Total Eclipse of the Art
Ending a more than 14-year event called Utopiafest while camping under a total eclipse in semi-remote Texas is total cult behavior. Sign us up. The Utopiafest crew announced in July a two-year plan to close out the series in May of 2023, returning to the initial venue in Utopia, Texas, and opening a new permanent venue in Buda, for continued fun with a lower buy-in.
First comes Utopiafest 13 (stylized UTOPiAfest Thirteen), at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet County, much closer to Austin. The nearest scheduled festival is penultimate in the regular series, which ends with Utopiafest 14 in 2023.
After that, Eclipse Utopia: Annular moves the venue back to Four Sisters Ranch in Utopia, with views from the camping area that extend 30 miles over the stage as narrated by Utopiafest co-founder Wayne Dalchau. Finally, Eclipse Utopia: Total coincidentally describes the total end of the multiday festival.
Remaining Utopiafest dates are as follows:
- Utopiafest 13 — Reveille Peak Ranch, October 14-15, 2022
- Utopiafest 14 — Reveille Peak Ranch, May 5-6, 2023
- Eclipse Utopia: Annular — Four Sisters Ranch, October 13-14. 2023
- Eclipse Utopia: Total — Four Sisters Ranch, April 7-8, 2023
The next event, Utopiafest 13 (if you’re keeping up), will feature big names in Austin and the country on two stages. Among the 20 artists on the lineup, folk duo Shovels and Rope bring more than a decade of raw, high-energy folk songwriting. Victor Wooten, the legendary bassist known for his creative adventurousness, is touring with his Bass Extremes in support of the August 26 release of S’Low Down. Austin solo artist Sir Woman, in the middle of rising to national prominence with just one LP released in 2022, is also on the bill.
Nestled into the 1,000-acre Reveille Peak Ranch, which is popular for mountain biking about 60 miles northwest of Austin near Buchanan Lake, Utopiafest is as much about the camping as the tunes. Bikers can take off as usual, or can try hiking, swimming, disc golf, and workshops with community artisans. The event is BYOB, local vendors are handling most food needs, and cooking at the campsite is encouraged. Kids are not just welcome, but taken care of at the Kids Camp with special programming.
“We had initially agreed on five Utopiafests at Reveille, and then we were going to revisit and decide what we were going to do next,” says Utopiafest co-founder Travis Sutherland. Factoring in pandemic cancellations, this four-part schedule allows Utopiafest to fulfill its plan with Reveille before pivoting to smaller parties multiple times per year — to start, those are the Eclipse events, organized around actual astronomical events crossing over Utopia. Once those are over, the permanent music venue is “more of a long-term sustainable, controlled environment, where we can capture the spirit of the festival and have it in a permanent home in Buda.”
The new venue, called Meridian, soft-launched on August 20 with a performance by local band Madam Radar. Sutherland compares it to laid-back cafes Radio Coffee & Beer or Cosmic Coffee in the daytime, and good-natured, "classy" C-Boys at night. Inside Zoi Market, the homey, natural-toned Meridian has slowly been coming to life and rolling out bit by bit: the wood bar, some small jazz performances, live video recordings. The team is updating the venue's Instagram account as it works up to full capacity.
“It's getting harder to convince [Travis’] wife that we should be throwing parties and not making a whole lot of money,” says Dalchau, cheekily referring to his partner’s growing family. “If we are able somehow — over the next four parties that we have scheduled — to get a windfall … or someone comes through and wants to support it in a way that we can sustain, I think we could certainly try to do another chapter in the future. But until that happens … smaller parties might be the way we provide a weekend of sanity for people.”
Utopiafest 13 will take place October 14 and 15, 2022, at Reveille Peak Ranch. Tickets are available at utopiafest.com. Check meridianbuda.com or Meridian's Instagram account for more information about operations and programming as it becomes available.