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UtopiaFest steps its game up with initial lineup announcement

UtopiaFest just dropped its initial lineup, and it’s pretty killer for a three-day, free-camping, under-$150 festival out in the Hill Country.

Topping the bill are the indie psych-poppers in Dr. Dog, fresh off the release of their best album, Be The Void; Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, providing those who caught the Charles Bradley: Soul Of America documentary at SXSW the chance to see the 63-year-old soul singer who released his debut album in 2011 live; and the “mercurial” rockers in White Denim playing a rare Austin-area show.

UtopiaFest promoter Aaron Brown stresses that this is merely the initial bill, and also on the lineup are: guitar goddess Kaki King; Texas music mainstay Ray Wylie Hubbard (a safe bet anytime a festival in Central Texas is announced); angel-voiced Austinite Sorne; Asheville afrobeat act Toubab Krewe; arresting folkie Dana Falconberry; hippie jammers The Werks; folk-rockers Houndmouth; Mexico’s answer to the Arcade Fire, Plastics Revolution; and the Flying Balalaika Brothers, playing somewhere other than Frank & Angie’s or Phara’s.

 The stakes are raised for bills at big boys like Austin City Limits and Fun Fun Fun Fest, and that’s a good thing for fans.

It’s a strong initial lineup, offering a clear idea of the different sort of experiences a person can have at UtopiaFest. If you’re into the contemporary strains of indie rock, a bill with White Denim, Dana Falconberry and Plastics Revolution has plenty of appeal. If you prefer another chance to catch the Old Settler’s crowd, Ray Wylie Hubbard and the Flying Balalaika Brothers should catch your eye.

Hippies get The Werks and Dr. Dog, and everybody wins with Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires. All of these acts have plenty of crossover appeal, too, which helps keep UtopiaFest cohesive – all three of the top-of-the-bill headliners defy easy descriptions, and in an increasingly genre-fied music culture, it’s nice to see a bill with some broad appeal.

There are still more headliners to come, but even the twelve acts on the UtopiaFest announcement continue a promising trend in smaller festivals in the region of stepping up the quality of the bill, especially near the top. Georgetown rookie festival ClusterFest last month was topped by indie darlings Sleigh Bells and supported by Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears; next month’s Free Press Summerfest in Houston is like a mini-Coachella; even a standby like Old Settler’s Music Festival breathed new life into its bill this year.

The stakes are raised for bills at big boys like Austin City Limits and Fun Fun Fun Fest, and that’s a good thing for fans.

The rest of the UtopiaFest bill will be announced on June 15. Based on the promise of the first dozen acts, though, it’s probably a safe bet to buy your tickets this week. If you do, you can take advantage of a $99 early-bird discount, and bring the whole family/rent house/etc with the 4-for-3 deal they’ve got going on until the 21st, as well.

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