Zack and I came very close to giving up on UTOPiAfest altogether. We were tired from a week of working overtime at Apple, and having a few “couple talks” (read: productive arguments*), we weren’t looking forward to a six-hour-plus roundtrip drive on what was Zack’s only weekend day. However, our festival spirits urged us on, and I don’t think we could have spent the weekend in a better way. As Zack chronicled, our drive was really wonderful, and once we got into the festival grounds and set ourselves up, we were ready for music, meeting people and everything else that comes with a festival.
*Except for that argument that stemmed from who would get a glass of water before bed.
Caitlin found a free space on the quote pyramid to write “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” -Vonnegut. Well played.
We both immediately noticed all of the children running all over the place, which made it feel safe and familiar, despite the fact that neither of us had ever been to the festival before. Zack was drawn in by a game of football tossing that had sprung up in a triangle of dudes. I was breathing in the mountains, which I’d forgotten we even had in Texas. My family once took a trip out to Lost Maples, which is right up the road from Utopia, but it had been years since I’d been out in the Hill Country.
We settled in for Suzanna Choffel, and made some friends who were dancing up a storm next to us. Hailey from Beeville and her group of masseuses-in-training were ready to party on Saturday, dancing around with each other and having a blast. It was contagious, and Zack and I let loose as Choffel played on. Our pal Caitlin D. (not to be confused with me talking in the third person) found us, too, and we all hung together for a while. After Choffel was done, Zack and I wandered backstage to see what there was to see, and we ran into Ian from Little Lo. I met Ian at a Phoenix gig at La Zona Rosa in late 2009, and it’s been a joy to watch him and his band take off. He told us about staying with the Wheeler Brothers in their ranch house, and how well he and the Little Lo crew were being treated. He said it all with an edge of disbelief, like, “Is this all really happening?” Then the rest of the kids came over and I chatted with Stephanie, who is normally the violinist for the band, but had switched to keyboards because of a biking accident that caused her to break her arm. She was taking it all in stride, because she’s a total sweetheart. Zack and I then headed back out to find Caitlin D., and ran into Scott Butler from the Black and White Years on the way. We chatted him up for a bit, and Zack exposed me as the nerdy (read: possibly disconcerting?) superfan of the band that I am. Scott was appreciative and Zack defended my fandom, so I think I walked away from that one without frightening anyone.
Photo by Caitlin D., who was just trying to take a Caitlin pic, but I hopped in because I’m a ham.
We met up with C.D*. and her friend who was working the festival. I detected a fairly strong British accent on her friend, so I asked her where she was from. She immediately dropped the accent** and explained she was faking it to keep from boredom — she works at a food place called Spoons and apparently she and her pals all try on accents to see if they can fool people. I was definitely fooled.
*Don’t confuse people w/ new slang like “C.D.” She’s “The Other Caitlin” or T.O.C
**That fake accent reminded me of when Austin Powers was popular and unfunny kids would try to do “Yeah, baby” impressions all the time. It wasn’t the worst accent I’ve ever heard, but I wasn’t buying it. Especially when she started sulking about Baylor losing.
Peelander-Z melted our minds. I don’t really know how to explain this any better — they were so energetic and so good that I forgot anything else ever. They were fun to watch, and even more to participate with. I danced myself into a frenzy, and loved seeing the little kids (mostly girls) participate with the good-natured punk band. After their set, while Zack and I were wandering around backstage on the hunt for food, we saw them sitting off to the side and Zack told them how great they had been. Peelander Yellow bowed to Zack and said, “
Domo* Arigato.” Zack immediately turned to me with all of the joy of a 10-year-old boy and whispered, “He said ‘ Domo Arigato’ to me!” It was amazing.
*He actually only said Arigato, which made it feel more authentic.
Zack and I consider Little Lo “our band*” because we saw them on our first date, so it’s always wonderful to catch a show together. In the picturesque setting of Utopia, it was especially wonderful.
