAfest is truly family-friendly, including a designated camping area for families with children. Revive your body and mind with free yoga, disc golf, hula hooping, or just exploring the countryside. Also, Garner State Park and the Frio River are a short drive away.
At only $129 for the entire weekend (that includes parking and camping), UTOPIAfest is an incredible bargain. Hear world-class musicians and bands (with no music overlap - that's right, you can catch EVERY show), a capped audience (no lines), all while enjoying a 360 degree view of west Texas rolling hills. Did I mention it's BYOB? (hallelujah!) UTOPIAfest is truly all about the experience. Freedom is good.
You can buy tickets, check out the full music lineup, read FAQ's, and find everything you need at utopiafest.com.