In creating Utopiafest, Travis Sutherland and his partners set out to develop a music festival worthy of its picturesque Hill Country namesake and host. Taking place September 4-6 (Labor Day Weekend), the seventh-annual edition of Utopiafest features three days of music with about 25 diverse acts ranging from soul to bluegrass, rock, folk, hip-hop, and punk—all in a natural amphitheater with limited crowds.
Utopiafest has grown in prominence since launching in 2009, expanding in size and ability to draw acts. The festival’s setting—a natural amphitheater on a 1,000-acre ranch between Garner and Los Maples state parks—is a big part of its attraction and success.
Headliners for 2015 include Leftover Salmon, Explosions in the Sky, Of Montreal, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, the Tune-Yards, and WhoMadeWho.
“We believe an ideal music festival should be experience-centered. One set in beautiful, natural surroundings where the positive energy from the land is palpable,” festival organizers say. “The overall friendly, family, wholesome, and hospitable vibe is a true reflection of Texas.”
The festival caps attendance at 2,000 to maintain “an intimate family vibe, while maintaining a festival feel.” Ticket prices range from $99 to $199 (the earlier you buy, the cheaper; as of today, weekend passes are $169) and include camping and parking. Attendees may bring their own food and beverages, and there are also vendors on site.
The festival touts its restricted capacity and relative non-commercialism as an important distinction from other festivals.
“There should be no music overlap—music bleed or hard choices between bands. There should be performances where the whole audience is absolutely attentive, engaged, and phoneless. At such a fest you can play a round of disc golf, attend a workshop or yoga class, or go on a bike ride before you see the first set,” organizers say. “The experience should be accessible to all ages, and enjoyed with your whole family. You should never have to feel crowded or wait unreasonably long in a line. We believe you should be able to bring your own beer and cook your own food. We aim to provide a festival that is seamless, effortless, and timeless.”
Promoting a family friendly atmosphere, the festival designates a camping area for families and organizes children’s activities throughout the weekend, including scavenger hunts, toys, games, and arts and crafts.