The beauty that is known as Art Outside was held last month from October 24-27th just outside of my unofficial, but beloved home of Austin, Texas. With 2014 commemorating the homegrown festivals’ 10th year anniversary, I was more than excited to see just how my favorite gathering planned to celebrate. Although this year’s AO would be my sixteenth fest in 2014, it has been the only one thus far that I’ve dreamt about since the day I left! My first Art Outside planted a wildly inspirational and creative seed within myself, and I’ve made long strides towards my goals (and succeeded!) since then. The mere thought of making my way back to Art Outside this year was enough to send my stomach churning with nostalgic thoughts of home.
Along the way of following my dreams in the world of festival press, I’ve made some incredible friends and created lifelong relationships. The downside? Their schedules are even more hectic than mine. Festivals have become our way of keeping these bonds alive, and AO holds the record for the most friendversaries I’ve had yet. The amount of joy in my heart from reuniting with best friends, frolicking in whimsical shenanigans and taking in the greatest performances on the planet cannot be explained easily, but I’ll try my best. Apache Pass does something magical to your soul, and I more than received my fix.
Since this IS a review, I’ll be honest when I say that my arrival to the AO grounds wasn’t met with the good vibes I’d been expecting. Upon checking in under media, I stood in line with several other members of the press while the coordinator in charge of the lists bad mouthed several festival organizers…. by name. It was only after this immature tirade (15 minutes later…) that she finally felt like we needed our credentials. She screwed up a step further by giving me a general admission pass; why would I be in line for media if I only needed a weekend bracelet? I tried to explain this in a polite manner, since she was clearly stressed, and she snapped. ‘THOSE ARE THE ONLY CREDENTIALS I’VE GOT FOR YOU, HONEY.’ At this point the only thing on my mind was setting up camp, so I left and decided to put it on the priority list for tomorrow.
Not to sound like a broken record, but this was far from being my first rodeo. I understand how months, even years of planning a large scale event can result in last minute fuck ups, high stress situations and a trillion other inconsistencies, but you should NEVER let it be known, especially to those who are providing press for the event – it’s just unprofessional.
But my love for this festival overlooks the attitude of one individual. Regardless of the complications I’d ensued to be here, that was the only fact that mattered: I was here.
Starting my first morning off with a delicious bowl from Kaya Cafe, I let the sunshine spill across my face as I took it all in. After living in Texas for several years, I had taken a leap of faith and moved to Colorado all by my lonesome this past August. Combining that with my pure excitement to simply being back in my Art Outside homeland was enough to make every second spent on the grounds worth it.
First up would be fixing my credential issue, which I was really looking forward to. Why, you ask? Because getting my credential meant access to the Media Lounge, where the amazing Jacki Moon would be hosting for the very first time! A ton of festivals have similar set ups to give a feel of ‘real world’ amenities to members of the press needing to upload data on site, networking and conduct interviews, so this was truly a HUGE step for such a grassroots gathering like Art Outside, and says a lot about how they’re upping the ante this year. I was overjoyed to see so many familiar faces crushing it on hospitality and keeping the AO sails running nice and tight.
Since I had flown in a day late, I was eager to make up for what I’d missed. I set out to explore the mesmerizing and thoughtful art installations that AO has been adored for, and was pleased to find out I needn’t walk very far before discovering just what I’d set out to see. The first piece to stop me in my tracks was a creation by Christian Ristow, called Face Forward.
Upon first inspection, it appeared to simply be a large metallic face in front of a series of panels. Each joystick controlled a section of the Face, whether it be a sinister wiggle from the upper left eyebrow or dragging the lower right mouth into a frown. The eyes whirled in the back of its head to the delight of several children who were glued to the panels, keeping a consistent crowd throughout the weekend. To say it was well received would be an understatement. What I personally found so beautiful about this piece was its perfect execution of how honest the human face can be, and the incredible number of moods that can be conveyed through facial expressions.
Fledgling, another installation by Ristow, sat near the vendor marketplace, with a small crowd gathered around it’s massive frame.
A large, metallic bird, Fledgling stood majestically with its wings set for take off at a moments notice. Rounding the back of the bird, I realized the installation’s rib-cage held a seat, where one could climb a ladder at the rear and manually flap the creature’s massive wings.
Finally seeing these installations in real life versus the photos I’d drooled over for years felt truly staggering.
After getting in my own fill of playful shenanigans with the Face and Fledgling, my friends and I ventured onward for more Art Outside goodness. Making our way towards AO’s massive outdoor art gallery, we spent at least an hour wandering the rounded walls of the tent, our mouths gaping at the beauty and thoughtfulness within each piece. The ATX love was heavy, as I noticed multiple paintings by several of my favorite artists, including Chops Wanderweird, Chance Roberts, Todd Bot, and more.
I also fell in love with two new artists who produce work as Flower Child Plants. Using only found materials from their adventures in nature, Flower Child Plants strive to create absolutely breathtaking pieces of work that beg the viewer to take another look. Their display consisted of animal skulls, intricately detailed terrariums and delicately laid garden arrangements.
Just like visiting your favorite summer camp, there were several AO staples that made my heart smile at seeing their return. Artist Jason Bild Smith’s giant watermelon tourmaline installation, for example, is a welcome sight at every festival it graces – hidden behind an unassuming Oak tree, the piece radiated good vibrations every time I passed. After taking in all the extravagant installations and hidden art that dots the AO landscape, it came time to check out another favorite staple of mine: The Dome.
