Dallas Gave Oaktopia a Hell of a Welcome

When Oaktopia left Denton there were mentions of how the move down I-35 didn't work out for Fry Street Fair. The 2017 version of Oaktopia may not have offered the wide variety of experiences as past festivals, but in its new digs there was thriving energy in support of the music. 

Friday began strong with Dallas-based Bobby Sessions opening at the Bomb Factory, the festival’s largest venue. Throughout the night, Bomb Factory hosted some headliners who had serious draw from trap and hip-hop fans.

Lil Yachty rocked the venue before 21 Savage (and later that night King Boat lost $12,000 to 21 in a game of 2K.) The headliner and final act of the newly opened Canton Hall for Friday, an EDM set with A-Trak and Baauer brought the excitement out of the audience.

Trees played host to some of local indie favorites: Samus David Jr., War Party, and Pearl Earl for a night packed with star power (and a healthy dose of girl power). Samus David Jr. started with songs from their recently released album Literal Trash, but the performance was the opposite of basura. Later that night the Long Beach-native Bane’s World played in their first Texas show; frontman Shane Blanchard curiously tested out the infamous Texan clapping to “Deep In the Heart of Texas” and played a stellar cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.”

The night ended with a bang at all three venues, and festival goers had a healthy 18 hours to recover before the festivities would begin again.

Day two of Oaktopia began with some more Denton favorites: Body English rocked the house at Trees with their neo-soul funk sound and an amazing cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “If These Walls Could Talk.” Within Body English, Lil Dirt and Carleigh Reese commanded the front of the stage, but drummer and all-around badass Joe James sang and played drums simultaneously from the back of the Trees stage — an admirable feat for any musician.

TOMKAT, as well as rappers Elijah Heaps and Nikolai Rya, represented the 76201 on Oaktopia’s other two stages that very same night. Jessie Frye was followed by big names like Com Truise and STRFKR (who brought the house down with crowd-surfing astronauts, crossdressing, and giant inflatable green men). Radiohead was on the mind of a few performers this weekend, as Medicine Man Revival opened with a cover of “Myxomatosis” during their set at Trees.

Saturday, too, ended with a bang as acts like Phantogram, Hippie Sabotage, and Boombox surprised those who were not familiar with them, and delighted fans who knew exactly what they were in for. Oaktopia 2017 ended with a chilly November night in Dallas, leaving patrons old and new wondering where the festival might take them next year.

It will take some time for Oaktopia to stretch its legs, but this year's fest established a comfort level with Deep Ellum's nightlife. Skeptics who may have been critical of the distance between venues can rest assured the smell of Pecan Lodge while walking to Bomb Factory was well worth it. If you weren’t in the mood for the free wings that the Wing Stop food truck was serving up outside of Bomb Factory (yes, they were amazing), Deep Ellum hot spots provided every form of food fare imaginable.

Despite a diminished lineup from past years, Oaktopia didn't neglect to mix in local acts with headliners. Perhaps that's a testament to how the move can still strengthen the North Texas music scene. Denton dwellers who were shocked and disappointed by the news were hopefully reinvigorated by the experience, and Deep Ellum frequenters hopefully experienced some Denton bands that maybe they would have never had the privilege of listening to before.

We in Denton are spoiled by a constant stream of fantastic live music from many of these very same acts. In the spirit of the holiday season, isn’t it nice that we share? It’s safe to say the Oaktopia kids will be alright.

photos by Savannah Robertson and Rudy Cervantez
Header image by Cristopher Rodgers