“It rains every year in Utopia,” they laugh, “it's practically tradition.” You'll hear people saying this all over the ranch, as they watch kids, young and old, jump and glide down a muddy impromptu slip n' slide erected in the middle of the fields.
People say this because it's true. Because it has rained at every UTOPiAFest I've been to, this year marking my third in a row, and it will probably rain next year, where I will be, slippin' n' slidin' with the rest of the folk. It's practically tradition for it to rain, which everyone knows, because everyone keeps coming back – and that's the real tradition.
UTOPiAFest, set in the middle of September at Four Sisters Ranch in Utopia, Texas, is a festival unlike any other. It's BYOB. It's family friendly. There's free camping. There's disc golf, hiking, and morning yoga classes. There's interactive sculptures with buckets of paint to play with, giant balls to get inside and run around in, and an airplane that drops panties from the sky. Three stages, with no overlap, playing amazing music from noon until 4AM the whole weekend. And the music...
As diverse as the rain boots dancing about, UTOPiAfest 2014 covered all genres, from big names like Cold War Kids, Warpaint and Father John Misty, hip-hop's great GZA (performing with the funky goodness of Brownout), country legend Billy Joe Shaver, psychedelic folk pop from Golden Dawn Arkestra and Calliope Musicals, and a plethora of bluegrass jamming from Jeff Austin (formerly of Yonder Mountain String Band) and Keller Williams covering the Grateful Dead, to Crooks and Bottom Dollar String Band. There's the genre bending psych/dub/pop of Holiday Mountain and Hikes' inventive math-folk, the everything that was Benji Hughes, the badass female fronts of KP and the Boom Boom and Ruby Jane, the angelic voices of Grace Park and Wild Child's Kelsey Wilson, and, of course, Dan Deacon orchestrating a 100+ person tunnel with the crowd running wildly below as fireworks lit up the sky.
UTOPiAfest is a festival for people who love festivals, by people who love festivals. It's not a fashion show. You are not paying $8 for beers. You are going to have a good time. UTOPiAFest is a party with over 2,000 of the friendliest, happiest, and most fun people you will ever get to stomp boots with, as the rain clears and the sun comes out, while the Wheeler Brothers lead everyone in singing 'Spirit in the Sky' on a beautiful Texas afternoon.
Kelly Dugan is an analog photographer and amateur writer who really, really, really likes to have fun. Founding editor-in-chief and creative director of Peach Fuzz Magazine (@peachfuzzmag), she believes that an open and honest discussion about sex and the natural human body is one of the most important things to our society's wellbeing.