// Oaktopia 5.0 //
Words by Alcynna Lloyd
Photos by Garrett Smith
This year Oaktopia said goodbye to small town Denton, and relocated to the busy streets of Deep Ellum. Much like a kid finally leaving the nest, Oaktopia found itself on a journey of discovery. While many changes came its way, there were things that definitely remained the same.
Here’s a rundown of Oaktopia 2017.
It was my third year of attending Oaktopia. I have always felt that the festival was unique in a way, managing to make a crowd of hundreds of people feel intimate. When I heard Oaktopia was moving to Deep Ellum, I was worried it was going to lose that special feeling.
Instead of local bars and pop up stages, performances took place at three concert halls. The venues had their own vibe, each reminding me of a local Denton hotspot. The Bomb Factory was Lou’s, Trees was Cool Beans, and Canton Hall was Andy’s. If you’re from Denton, I bet you’ll understand that breakdown a lot better.
As the number of attendees grow, so does the star power of its performers. Headliners this year were a testimony to the growth of the festival, including names like 21 Savage, Little Yachty, Phantogram, and STRFKR. We love you, Denton – but we doubt any little D venue would be able to host the kinds of crowds that these acts attract.
// Headliners //
Lil Yachty is a hot rapper whose music is extremely popular right now. So, when I heard he was performing, I was interested to see the hype. His performance managed to leave the building shaking, every corner filled with people head-banging.
21 Savage is the king of cool. The chants of “twenty-one, twenty-one, twenty-one” echoed throughout the Bomb Factory. His lyrics spoke of tribulation and hard times, each verse geeling as if it was a testimony to his own triumph.
That kind of feeling is unforgettable.
STRFKR was surely a treat. It was feel good music that took me back to when I had to get X’s stamped on my hand before entering a venue. The music was already fun, but a handful of people in astronaut and blowup costumes dancing took it to another level. When I think about it, I remember having a smile on my face the entire time.
Phantogram really knows how to put a crowd on their feet. Everything about their performance was electrifying, whether it was Sarah Barthel jumping and kicking to the rhythm, or Josh Carter thrusting his guitar in every direction. Concert goers sang word for word, hypnotized by both the music and the distorted projections that imitated their energy.
And of course, who could forget the roof-dropping DJ stylings of Com Truise and Hippie Sabotage? Based on the energy of the crowd – absolutely no one.
// Local Favorites & Touring Wonders//
Other acts included Bane’s World, Pearl Earl and Elijah Heaps x Nikolai Rya. While these sets were smaller, they still left a lasting impression. A testimony to both the local scene, and the power of independent artist.
Bane’s World is a touring band from California who brought a bit of that sunny state vibe to Deep Ellum. I’ve listened to their music here and there; they have a mix of indie and pop rock going. I was expecting a really chill performance, and that was exactly what I got. The music is the kind you bob your head to while snapping your fingers. I would definitely see them again.
Pearl Earl is a Denton band that plays often in Deep Ellum. They are an all-girl band, with a psych-rock vibe that manages to be chill but still in your face. I think there is nothing better than a band filled with chicks, that are as talented as they are badass. From the moment they take the stage, you are left transported to a world of beautiful chaos.
Elijah Heaps and Nikolai Rya are Denton locals, and were by far one of my favorite performances. This rap duo, put their all into their stage presence. They commanded the room, and made sure their fans had as much fun as they did. I really hope they gain more traction, as it is rightfully deserved.
And many other bands left their audiences shell-shocked, too –
Body English and Medicine Man Revival with varying degrees of soulful electronic and funk blended with rap and R&B crooning (and a cover of Radiohead’s Myxomatosis by the latter),
Blue the Misfit and Casey Veggies came at us with hard hitting hip-hop,
Mystery Skulls, Juicy the Emissary, and Ghost Memories delivering intricately woven beats,
and while hometown heroes Kaela Sinclair, TOMKAT, and Jessie Frye all gave stunning electronic-infused pop performances,
a host of other Golden Triangle natives in the form of Loafers, War Party and Samus David Jr. were melting faces with post-punk and positive party rock.
A little local flavor for everyone’s palate.
// Final Thoughts //
I was conflicted originally about the relocation of the festival. I was afraid it would not feel the same, somehow threatening my experience. To the contrary, I had a lot of fun. Oaktopia managed to feature local Denton and Dallas artists while introducing us to many new acts as well. While Oaktopia is now a Deep Ellum resident, it will always be from Denton, Texas.
And now, let’s have some shoes: