Monday, October 21, 2013
Index Fest is a promising sign of change during Deep Ellum revival
But, the festival itself may have expanded too quickly.
DEEP ELLUM The stage was set for the second annual Index Festival, a two-day indie music extravaganza in Deep Ellum, to outdo its inaugural year. The fest underwent a facelift, expanding to nine stages — seven venues and two outdoor stages — and included more than 70 locally and nationally acclaimed bands.
Like last year, the festival boasted a healthy mix of genres. Headliners like Run The Jewels (a rap collaboration between Killer Mike and El-P), gypsy folk band Devotchka and electronic DJ Girl Talk graced the main stages behind Trees on a crisp autumn weekend. Once the main stages closed up shop, crowds filtered to the club of choice.
Each venue slated one headliner, supported by several DFW names. Many attendees like Ryan Clayton and Laura Booner from Dallas were drawn to Index by one of these bigger bands. But as Clayton and Booner waited to see Lucero at Trees Friday night, the couple was pleasantly surprised by Dallas' own The Fox & The Bird, who they had never heard of before.
“We’ve seen a lot of last year’s headliners like Washed Out and Grimes since then, and they are much bigger now,” said Clayton. “I’m interested to see where some of the bands this year go from here.”
The growth of Index Fest also speaks for the progress of the Deep Ellum neighborhood. New venues like Three Links and Twilite Lounge, which opened this summer, were exposed to new patrons. Surrounding restaurants like Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Glazed Donut Works and Serious Pizza were brimming with business. It was an optimistic scene — the streets of Deep Ellum were buzzing and radiant.
Waxahachie resident Crissy Brown was shocked by the renewed look of the neighborhood.
“I don’t want to sound rude, but Deep Ellum has really cleaned up,” Brown said, remembering the time she last visited several years ago. “It’s a good way to get people down here.”
Despite enthusiasm about the fest, which patrons praised for its intimate vibe, there seemed to be a thin turnout. Many of the bars appeared empty during peak performance times, begging the question, “Where is everybody?” Midwest rapper, lyricist and diva Dessa drew a couple hundred by the end of her set, though Prophet Ballroom still seemed to echo from a lack of bodies. This could be because festivarians had musical A.D.D. and spent much of the time bouncing between venues instead of lingering.
Prophet Bar was the only venue that was consistently crowded. Friday night, the indie pop sounds of Kopecky Family Band led an energetic dance party. And on Saturday, folk rockers Sons of Fathers and alt-rock band Glassjaw kept the house packed from wall to wall.
Index may have expanded too much too fast. There were no 35 Denton-like issues — bars in Deep Ellum didn't have to turn music-hungry patrons away. And many front-and-center spots remained unclaimed. But there’s no doubt the festival is propelling the local scene. Even Keyboard Bob was in tow, dressed in his gray suit and matching fedora.
If not for things like Index Festival and the cooperation of local venues, musician John T. Mudd said DFW’s bands wouldn’t have a place to fully express their art. “We are thrilled to be on the lineup,” said the charismatic lead singer for electro-pop band Ishi, which performed Saturday at Three Links.
“I think the Dallas scene is on the up and up moreso than ever, and I’m truly proud to be a part of that,” he said.
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