UtopiaFest 2011: Friday in Review and Photos
Last weekend, I joined a really good group of friends for a roadtrip to the third annual UtopiaFest, a small music and camping festival located in the hill country a ways west of San Antonio. Utopia featured a slew of both national and regional acts on their two stages over the course of Friday night and all day Saturday which culminated into a dance party of grand proportions. We enjoyed everything about the festival, especially the ease of travel from the campgrounds to the stages, intimacy of each show, completely relaxed vibe and the ability to bring as much booze around with you anywhere you wanted. The line-up was pretty freaking stellar as well.
Read all about Friday’s events after the jump
Friday touted a pretty great dance card that all got started with an opening set from Chicago quintet Cornmeal that both surprised and impressed pretty much everyone on the grounds that night. Starting off with a few slow bluegrass tunes, the group quickly progressed into an all out jamband, improvising their way through most of the rest of the set with high energy newgrass and psychedelia that got everyone up and moving. Many in our group chose them as one of the best of the weekend. I’m right there with them.
Next was one of BOT’s most anticipated acts in Dawes, a band we’ve all come to obsess over as of late. Their set was the best, and most fun I’ve seen from them in the past few years, and you could tell they were having a great time on stage while performing sing-a-long after sing-a-long. Songs like “Fire Away, “A Little Bit Of Everything,” “Western Skyline,” “Million Dollar Bill” and a incredibly high energy “When My Time Comes” highlighted a set that also saw the debut of a brand new song. The crowd started to show the actual attendance of Utopia, pushing up to get as close to Taylor Goldsmith and the rest of the Dawes boys as they could. We tried to jump backstage in time to catch them for a few words, but it seemed like they shipped out as soon as their set finished. Bummer.
Headliner Blitzen Trapper were next, and they didn’t disappoint either. I’ve only seen them once before, and that set kind of bored me, so I didn’t have high hopes for the ensuing show. Thankfully, they were much more impressive this time around, and seemed to carry on the energy left by both Dawes and Cornmeal just before. My drunk was starting to come on full force by the time they finished, but that didn’t stop me from rocking out to a pretty solid cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” which closed the set. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing them again soon.
We headed over the the smaller stage to catch Cowboy & Indian due to a fair amount of chatter about the Austinites that evening among new friends. Being fresh off an appearance at the much bigger ACL festival last month, and having a nice buzz in Texas and beyond, I was really looking forward to seeing what they could do. I didn’t have any time to get acquainted with them before the festival, as they were added only a few days before, like the rest of the second stage line-up, but I had a good feeling about the show. Their up-beat acoustic indie folk was just the right sound to bridge the quieter Blitzen Trapper into the final band of the night, Latin funk aficionados Grupo Fantasma.
By this time I was a bit too inebriated to tell the difference between good music and bad music, but I do know that I danced my ass of during the final set of the night, so I’m sure it fit into the good rather than the bad. It was a great way to end the night which found us stumbling back to camp during their last notes, hitting the pillow just in time to fall asleep before the drum circles started.
Knowing that we had a full day of music ahead of us, I’m glad I didn’t stay up until sunrise like I’ve been known to do at festivals. Saturday was jam packed with musical surprises, and I didn’t want to miss a beat. Friday, though, you ruled!