News Column

Music festival madness: musicians shares memories as performers and fans

August 28, 2014

By Preston Jones, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Aug. 28--This year, North Texas has played host to what seems like an endless parade of festivals.

Whether over the course of one day or several days, one music-filled event after another has popped up for public consumption.

From the three-day March Madness festivities in downtown Dallas to Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic in the Stockyards to the Fort Worth Music Festival and Untapped at Panther Island Pavilion to Plano's inaugural Suburbia Festival, every corner of North Texas has played host to one of these at some point this year.

That brings us up to the Clearfork Music Festival, on Saturday at Panther Island Pavilion.

If you were to be a grumpy cynic, you might wonder if this whole festival thing has jumped the shark.

But if you buried that grumpy critic (maybe, say, in a mosh pit?), you might remember what made you love a music festival to begin with, and remind us to be grateful for these sonic buffets. First, it's an entire day curated for the music fan -- a chance to sample a whole range of sounds, rather than being locked into a concert featuring, at most, one or two performers.

Festivals are also generally easier on the wallet, as a single- or multiple-day pass can provide more musical bang for your hard-earned buck.

That may be what's making them more popular than ever.

Figures for 2014 are incomplete, but just last year, Billboard noted that the most U.S.-based music festivals had been launched "in history," with the publication's own Boxscore chart also noting that a whopping $4.8 billion in gross ticket sales worldwide was reported for 2013.

Dollars and cents aside, festivals are also where memories are made. Unlike traditional concerts, festivals provide a space for ... well, let's call it memorable shenanigans to occur.

Over the course of my career, I've seen some truly outrageous stuff at festivals (nightmare-haunting fashion choices at Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic; Janelle Monae gleefully leading a club full of people out into the streets of Austin at this year's South by Southwest). It seems the only motivation some people need to let their freak flag fly is a few acres of open ground, a couple stages and some loud music (keep doin' you, Suburbia Music Festival Jesus).

Saturday, the Clearfork Music Festival floats up-river from its inaugural spot on the Trinity last year to the ever-busy Panther Island Pavilion (see related story, page 20), spreading 25 local, regional and national acts across three stages, starting at high noon.

In the spirit of cutting loose and turning the volume up to 11, we reached out to five of the local performers on Saturday's lineup, and asked them: What's the most memorable festival experience you've ever had?

From bleeding eyeballs to soothing a European World Cup loss with Stevie Wonder, the following anecdotes should help inspire you, John and Jane Q. Music Fan, to seize what's left of festival season in North Texas and let it all hang out -- just don't forget your earplugs.

Panic Volcanic's Ansley Dougherty

Fort Worth's Panic Volcanic -- Ansley Dougherty, Zach Tucker and Chris Cole -- is a force of musical nature. Describing its sound as "sex rock" on its Facebook page, an equally appropriate adjective might be "incendiary." The trio's debut LP, Freak Fuzz, was one of's top local albums of last year, described as "smolder[ing] like a wildfire" and "best played at ear-bleeding volume."

Where: Austin's West by West Campus festival in 2013

Remember when: "Panic Volcanic had a set early on in the day, around 2 p.m.," Dougherty says. "[We] continued our libation-filled activities through the end of the night. Around midnight, I realized that my vision was sort of blurred and there was a large black shadow hovering around in my right eye. After waking up the next morning to realize my vision had only gotten worse, the band boogied on back to Fort Worth so I could get into an emergency room, only for our car to break down just outside of the Fort."

The now-defunct Frisky Disco came to PV and Dougherty's rescue, picking up the musicians and providing a ride to the emergency room. Once preliminary brain scans revealed Dougherty wasn't in imminent danger, she was referred to an ophthalmologist.

"It turns out I had literally head-banged my retina out of place at our show," Dougherty says. "I had to have emergency surgery the next day, and subsequently wore an awesome eye patch for a few weeks during recovery, mostly to spare everyone the sight [of] all the white of my eye ... filled with blood. It was probably the most metal thing that ever happened to me."

What's next: Panic Volcanic will be releasing its sophomore record, Speak Your Evil, "within probably three or four months," according to Dougherty.

Panic Volcanic plays the KTL Stage at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Son of Stan's

Jordan Richardson

Having bagged a Grammy for his work with Ben Harper and Relentless7 this year, Crowley native Jordan Richardson has come back home to help nurture the local music scene in his role as a producer for upstart bands like the Longshots and We'rewolves. Richardson also keeps busy under his Son of Stan moniker, crafting what he calls "divorce pop" and manning the decks for DJ nights around town.

Where: North Sea Jazz Festival, outside of Amsterdam, in 2010

Remember when: Richardson was in the final days of a European summer tour, when Harper and Relentless7 got a firsthand taste of World Cup madness, Netherlands-style.

"We were slated as the opener to the big day -- one side of an excitement triangle that had us opening the show, followed by a live broadcast of the game (literally on a screen that was pulled down in front of the stage), and then finally Stevie Wonder would close the night," Richardson says. "As we entered the venue, a giant airplane hangar, we could feel the anticipation and electricity from the mostly all-Dutch crowd, probably 10,000 strong. While some of the super-fans might have been eagerly awaiting our set, I knew right away that that physical energy was for the game, not for us."

The band played on, and as the curtain was lowered, the day's main event took center stage: "As we were walking off stage and the curtain lowered, the place went ballistic," Richardson says.

Unfortunately, the Netherlands wouldn't fare well against its opponent, Spain, and all that celebratory energy turned into shell-shocked disappointment.