*Little Lo is our band more than ever. After a miscommunication that led to a story I wrote about them appearing in a print magazine without my permission that I didn’t get paid for, they’ve agreed to get us in to all of their shows and give us a copy of any new music they come out with.
However, of all of my Austin favorites we got to see, the Black and White Years were the show-stealers for me. I don’t think I stopped dancing the entire time they were on the stage, and Scott was totally on his game, every part the oddball-but-loveable frontman a la David Byrne. He seemed so shocked to receive so much love from the crowd, so between every song, when we’d all go nuts, he would giggle in this uniquely Scott laugh* and thank us, almost dumbfounded. Even in the heat of the day, they got us all grooving.
*It was a buzzed, giggly laugh that reminded me of my own and got me laughing. He was staring directly into the sun and said he’d look like a reverse raccoon after the show.
We were fairly exhausted after the Black and White Years, so we chilled out on a dumpy, but comfy, couch in the VIP area and just rested our heads. The day was very slowly turning into night, and it was cooling down deliciously. We knew we couldn’t stay too much longer, so we wandered around the festival grounds for food. We decided $8* for a small pizza was just not worth it, and wandered back to the Media area to see what snacks might tide us over until dinner was served to the VIPs. Lucky we went back there, because not only was there a bag of chocolate candy (yay!) but there was also Jesse, the Austin rep for 360 Vodka.
*We honestly didn’t know how much the pizza was. That part of the chalkboard of prices had become erased.
She was very, very sweet and friendly, and after exchanging business cards, we wandered back to her tent to taste some of the rainbow of flavors 360 offers. I got to sip on a vanilla flavor that turned my drink into a cream soda-like concoction, and I also tasted some of Caitlin D.’s strawberry mix, which was like a liquid Starburst. Finally, we all took tiny shots of double-chocolate vodka, and I basically felt like I was in a sweets-lover’s heaven (aka my heaven).
Jesse had dozens of these mini bottles in her tent and was quick to share them. The words “Double” and “Chocolate” are music to Caitlin’s ears.
I was getting antsy because I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss any of Danny Malone, so we rushed back down to try to grab some dinner and find a spot for the show. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the food, all of the vegetables were gone, and I wasn’t willing to wait for the next serving, because I really wanted to get to Danny’s set. I spooned a bite and a half of grits onto my plate, and grabbed two delicious slices of butter-and-olive-oil-soaked bread, and we headed to the small stage.
To start, we stood near the front, taking photos and enjoying the scene. Then, Zack asked me if we could move back a bit and stretch out, and I agreed. We moved back and sat down on the grass, and then Zack offered to stick his arm out for me to use like a pillow. We laid back in the dirt and grass, and stared up at the sky — and were greeted with about a zillion stars.
Caitlin didn’t take this picture, but it’s pretty much what the stars looked like. I was so excited about the stars I described them as being awesome and threw in an f-bomb for good measure. They really were that cool. And I wasn’t even *that* drunk.
When you live in the city, you can forget just how many stars are really up in the night sky. For some reason, taking all of those tiny sparkling lights into view, I suddenly felt very safe, and any loneliness that was lingering inside of me totally disappeared. I guess I get it from my nature-loving dad, but there is something about natural phenomena that just gets me every time. As Zack and I stared up in astonishment, we both caught sight of a shooting star. It sounds so made-up, but I swear — a flash of light streaked across the sky for just a half a second, and we grabbed each other and asked if the other had seen it. We both forgot to make a wish, so we stared up, hoping to catch another. I was lucky enough to see a second shooting star, and made my wish with a giant grin on my face.
After Danny’s gentle set came to a close, we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and grabbed our belongings so we could head out. We caught just enough of the Wheeler Brothers to let me know I want to see them again in the near future, and then wandered back to the car to begin our long journey home. It didn’t feel long at all, as we capped off our perfect day in Utopia singing along to music in the car.