UTOPIAfest offers lots of musicians to small crowd

Eli Watson

UTOPiAfest is known for its intimate take on the music festival experience. Taking place in a natural amphitheater on the 1,000-acre Four Sisters Ranch, concert-goers will be able to camp out and listen to a diverse collection of acts that range from Japanese punk rock superheroes Peelander-Z to folksy, blues rockers Dawes. UTOPiAfest is the brainchild of Travis Sutherland and the Fisher family, who created the event back in 2009.

“Long story short, I decided to invite some friends out to play for a Saturday, and invited more friends and family to attend,” Sutherland said. “We ended up having around 200 people, and everyone had an amazing time. From then on my goal was to make the event a little bigger and better each time.” This year’s UTOPiAfest expects to bring in 1,500 people. To accommodate the festival’s growth Sutherland has chosen an eclectic array of bands to satisfy everybody in attendance. Along with Dawes and Peelander-Z there will be Sub-Pop’s Avi Buffalo, Chicago’s Cornmeal and The Giving Tree, Austin favorites The Black and White Years and Suzanna Choffel and the Wheeler Brothers.

Sutherland, along with the help of Onion Creek Productions director Aaron Brown, has been working since January to solidify this year’s lineup. “It was difficult: It took a lot of phone time and a lot of negotiating,” Sutherland said. “Aaron and I, along with a couple other team members, brainstormed a huge list of bands; I think Aaron reached out to almost 200. We always had our dream lineup in mind and we ended up pretty close to it.”

In addition to a single stage allowing every audience member to experience full sets by each band, UTOPiAfest will host a second stage where talented audience members and special-guest bands may perform during breaks on the main stage. This second stage, known as the Cypress Stage, will feature up-and-coming locals Cowboy and Indian, Little Lo and Les Rav.

Along with the live entertainment there will be art displays, yoga, camping and food from Chef Wade Schindler and his Party Thyme Catering crew. Schindler will be cooking up a selection of foods that include tacos, burgers, pad Thai, pizzas and crawfish.

Sutherland just wants to keep UTOPiAfest intimate and minimal. “My main philosophy has been simple and small, and I want to maintain that as much as possible. I just want to keep the focus on the music and the experience and make sure that every person involved has the weekend of a lifetime,” Sutherland said.

Printed on Friday, October 14, 2011 as: UTOPiAfest brings musical diversity to a single large stage