Fest Vets, Bands and Bigwigs Dish on UTOPiAfest Tips

This Labor Day weekend, head to the hills of Utopia, Texas, where nature and live music will combine yet again in the form of the seventh annual UTOPiAfest, a festival experience truly unlike any other. Using the advice of fest vets, bands and bigwigs (plus some personal experience) we compiled some tips for making the most of this one-of-a-kind music and camping festival.


While we could break down a list of must-see acts — from the melodious instrumentals of Explosions in the Sky to the funky, danceable beats of Austin locals Sip Sip and the soulful sound of Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires — the truth is that every act is a must-see.

“No matter how tired, hungry or stinky you are, do not miss a set,” warns Evita Klava, who’s volunteered at the festival for the last three years. “Every artist is hand-selected and incredible. You will hate yourself if you go make a hotdog and miss one of the greatest shows of your life.”

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about this, because UTOPiAfest has managed to create a FOMO-free experience by eliminating the most painful aspect of typical festivals (music overlap) by staggering artists one after the other across two stages.

But if you really, really need a bathroom break (or just that aforementioned hot dog), there’s one act in particular we’ve been told you can’t miss: “Charles Bradley,” says UTOPiAfest Production Coordinator Rylan Keturi. “Need I say more?”


While Labor Day in Austin is reliably sweltering, Utopia, Texas has a mind — er, climate — of its own, and it’s important to pack for a variety of potential weather situations. “It will rain,” Klava promises, adding that you should come equipped with rain boots or surrender your toes to the elements.

Kelsey Wilson of Wild Child, who will be playing the fest, is all about the latter option: “No shoes! Embrace the mud.”

When planning your festival wardrobe it’s necessary to add an element of fun, too. “Bring your brightest fur coat,” says Laura Patino of Holiday Mountain, another band on the roster, “for style and crazy weather.”

(Other items to consider: a few warm and waterproof items; hiking boots to take full advantage of the surrounding hills; a headlamp for safe, hands-free midnight trips to the bathroom; a bathing suit for potential slip-n-slide situations, which — yes — will probably arise.)


Another factor that differentiates UTOPiAfest from other festivals is the BYOB and bring-your-own food policy.

“Once you buy a ticket, you don’t have to spend a dime,” explains UTOPiAfest founder Travis Sutherland. “Camp out, stay onsite the whole weekend, [and] bring all the food, drinks and supplies you can think of. Check the site FAQ for tips.”

But camping doesn’t mean you have to subsist on peanut butter sandwiches. REI is involved in the festival this year, and there will be an entire area dedicated to cooking and equipped with a community kitchen and dishwashing station to help you properly fuel up throughout the fest.

In terms of supplies, attendees are advised to bring plenty of water as well, and it’s always a nice gesture to come equipped with extra food and drinks to share with forgetful friends and strangers in need. And what should you do if you forget something crucial like, say, shelter?

“If you don’t have a tent, find a neighbor with one,” says Keturi. “Works every time.”


In our digital-obsessed world, the idea of being disconnected seems hard to grasp, but in this case you have no choice. Namely, because there’s little to no phone service in Utopia. And while the lack of access to email, Facebook and Instagram might make you anxious at first, after the initial withdrawal period (yes, withdrawal—this could be considered an addiction of sorts), it’s incredibly liberating to focus your attention on truly enjoying the festival rather than documenting it.

Trust us: You won’t believe how much better a concert is when you’re not experiencing it through a screen.



While the festival is technically centered around music, the beautiful setting is perfect for soaking up some serious nature. Not only does camping give you the uncommon opportunity to sleep under a star-studded sky uncorrupted by city lights, but there are daytime activities on tap as well. If you’re looking for a guided tour of sorts, REI will be leading hiking and biking excursions, and if you’re more of a free spirit, you’re welcome — and encouraged — to roam.

“Go adventuring!” urges Carrie Fussell of Calliope Musicals, another band on the lineup. “Go for a hike on one of the beautiful hills around the fest.”


While all the music and activities (and probably beer) you’re enjoying during the day are likely to tire you out, some of the most extraordinary and memorable aspects of the festival—from wild dance parties to intimate acoustic shows tucked away in the hillside—don’t get started until well into the night. It’s well worth it to take it slow and plan accordingly to ensure you’re up and around to enjoy them.

“Maintain a steady diet during the day,” Keturi advises. “You can’t be falling asleep before Silent Disco and Tank Good Times. This is where the magic happens.”

When in doubt, abide by Sutherland’s words of wisdom: “Pace your party. Rage responsibly, hydrate, sleep.”


One of the most unique aspects of UTOPiAfest is the size: They cap ticket sales at about 2,000. Not only does this cut down on crowds (and in many cases, allows you to saunter up to the front of the stage mid-set), but it also fosters a sense of community you simply won’t find at most festivals.

“You are surrounded by a ton of accepting and adventurous souls who are here to smile about live music and have the best weekend ever just like you!” Fussell says.

Festival attendees come in all shapes, sizes and ages and from all walks of life. You’re just as likely to find yourself dancing next to an old hippie as you are a face-painted five-year-old or an artist who was onstage just minutes before. You’re sharing an experience with people whom, in most cases, you might have never met otherwise. As touchy-feely as it sounds, UTOPiAfest presents an opportunity to truly connect with other humans—an opportunity that, these days, you simply don’t find very often. Take advantage.

Tickets are still available! Get yours and find more information and the complete lineup at utopiafest.com.


Photos courtesy of UTOPiAfest Facebook.

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