On a weekend filled with events, including the ballyhooed opening of the State Fair of Texas, the three-day Index Fest music festival took over a large chunk of Deep Ellum, from five clubs to three outdoor stages, with more than 90 bands who performed day and night.
The lineup mixed local bands with national acts such as Local Natives, Mutemath, Future Islands, Lord Huron, The Get Up Kids and Palms. Kaiser Chiefs, an indie rock band from England that was scheduled to perform, canceled at the last minute without explanation.
Prices were $80 for a three-day pass, plus extra for VIP access that afforded amenities such as a T-shirt, side stage views and food truck grub.
Index Fest was founded in 2012 to jumpstart the music scene. Meshing with the overall renaissance of Deep Ellum, this year's event was larger and more polished.
Now in its third year, Index Fest was founded in 2012 to jumpstart the music scene. Meshing with the overall renaissance of Deep Ellum, this year's event was larger and more polished, with three nights instead of two and an additional 25-plus bands. There were beer sponsors and annoying "insiders" who zipped around the grounds in electric golf carts when they could just as easily have walked.
Although the first day saw some sound issues, the event went mostly smoothly; bands started on time.
The obvious point of comparison would be Austin City Limits, except that Dallas is no Austin when it comes to pastoral setting or crowd size. But aside from comparisons, Index Fest did provide an opportunity to see some significant up-and-coming national acts in one convenient time and place.
On Friday, that was Future Islands, who rose to fame after a transfixing performance on David Letterman, and who were fresh off a taping for Austin City Limits. The band is all about frontman Samuel T. Herring — whom you have to take seriously because of the middle initial — who executed another round of his trademark writhing, growling and earnest chest-thumping. Music was also played.
Saturday's big show took place at Trees, with Houston band The Suffers and Lee Fields & The Expressions, which Index Fest dramatically claimed "changed music forever." The problem with Index Fest (and this kind of festival in general) is the way it pitted band against band, diffusing an audience into different places and sometimes forcing music fans to choose one band over another.
Fortunately that wasn't the case on Sunday, the final night, as two headliners performed sets back-to-back to close out the outdoor stages. LA indie-rock band Local Natives was the fist-pumping closer, with anthemic tunes and hooky harmonies that sounded familiar even if you hadn't heard them before. The quintet has been through Dallas previously, having played House of Blues most recently in October 2013.
But the real catch was Palms. This quartet stars Chino Moreno of Deftones fame with three members of the now-defunct post metal band Isis; their Dallas show was part of a September Southwestern tour that hit every major city in Texas.
Appearing on a stage set up at the corner of Gaston and Good Latimer, Palms delivered a set that was both heavy and poignant, with brilliant waves of guitar on tracks such as "Future Warrior" and "Antarctic Handshake." Moreno's vocals have always had a wistful quality; they sounded ever more haunting, wafting out over the darkness on a fading Sunday night.