Clearfork Fest [REVIEW]

Review + Photos by: Taylor Prater

The folks over at Keep Texas Live got to see their musical child come to life last Saturday night when Clearfork Music Festival gathered some of the best in all styles of Fort Worth music.

Since the festival’s announcement back in the beginning of August, it’s safe to say the city was in all kinds of excitement for a full day of jams.

And really, it couldn’t have come on a better day! I think we all have the musical gods to thank for the wonderful cool weather. It’s fall, y’all. Let’s fest.

The rain from the night before created some initial issues for those coming to the venue – the parking lot originally spaced off for general parking had become a huge, muddy mess, so guests were instead directed over to VIP parking, and then to the side of the road.

Or if you were one of the eco-friendly, super smart music fest-ers you could have biked in thanks to the newly installed Fort Worth Bike Sharing station The Trailhead at Clearfork!

Check out our exclusive interview with them during the Clearfork Fest here! >>> http://goo.gl/f26q10

Parking hiccups are no big deal, and nothing the loyal Fort Worthians won’t take in stride. A little bit of mud ain’t gonna ruin our day!

After a bit of a stage delay the music started streaming through the ranch. Hopefully you all got to check out the vendors in the mean time – I Love Fort Worth & Keep Fort Worth Funky were on hand to sell their mustachioed merch, and newcomers The Southside Pirate were educating everyone on their new, online, soon-to-be FCC-approved local music station.

But as soon as I stepped out of my car, the sound of a tenor saxophone immediately grabbed my attention…wait, is that…two tenor saxophones?

Oh, The Effinays. How you entice me so.

Honestly, I can’t think of a better first set at any music festival I’ve ever been to than that of The Effinays. You want George Clinton funk? You got it. You want Rastafarian? You got it. You want a little bit of conga? A little bit of silly sound effects? A band just as willing to be goofy as they are to belt out some slow jazz?

You got it.

What I loved most about them was their wonderful ability to interact with the crowd. Whether they’re jumping off stage and running excitedly around the park, or making individual shout outs, I don’t think I saw one face without an open-toothed grin.

Once I got back down to Earth, I noticed a stage encompassed inside the woods. Kinda creepy? 

Yes. Kinda freaking awesome? Definitely. Jamming in the woods. All right, Clearfork, I see you.

The change in schedule times made it a bit difficult to tell which set I was coming in to, but nothing music festivals haven’t had to deal with before. Besides y’all, have I mentioned this stage was in the middle of a circle of giant trees? That’s just rad, OK.

Un Chien seemed to have an ambient rock sound perfect for their environment. Can bands be destined for forest performances? If so, Un Chien was really in their element. Quite literally.

The best thing about that stage and that set was seeing the fans hanging out cross-legged on the ground. It was like I was at a local version of Bonnaroo, only much more intimate.

Oh and right behind this all? The biggest tree around with a woven tree sweater thing, made by kids and hippies alike. 

Not far away was a spray paint artist making a huge, original canvas piece. 

And to complete the trio of stages, a small, wooden platform greeted me in the distance, right in the middle of the sunlight. So you got your normal, color-lit, main stage, your hidden forest secret stage, and your bright as daylight, let the music speak for itself stage.

And Daniel of Katsuk fit right in with his earthy folk-punk-esque acoustic set, complete with barefoot drum pedals. I saw a man in tie-dye swaying peacefully with his wife, also barefoot, and that’s when I knew this festival was as genuine and good-hearted as it got.

And honestly, that’s really the best way to describe the music here in Fort Worth, is it not?

I couldn’t wait to see We’rewolves up next after enjoying some of the always fantastic local food trucks (Salsa Limon, guys, it’ll change your life).

There’s a reason We’rewolves were named the best new artists at the Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards. This was only my third time catching their set, and I found that they were just as lively as ever.

It’s hard to really find the words to capture their sound, but these guys have a Southern rock, bluesy, folk, punk, subtle in-your-face crazy contradictory yet it all really, really works kind of vibe.

All I can really say is go check them out, and if you are at their set, let yourself get just as excited as they get. And their fans. These guys have some of the most loyal ones around.

We’rewolves’ bassist stuck around for The Hanna Barbarians up next, who I believe is one of the best examples of the great scene we’ve got going on in Fort Worth. Ask anyone some of their favorite acts and tell me how many times these guys get mentioned.

All of the time? Cool.

The Hanna Barbarians are a great blend of psych rock and blues, and they really get the crowd in that crazy modern-70s vibe. They build up the crowd but they never stop building them up…it’s a constant rise to the top that seems to always surpass the peak with each track.

Foxtrot Uniform is a huge name in not only the Fort Worth environment, but the national one as well. 

Members have appeared on The Tonight Show, TV commercials and several indie films, as well as played sets with The Polyphonic Spree, Jimmie Vaughan, Cross Canadian Ragweed and tons more.

A couple of sound issues seemed to complicate the set, but the vibe was no different – we still got that raw, smoky throwback sound these guys are known for. These guys have been compared to both blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan and local loves The Toadies…an unexpected combo, but a 
great one at that.

The crowd really started to fill for He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister, and the excitement and anticipation built and lasted throughout the set. It was with these guys that the dance party really started.

The best way to describe this set is to think of endearing acts like She & Him, paired with Bright Eyes and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. For Pete’s sake, the drummer stood on top of another drum with tap shoes. Tap shoes! While she played! In a sparkly, rainbow dress! So mod.

Leopold and His Fiction followed soon after and kept the party moving, with a stranger twist. Singer Daniel James was all over the place, in the good way, covering all the surface of the stage while he jammed (even stepping off in the middle to chat with some buddies in the crowd while the band kept it going). He even ripped off his shirt at one point and started a side-to-side dance move with the 
most serious face you’ve ever seen.

But the fans were anything but straight-faced. I’m not sure if I can remember a more wild set or a crowd that moved more than this one. Easily one of the highlights of the night.

Local giants Whiskey Folk, who recently dropped the “Ramblers” from their moniker, was ready to close out the night. The announcer was right when he called them “one of the hardest working bands in Fort Worth.” These guys play sets so often I am beyond impressed with their stamina. It really shows how much they love what they do.

So needless to say I was disappointed to see how many people remained for the set. Whiskey Folk really deserves a crowd just as big as the two bands before them on the main stage. The time of day, or night, really shouldn’t matter when it comes to terms of talent as great as these guys.

Regardless, they kept on and delivered just as great of a set as can always be expected. It was nice to see the energy flowing through those who remained, because Whiskey Folk is one of the best ones out there to get the dancing right along.

With a few adjustments in schedule-planning and slight damage control, Clearfork Music Festival is sure to be an even larger success next year. But if you want a festival with a local lineup as well thought out as ever, Clearfork had it covered.

Thanks for a dancing good time, guys.

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