Music festival provided immersive, individualized experience
By Linda Smith
I got off the DART and walked down streets not quite grungy enough to scare pedestrians. I walked down Elm Street to the sandiest, rockiest lot imaginable. I checked in to my first festival with rocks and sand already filling my boots.
The most striking thing I noticed throughout the third annual Index Festival was the different types of people in attendance, from the bands to the attendees. There were the fashionable festival-goers, who bring to Deep Ellum the indie sophistication of their East Coast style. There were some people who just came to dance — whether they “could” or not. Rockers and grungers and punks alike all came in their various fashions. Art and design majors with gauged ears, dressed in cropped T-shirts, shorts and suspenders made up another significant demographic. The people I was the most impressed with were what I have decided to call “The-Let’s-Be-Stills.” I could only think of the cover of the album called “Let’s Be Still” by another indie band, The Head and The Heart, featuring two band members lying in an empty field, faces towards the sky in blissful serenity. People were doing that exact thing at the festival, and coming from the realm of concerts, it was very odd for me to see people who were not only fine being far away from the stages, but were also content not even looking at the performers. This made me realize that this is a fully immersive experience, and that the music is meant to take over each person.
As a result, these diverse people all followed the same patterns throughout the day. All of us went through the “Process of Perpetual Zig-Zagging” among the Goose Island, KXT and Prekindle stages each day. We were able to see at least 10 minutes of each band as a result, which greatly enhanced the experience. It allowed us all to check out not only our favorite bands, but also places and artists that were totally new to us.
For example, the first band I checked out was Foxygen, an eclectic mish-mash of a band featuring a screaming androgynous lead singer, three soulful and sultry female singers/dancers, and an otherwise ordinary band setup. Some friends and I ended up a few rows behind, even though none of us were familiar with the band’s previous work. Lord Huron was the next act we caught, and although my friend and I heard some of their catchy songs during workdays at the University of Dallas bookstore, they were still relatively new to us. The next two acts we saw during the festival on Saturday, The Get Up Kids and Mutemath, were more familiar, enabling us to rock to our hearts’ content.
Then came the clubs and bars. Bands performed at Sons of Hermann Hall (on Friday), Club Dada, Prophet Ballroom (formerly The Door), Prophet Bar, Three Links and Trees. My friend, a connoisseur of the Deep Ellum scene, wanted me to see all the venues and so began another Process of Perpetual Zig-Zagging. We began with The Hunts, a seven-piece sibling band that adorned the Prophet Ballroom with sweet melodies on mandolin, piano, violin and guitar. Gold Beach was next door at The Prophet Bar, and their one song I caught was good, although I didn’t have enough time to formulate a more in-depth opinion. We walked through the door of the Ballroom again to catch Wild Party, a band that sounds just like its name indicates. We ran to Three Links to catch the end of the self-proclaimed “young femcee” Jenny Robinson’s act, during which she told the audience to throw up their middle fingers or she wasn’t stopping the show. Next, Latasha Lee & The Blackties dominated the stage at Trees with their soulful 50s-inspired setup and tunes. For the sake of seeing Club Dada, we caught the last bit of The Limousines electronic show. Our night concluded with Lee Fields & The Expressions’ high-powered performance with a classic R&B, soul and funk vibe again gracing the Trees stage.
While my curiosity allowed me to get close to the bands that I didn’t know, my inspiration from “The-Let’s-Be-Stills” allowed me to stand back, get food and gaze at shirts while some of my favorites played.
I only broke this pattern for Local Natives, who closed the festival on Sunday at Goose Island Stage. They played a sensational set as the sun went down and the lights of Dallas and from the stage illumined the overall experience. This show was their last for a while, as they are dedicating themselves to their third album over the next few months. We were a special audience for them, and they were a special act for us, all of which was evident in the atmosphere.
The festival was plagued with stage difficulties, everything from faulty mic-stands to cables plugged into the wrong places, which resulted in every band I saw starting late. Bands like The Hunts were cut short at times. While such a large undertaking won’t be without its pitfalls, more effort should be made to ensure that bands have the amazing opportunity to perform in Deep Ellum.
Around 3 a.m. on Saturday, after watching Lee Fields — even though our feet and legs were sore from dancing — my friends and I went to Glazed Donut Works on Elm Street. We treated ourselves to gourmet donuts, walking to the car as we ate. My friend told me in between bites to “make sure I included the culture.” That task was a taxing one, because all the bands I saw were great and all the places I went to catered to festival-goers. I think Index Fest’s culture lies in the opportunities it gives us, and how we take advantage of them. There is no wrong way to experience a festival like Index Fest.