Stacked with a heavy line-up for Saturday, multiple headliners were scheduled to blow the, uh, sheets off the Dome all night long. I came in during Austin local Happy Happy James‘ set, and preceded to dance my ass off like a clown as my friends quickly followed suit. Dropping remixes of classic songs such as ‘Rockin’ Robin’ and a particularly groovy re-work by Flavours of Austin Powers’ theme song, ‘Soul Bossa Nova’, Happy Happy James succeeded in having a super sweaty and gratuitous crowd on his hands when he finished his set just around 6pm. Though Pumpkin had been scheduled to take the stage right after Happy Happy James, due to a flight delay he wouldn’t be arriving until after midnight. This also held true for artist Random Rab, who had been scheduled to perform at 8:30 in the dome as well. Now left with so much extra space on the dome’s stage, what could happen to fill the time?
Fort Knox Five answered this question by rolling up their sleeves and bringing their unique boogie to the dance floor extra early, hyping up the entire Dome into a full-on party. Whipping out a batch of old school hip hop tracks and funkified mash-ups, FKF kept the groove moving steady until Phutureprimitive took the Dome into the nasty, straight up grimy depths of experimental bass. Though I do love me some heavy bass, I was more interested in catching up with the dudes who make up Fort Knox Five, D.C. area homies Jon Horvath and Steve Raskin, with whom I’d the pleasure of running into frequently over the last summer. We hung around the dome to watch Psymbionic rattle brains with heavy hitters from his catalog of bass thundering and mind twisting beats, including a new single, ‘Fever’ from Gravitas Beat ALS mixtape.
Slipping away from the dome, we managed to catch the end of Marc Brownstein of The Disco Biscuit’s side project, Conspirator‘s jam sesh at main stage. The mind-blowingly awesome music group ArcAttack were in full effect at AO this year again as well – creating magic out of thin air with their singing Tesla Coils. It was a nice and welcome, yet short, change of pace – but it wasn’t long before I had found my way back into the Dome, mesmerized by the crazily innovative hip-hop productions of BoomBaptist. Every track within his set was completely off-the-wall and unexpected, -. Though the night were getting long (3 am is way past my bedtime, even when it’s festival time), I knew I had to stick it out for the rest of the night’s shenanigans – word had spread that both Pumpkin and Random Rab had finally made it onto Art Outside grounds, and were scheduled to perform at the Midway stage around 3!
Following BoomBaptist on the Dome stage was another highlight to my night, the always charming Jake Atlas, aka Thriftworks. Armed with spankin’ new projection visuals courtesy of Jake Lion, and a handful of fresh sneak peeks from his upcoming albums, Fade, Fader, and Fadest, Thriftworks was on fire as he turned the Dome into his own personal world, taking the crowd’s energy to an entirely new level. It felt good seeing just how far Thiftwoks had come since his previous performance in AO’s Dome just last year, where he’d drawn a similar crowd of rowdy bass heads. Eager to catch more friends over at the Midway stage, I held out as long as I possibly could, but by the end of Jake’s set, I was thoroughly exhausted. Just like Jon and Steve, Jake is another friend I’ve ended up running into a lot during the last festival season, so it was nice to catch up for the first time since the start of summer.But like I mentioned earlier, I was beyond exhausted and my tent was calling my name. Fail.
But I thanked myself the next morning – I woke up Sunday feeling refreshed and ready for my last full day of AO. The days’ agenda called for Funk, and lots of it, so I knew I had to hook up with Jon and Steve from Fort Knox. Hitting the main stage at 3 for Orgone proved to be the perfect wake up. Though most of their jams are more on the instrumental side, lead singer Fanny Franklin’s powerful voice was a divine accompaniment to the already powerful lineup of instruments. It doesn’t get much better than shaking your groove thang to the empowering and brassy ensemble of Orgone. Once 5 rolled around, it was an easy decision to head straight for Midway stage, where the mega talented Lynx would be performing for a full hour (bliss). Her set was easily a highlight for me, as she performed some of my favorite tracks, including ‘Young Blood’. Nearing the end of her set, a fan noticed she hadn’t busted out any beat boxing yet. It didn’t take long before a myriad of voices from the open lawn began calling out for a signature Lynx style beat box close.
And being the sweetheart she is, Lynx more than obliged us all by whipping out one of the dopest vocal percussions I’ve heard live yet. Following the end of the set, I made my way back to the Main stage, where Blue Sky Black Death would be starting off at six. Watching this young, talented producer team slaying it on the main stage during a beautiful sunset was without a doubt the best performance I’ve seen from them yet. Playing mostly tracks from their latest release, Euphoric Tape |||, they had a thick crowd swooning by the time they left the stage. The relationship I have with BSBD is really random, which probably doesn’t surprise anyone, but it really is a great example of how small the world can be. The opportunity to see these dudes is rare, so getting to hang was a highlight all in itself. Up next on main stage was festival closer Emancipator, consisting of producer Doug Appel and violinist Ilya Goldberg. Seeing these two performances back to back was a literal flashback to how we’d all initially met – with Blue Sky opening for Emancipator on a mini-tour last May. As the tinkling first notes of ‘Minor Cause’ floated into the air, I swayed back and forth to one of my favorite songs, with some of my favorite people at my favorite place in the world. My Art Outside had been everything I wanted it to be. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes, and at one point, was suddenly being woken to go on a port-a-potty run. Ah, festivals.
With the end of the weekend soon coming to a close, I felt truly grateful to live the life that I love so much. Even though I’d missed the opportunity to have a full weekend of AO, any amount of time spent home is more than enough when you really need it. I’d like to thank Art Seen Alliance for being an insanely wonderful group of individuals and for creating a place like Art Outside to truly release your inner child – I can’t wait to be reunited with the magic of Apache Pass.
Until next year!