Dallas’s “Homegrown” Music Festival Headliners Come From Austin—And That’s a Good Thing

Home is where the heart is—or a couple hundred miles south on I-35.

Musician Munaf Rayani of the band Explosions in the Sky, an Austin-based band headlining Dallas’s Homegrown Music Festival this May.

Dallas’s Homegrown Music Festival has, for nine years, given North Texans the chance to see their most beloved local talent all on one stage. It’s a well-liked festival, with lineups over the years pulling big-name artists from the Metroplex. Last year’s festival featured the reunion of beloved 1990s alterna-rockers Dallas Tripping Daisy; Denton’s Neon Indian topped the bill in 2016; the Old 97’s and Bobby Patterson, both DFW acts, headlined in 2015.

But Dallas’s music scene, while rife with talent, doesn’t have the number of headliners it would take to sustain nine years of local talent at the top of the bill. So in 2018, for the first time in the festival’s history, none of the Homegrown headliners are from Dallas. Instead, the above-the-fold spots have gone to ringers from a couple hundred miles south on I-35: Instrumental post-rockers Explosions in the Sky, psych-rock acts Black Angels and the legendary Roky Erickson, and indie rock stalwarts Ume, joined by Toronto popsters ALVVAYS. To get to a DFW artist, you have to get down to the small type on line four.

“Over the past three years, we’ve intentionally booked Homegrown more heavily rock-and-roll, indie, psych, funk/soul, dance, etc,” explains Josh Florence, promoter for the festival, noting that the sort of Americana and country-tinged acts that often come out of North Texas are a better fit for Homegrown’s sister festival, the Old 97’s County Fair. “This year, we took it a small step further and really embraced the psych side of things with the Black Angels and Roky Erickson. We felt like downtown Dallas needed to have the windows rattled a little bit.”

There is plenty of window-rattling potential in a fest with Homegrown’s lineup this year, and if that’s Florence’s goal for 2018, then it makes sense to look to Austin, rather than Dallas, for the top of the bill. St. Vincent can shred, but that’s not really what she’s doing on her most recent album, MASSEDUCTION (and with a headlining tour selling out theaters around the country, she’d be a tough get for a small-scale, local festival). Erykah Badu can bring the psych-soul like few musicians working right now, but she’s not really a window-rattler. Norah Jones is great, but decidedly low-key. Austin, meanwhile, has a psychedelic rock tradition so entrenched that it has its own three-day festival devoted to the genre.

In a way, it’s a shame that a DFW festival—especially one called “Homegrown”—would fill its bill with out-of-towners. While Austin has boasted its “live music capital of the world” reputation for years, Dallas has long been an overlooked star in Texas’s musical constellation, and its artists deserve the spotlight in their own hometown.

But the reliance on headlining artists beyond DFW makes sense, given the current size and shape of Dallas’s music scene. Most of the headline-caliber acts, like Sarah Jaffe or the Toadies, would be retreads for Homegrown, and you need headliners to sell a festival. Tapping into the rich musical vein that is Austin creates an opportunity for North Texas acts like [DARYL], Medicine Man Revival, Duell, Acid Carousel, and Sad Cops—all of whom appear in the small print—the chance to find their audience.

Given that both Acid Carousel and Sad Cops feature members who are still in their teens, it makes sense that they’d be undercard acts for now. And that actually makes what Homegrown is doing an opportunity for local musicians: on the surface, it might seem odd that the festival doesn’t feature any hometown headliners, but local artists need to build a following before they become regional or national acts. They have a better chance to do so by playing a festival with a sizable audience, drawn by the top-tier talent coming up I-35.