"As the final whistle blew the game to a close, we heard the deafening silence from the other side of the arena," Richardson says. "There were wails and tears and angry Dutch rants. I remember one petite female stagehand springing to her feet and turning off every TV in sight. These people were devastated."

Hardly an atmosphere conducive to continuing a music festival, but thanks to what Richardson describes as "the Dutch miracle," one man was able to turn everything around.

"Stevie Wonder sprung into his set like a preacher at a funeral and had the people celebrating in no time," Richardson says. "There, for about 90 minutes, this collective and captive Dutch audience forgot about their biggest loss ever and let the power and soul of good ol' American rock 'n' roll bring them back to life. It was nothing short of magical."

That wasn't the only surprising aspect of the trip. The next day, Richardson and his bandmates found themselves in Barcelona, of all places, a capital of the country that had been on the other side of the field in the World Cup final.

"The emotions were 180 degrees ... and, man, talk about a victory party," Richardson says.

What's next: Son of Stan releases its new EP, Georgia, Oct. 7 on WizardVizion Records, and plays Sept. 12 at Lola's Saloon. Son of Stan is also on the lineup for this year's Index Festival in Deep Ellum (Sept. 26-28).

Son of Stan plays the Solar Powered Stage at 6:50 p.m. Saturday.

Kaela Sinclair

Denton-based singer-songwriter Kaela Sinclair's bewitching alt-pop tunes form the foundation of her enticing debut LP, Sun & Mirror, which named the top local album of last year.

Where: South by Southwest in 2014

Remember when: Sinclair had several performances on her SXSW schedule this year, but her most enduring memory came not as a working musician, but as a fan.

"We were out at Willie Nelson's novelty town/music venue, Luck Ranch, when Willie Nelson himself surprised everyone by showing up and performing a full set," Sinclair says. "I was there to see the band Lucius and they lived up to my every expectation, so a surprise show by the legendary Mr. Nelson was the cherry on top of a perfect day."

The Red-Headed Stranger isn't the only fond remembrance Sinclair has of her time spent as part of music festivals.

"Festivals always contain some debauchery, of course," Sinclair says. "After a show (and a few drinks) my friends and I ended up at the penthouse of this magnificent high-rise with some very friendly Brits and we played games and listened to records. After that we went to a swanky hotel bar to meet a friend and we ended up meeting and hanging out with one of the lead actors from the show Girls. There was a lot of giggling done that night."

Festival fan: "The thing I love the most, though (closely followed by Best Wurst hot dogs in Austin), is discovering true musical gems when you least expect it," Sinclair says. "Festivals are where I heard Tegan and Sara when I was in high school, and later where I heard the Spring Standards, Elizabeth and the Catapult, and Lucy Rose. It's a special thing to have no expectations of a band and then be blown away. It makes for a very loyal listener."

What's next: Sinclair continues to perform locally in support of Sun & Mirror.

Kaela Sinclair plays the Solar Powered Stage at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Larry g(EE)

Dallas-based singer-songwriter Larry g(EE) is one of the most dynamic performers in the North Texas scene. On the strength of his stylish Weekends EP, g(EE) has landed national exposure via Jimmy Kimmel Live, as well as showcases from coast to coast. His soulful style has earned him a loyal, ever-growing fan base, and positioned him on the verge of breaking out beyond North Texas.

Where: Warped Tour in 2012

Remember when: g(EE)'s festival memory edges into the downright supernatural.

"The festival was in Orlando, Fla., on a very hot day in July, when this older-looking gentlemen threw a $50 bill at me during our set," g(EE) says. "As soon as I walked off stage, he grabbed me, put his hands on my shoulders, looked at me dead straight in the eye and said, 'Son, Chaka Khan taught me everything I know about music and you, my son, are blessed.' Then he just walked away into the sea of people at the festival. I never got his name and I never saw him again."

What's next: "As far as new material, unfortunately and fortunately, I won't be releasing anything just yet," g(EE) says. "I was planning on releasing a single and video in September; however, all of that is now on hold." The hold-up is for a good reason, though: "I will most likely be heading back to L.A. to write, record and release a new EP, potentially through an indie or major label."

Larry g(EE) plays the Main Stage at 6:45 p.m. Saturday.

Chance Morgan of Burning Hotels

Burning Hotels, one of Fort Worth's most dynamic bands, shook up its sound with its bold, self-titled 2011 LP, but has been mostly dormant over the past year, with its Clearfork appearance marking its first major concert appearance of 2014.

Where: The inaugural Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2002

Remember when: At the tender age of 17, Morgan and his BH bandmate, Matt Mooty, traveled south to Austin'sZilker Park to partake of the inaugural ACL festival with Morgan's parents.

"We really wanted to see Ryan Adams," Morgan says. "Even though it wasn't as big of a spectacle as it is now, it was our first music festival. We were walking around and a guy with a backpack on frontwards approached us and said, 'Do you guys want some chocolates?' Both of us were confused, thinking maybe this guy had some nice Russell Stovers in his JanSport. Needless to say, we might have had a better trip if we had accepted."

Like the infamous Woodstock-era admonition says, it's always best to avoid "the brown acid."

What's next: Burning Hotels remains on hiatus, Morgan says, "focusing on family at the moment." The band plans to debut a couple new songs at Clearfork, and play the occasional show during the remainder of 2014, as well as "working on new material when we can." Morgan is helping curate the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth's upcoming Modern 'til Midnight event, set for Oct. 25, with a theme of "New York in the '80s." "There will be a roster of the best local musicians covering everyone from Marvin Gaye to Talking Heads," Morgan says. "It's going to be pretty big."

Burning Hotels plays the KTL Stage at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones


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