By Maria Coraza
On Nov. 16, I had the pleasure of attending the 11th annual UtopiaFest at Reveille Peak Ranch in Austin, Texas. UtopiaFest is a family-friendly music festival that offers camping grounds, outdoor activities, and spiritual workshops. With a diverse musical line-up of amazing indie/rock, Americana, and singer-songwriter musicians alike, UtopiaFest gathered its performers and attendees in a warm family reunion.
After walking a short passage through the camping grounds to the festival, I instantly notice the rustic tranquility of the hill country. There were trails and hills that overlooked the serene area along with a line of food trucks, vendors and a giant Native-American teepee accompanied by a sign that reads “Spirits Realm”. A couple of Enu hammocks were swaying between trees in various places. The festival was a cozy size yet had a lot of space for people to do yoga, socialize, bike, or swing on a hammock (where I blissfully found myself most of the fest).
Concerts were held on two large main stages towards the back of the festival. Fortunate enough that the shows never overlapped, so the audience would never have to miss a performance. Day performances included featured bands from the Bandaid School of Music (Magdaluna, Red Mango Vinyl, The Midnight Shovel Club, Calluna, Professor Rafe and the Fables), Good Field, Swimwear Dept, Jon Stickley Trio and more.
Although it was festival abundant with nature and exceptional music, I have to honorable the show-stopping female sets that glistened the stage.
I was relaxing near a campfire when Night Glitter started their set in the late afternoon. Although it was my first time learning about the band as well as hearing them live, I immediately fell in love.
The first impression I felt when Night Glitter first struck their beautiful moonlight chords, was their heavy, pop-melancholic aura that vibrated throughout the festival. It was also a nice twist and cultural touch that some of their songs were sung in French, considering that they are an Austin-based band.
One of the memorable pieces Night Glitter performed was “Raised for the War” which stirred the audience through an ethereal, space-like trance. Lead singer and keyboardist Lou Lou Ghelichani heightened the experience with her lyrics as her smooth vocals dripped over the dreamy rock and heavy bass textures like honey.
It was already evening by the time Rochester-native Mikaela Davis took the stage. Something special about her set was that it was a funk-psychedelic pop band with the special touch of a harp. Seeing Davis sing so beautifully while effortlessly strumming a colossal harp on stage just boggled my mind. Her music had ’70s pop influences with traces of America/indie, which set the vibe for a groovy night.
The crowd was quite interactive with Davis as some fans requested to perform songs from her early career. Her set lasted almost 30 minutes past its scheduled time, yet the audience did not mind. They continued to resonate with her sweet lyrics and harp as her band played the night away.
Prior to attending UtopiaFest, the artist I anticipated most was Jackie Venson. Earlier this year, Venson was named Austin Music Awards’ guitarist of the year 2019. With blues/jazz and rock influences, she has toured all over the country as well as abroad in Europe and streams her shredding skills regularly on social media. Venson’s infectious smile and vigorous spirit took over the stage as she introduced her temporary blues guitar as “Rosetta”, named after female blues guitarist legend Rosetta Tharpe.
Venson’s set mostly included songs from her self-released 2019 album Joy. Her warm voice complimented her jamming skills as her lyrics strongly resonated with the crowd as empowering mantras. The band consisted only of Rodney Hyder on drums and Venson herself on guitar/vocals, proving herself as an independent female who needs no band. Venson also revealed that she pre-recorded the bass, beat, guitar on the backing track herself. At one point in the show, the speakers blew out and she just kept shredding like it was no big deal. The speakers were fixed shortly after, but it did not stop Venson from giving the crowd what they wanted. Venson definitely gave the show of a lifetime and raised vibrations for all who attended that evening.
Overall, Utopiafest was certainly a blast and an escape from everyday life. I encourage anyone who enjoys nature, music or good times to check out next year!
Featured image by Maria Coraza.