Blitzen Trapper has produced some of the best indie roots-rock around since 2003, gaining many fans with the release of 2008’s excellent Furr. Other BoT members have seen them live on multiple occasions, and the praise I’ve heard for their live show has me more excited about seeing them than any other band that I’m new to on the UtopiaFest lineup. Adding to the excitement is the quality of their new album, American Goldwing, which is an enjoyable classic-rock throwback with a ton of interesting flourishes. Catch them tonight on the Arrowhead stage at 10:30.
Of all the performers playing this years festival, I have seen headliner Keller Williams more times than any of the other bands combined. I spent the early-to-mid 2000’s traveling around trying to catch Keller wherever I could. Hell, in 2005 I even traveled to Amsterdam to see Keller for three nights in a row at the very first Jam In The Dam festival. He’s been apart of numerous side project that all usually bear his name, and feature his songs, but his best performances are the ones that find him alone on the stage with his arsenal of instruments. He’s an acoustic guitar virtuoso, that combines live looping and the use of other toys and instruments to build each of his songs from scratch every time he performs them. Just like a snowflake, a live Keller Williams song is never the exact same. Employing a host of covers to his repertoire, Keller will always surprise you with a reggae take on a Grateful Dead song, or a stripped down acoustic version of an Amy Winehouse song. You never really know with him. That’s why he has been and always will be one of my absolute favorites.
Most of the bands playing this years festival are in the folk/americana/bluegrass/indie realm, but the festival promoters knew they’d have to bring some energy to the late night crowd to ensure a proper dance party. Well, they did a great job in their choice of bands to incite said party. Austin-based Latin funk group Grupo Fantasma will be closing the Utopia main stage on Friday, with their endless assortment of danceable tunes. I’ve caught the group a few times over the years, and have never left with out a smile on my face and my body soaked in sweat. Can’t wait for this show tomorrow!
Our love for this band is well-documented in the annals of BoT – so if regular readers aren’t already fans of all things Dawes, it’s not due to lack of exposure. New readers, however, might be unfamiliar with the Dawes brand of perfectly-crafted folk rock. I’m almost jealous of someone who hasn’t been exposed to it yet, because the first time Taylor Goldsmith’s lyrics hit you, they hit you in an unforgettably special way. If your first time happens to be this Friday night just as the night air starts to cool in Utopia, TX, consider yourself privileged.
I’ve had the opportunity to catch Cornmeal numerous times over the past few years at a host of festivals including Wakarusa, Harvest Festival and more. At the front of the group is fiddle player Allie Krall, who not only slays her strings, but is also one of the nicest people in the bluegrass and jamband community. The rest of the band are no slouches either, each bringing skill to their instruments that culminates into a fun, dancey newgrass sound. I’d expect their set to be quite rambunctious, and a perfect way to open up the main stage of Utopia on Friday evening. Check out their tune “Hillbilly Ride” below.
Artsy indie-rockers with a debut produced by Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads. Sign me up. Austin-based The Black And White Years will be entertaining the early dinner crowd on the main stage at this years Utopia with their unique take on your standard indie rock basis. You can definitely hear the Talking Heads influence on a bunch of their music, especially on the track I’ve included below, “Zeroes and Ones.” I’m looking forward to catching their set before heading back to camp to grill up some meat. I have a feeling they might leave one of the best tastes in my mouth of any band playing the festival (other than Dawes and Keller, of course).
My good friend Mark Austin has recently revamped his web series, Back Seat Jukebox, and has posted a plethora of videos from the past few months featuring mostly Houston-based artists to go along with the new website. At Houston’s BestFest a few weekends ago, Austin talked the boys of Rhode Island group Deer Tick into taking a ride with him through downtown adorned in as much Monster Energy Drink gear as they could throw on while playing through one of their latest tracks, “The Bump,” from their most recent LP, Divine Providence. Despite cramped quarters, Deer Tick had no problem killing the acoustic version which sounds more like a comedic, bluesy B-side from Exile-era Rolling Stones rather than the norm from the indie-folksters.
Head on over to the Back Seat Jukebox website to see more videos from the likes of Robert Ellis, Buxton, Fat Tony, Young Girls, B L A C K I E, Mason Lankford, Come See My Dead Person and a whole bunch more. There’s so much good stuff over there, you’d be missing out if you didn’t stop by at least for a minute.
Digital Antique are an indie-rock instrumental trio in the same vein as their Austin older brothers Explosions In The Sky, only they twist it up by adding a quartet of classically trained string players for a unique take on experimental and, at some times, dance music. Opening the second day with what promises to be a very relaxing set for the lunchtime crowd, the group should provide some interesting compositions for the start of the musical day that eventually ends about 14 hours later with Art vs. Science who”s previewed just below.
Check out this video from one of their Austin Performances at the now defunct Emo”s Indoor. It”s definitely some intriguing music, and should be the perfect way to get the day moving.
Utopia’s diverse lineup comes to its completion on Saturday at midnight with this Aussie dance band closing out the festival. Whatever energy we have left will be spent dancing to their brand of intense electro-funk. Check out some of their official videos (such as the one above) for a few laughs, and then watch their live videos to prepare for how much fun Saturday will be.
California’s Avi Buffalo craft tuneful indie-pop with a lyrical density that’ll sneak up on you. Though the band has gone through some lineup changes since their 2010 debut, they’ve still captured festival audiences both home and abroad with their stellar live performances. Don’t miss them on Saturday at 6:30 on the Arrowhead stage.
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