The most common thing I’ve heard the last week was, “Oh, you’re going to Oaktopia? I’m so jealous!” Sometimes, you just have to treat yo’self and Oaktopia 2016 truly was a treat. From a great kick-off Thursday night to the action-packed Friday and Saturdays of the festival, this is going to be one of those events where you were either there or you’ll wish you were.
Now, I love me some Tom Petty (but who doesn’t like or at least know one Tom Petty song?) and this was truly awesome. Between songs from Jakob Dylan and Norah Jones to fun appearances from Jason Lee and Ceren, Danny Masterson and Michael Peña and discovering new awesome artists (Nikki Lane, Israel Nash and Emily Armstrong!) it evolved into a whole night of singing along.
One of the best parts of Petty Fest was the fact that it was on Thursday and the official opening for the weekend, so attendance wasn’t as robust as the rest of the weekend, leading to more enjoyment for the people who don’t particularly like the crush of music festival crowds.
Another fun part of the night was stopping by East Side for a beverage and some delicious food truck fare. If you were a fan of food trucks, Thursday night was the time to be in downtown Denton, with the Downtown Denton Food Truck Fest. While some suffered from long lines, I hopped right into the line of Hoagieslingers and walked away less than 5 minutes later with a sub sandwich and a cup of tomato basil soup, which hit the spot perfectly.
Clearly, I was all up for Norah Jones, but Beirut was a great act right before her set that fit in with the Denton music vibe (especially when you consider UNT’s Jazz Studies program). I sadly was not off work in time to check out Nikki Lane’s set (and I also seriously missed the boat on getting to Andy’s Bar in time to get in to see Pearl Earl) but Friday night was well worth it to see one of UNT’s most famous attendees.
I was in high school and one of my best friends gave me Come Away With Me, which soothed my poor troubled teenaged soul throughout the rigors of junior year. So I maneuvered towards the front of the crowd (thank you to all the people who insisted that 5’0 me stand in front of them so I could see. I may not be able to reach the top shelf at the supermarket but I got a primo view of Norah Jones!) and prepared to be amazed. And amazed I was – for instance, I didn’t know Norah played the guitar! (Even funnier – during her encore, she went to play her acoustic and it didn’t quite sound right to her, so she handed it off and said, “I’m going to have to figure out something to do with my hands!” It was such a cute, endearing moment, of which her set contained many.) She accompanied herself on an instrument during every song, displaying lovely little embellishments upon her classic tunes that just added to the beauty of her set.
The UNT College of Music should be very proud that it has such an asset representing it out there.
After the low-key days that were Thursday and Friday, Saturday was the day it got serious. I managed to make it there in time to see Amasa Hines (and oh how glad I did. New favorite right there!) and it only went up from there. While I did end up leaving the festival grounds, it wasn’t too far (you could still hear the music while sitting on the shaded patio with a cool beverage at Oak Street Drafthouse) or for two long, because there was a party to be had and Andrew W.K. was going to deliver it.
After we partied hard, I got a new experience: watching a DJ set. DJ Low Down Loretta Brown, a persona of Erykah Badu, got up and spun her favorite songs, singing occasionally, and wowing the crowd with her unique set.
After the DJ set, it was time to take it back down with acclaimed singer-songwriter Pete Yorn. From there, the rain scared me away (well, between the state of my hair and I had a nice camera on me) so I decided to leave the rest of it to the Rae Sremmard enthusiasts.
But I was left feeling like Oaktopia was a great success, with a great mix of music to appeal to all sorts of crowds, from those who love their Southern/classic rock to the lovers of indie and the local scene to those who wanted to headbang or enjoy some rap. It’s going to be extremely hard for them to top the 2016 festival…but I still can’t wait to see what they can come up with next.
Check out our slideshow of all of the top moments from Oaktopia 2016: