By Chuck Cox
As much as I love live music, I’ve never been a big fan of the music festival.
Lots of down time, shorter than normal sets by the performers, huge crowds, crappy weather, limited dining choices, and a dead cell phone just doesn’t sound like my idea of a good way to spend 12 hours of my weekend.
But I must say that the Saturday I spent at the Index Festival in Deep Ellum was pretty great. And a lot of the reason for that was I splurged for the VIP ticket. Let me tell you, that was a hundred bucks well spent.
Although I couldn’t make it to the first day of the festival on Friday because I went to see John Fogerty, it worked out perfectly for me. Just about every performer I wanted to see ended up playing in Saturday, which was also a gorgeous day. And, much to my surprise, the guy I wanted to see most, Jason Isbell, played two shows. But I’ll get back to that in a minute.
The day was scheduled to start at 2 p.m. But since there weren’t many people on hand yet, it didn’t get started until 2:45. That was a little aggravating, but because I had a VIP ticket, I was able to go to an area they had on the side of both main stages and sit down and relax. The setup for Index is really well done. There are two main stages at opposite ends of a huge parking lot behind Trees. There are also shows inside the club, along with shows at several other clubs in close proximity. For the two-day festival, more than 70 bands played on nine stages.
First up was Denton’s Chambers, which did a great job in front of a pretty small crowd that got bigger and bigger as the day wore on. I pretty much stuck to the “Red Hook Stage,” so I heard some of the other bands playing on the other end, but I was up close and personal for Zhora, Isbell, and rapper P.O.S. That’s when I finally decided to alternate stages to catch Warpaint, on the “Goose Island Stage” and then another one of my favorites, Sarah Jaffe, back on the “Red Hook Stage.” The great thing was there was no down time between shows because there were two stages.
Another really awesome thing about having a VIP ticket was the fact the artists arrived to load in inside the same area that was set up for VIP tickets holders. When Isbell got to the site, I actually got to meet and get my picture with him. By the way, his Southeastern album, which came out earlier this year, is an absolute masterpiece, which I told him. He was really nice in obliging my music fan geekdom.
The schedule had a “surprise national act acoustic performance” slated for 10:30 p.m.-1 a.m. at the new Twilite Lounge. And Isbell announced during his 40-minute set that it was him. I was beyond pumped.
Before heading over to Twilite to stake my place near the stage early, I caught a few minutes of Girl Talk. And, wow, what a vision that was. DJ Gregg Gillis, who has created quite a following as his alter ego, knows how to throw a party. With several fans dancing on stage, tons of lights, colors, and a toiler paper gun (yes, a toiler paper gun), the show was like a rave times ten. I only stuck around for about 15-20 minutes of the show, but I got the impression it would have been an incredibly fun spectacle to see in a club.
Then, it was time for Isbell’s acoustic set. And, man, was it awesome. With the Twilite jam packed, Isbell played for about 90 minutes. He did several of the songs off the aforementioned Southeastern album, including a few of my favorites, “Cover Me Up,” “Different Days,” and “Elephant.” The latter is a tune about cancer that actually brought tears to the eyes of a girl on the front row. He also did a couple of cool covers, Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty,” and Whiskeytown’s “Jacksonville Skyline.” I was on cloud nine after that show. Just freaking awesome.
I put a nice bow on the day by seeing Dallas rapper AV The Great at Three Links. This one was really cool and close to my heart. I’ve known AV since he was in high school in Denton. And this was the first time I got to see him play live. With a full band behind him, he put on a fun, energetic show that the crowd that stayed out late to check out seemed to be pretty into. Also a DJ on K104, AV definitely seems like he’s got a bright future ahead of him. He’s very skilled with his rhymes, and he has the confidence and swagger to pull it off.
Like I said, the schedule could not have worked out more perfectly for me. And Index might just have changed my mind about music festivals. A little bit.
Atlas Genius, Family of the Year, and Little Comets are on tap for my Thursday night at House of Blues. Check back for my thoughts.