FORMAT Festival: The Perfect Dose

Leon Bridges by James Montero

For me and I assume many others, certain things are best taken in small doses. Large crowds and lack of sleep just might top that list. Coming from only having been to camping festivals with 40k+ in attendance, I have been quite eager for an experience that is not only more intimate but all-around less taxing. With the first year’s apparent success and Bentonville, AR only being a hop, skip, and jump away, I knew I had to make a point of checking out FORMAT Festival this year even if just for one day…

Upon arriving we were welcomed by the invigorating melody that is the Star Wars theme as the gates gave way to our entry. Talk about a feeling of empowerment to start your day. As I wandered to find the nearest source of grub to make up for my not-so-uncommonly missed breakfast, I was pleasantly surprised by the many art installations; some fulfilling their residency at The Momentary (where the festival took place this year) and others presumably just enjoying their time at the festival such as this guy I had the pleasure of meeting.

I eventually completed the short leisurely walk to the sustenance pavilion (a term retroactively coined by me and likely used by absolutely nobody else the whole weekend.) You would think my level of hunger would have made the food selection at least mildly manageable, but you would be wrong. With a plethora of local food trucks serving up anything from wood-fire pizzas to Alaskan dumplings, I was torn. I opted for a slightly lighter but certainly nonetheless impressive curried chicken sandwich from Sunny’s. After fueling up I was informed that there was a FORMAT-exclusive draft beer waiting for me a few feet away inside Bike Rack Brewing Co. Now, I am not usually one to back my lunch with a brew but I am indeed a sucker for an exclusive product. Let me just say… this may have been the best beer I have ever tried. Unfortunately, I have no way to obtain another sip until, hopefully, next year. 

Now let’s get back to the art! I decided to take some time before the music took flight for the day to visit the art museum conveniently situated within the Momentary which complimented this year’s festival grounds. Although sparsely populated the museum was a favorable addition to the festival landscape and each installation was nothing short of surreal. 

Yvette Mayorga’s What a Time to Be 

The installations carried over well beyond the museum itself. One that stuck out in an ironically elusive manner was that of Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, who outfitted an entire venue with masterful collage art and thought-provoking projections. Best of all- it was nestled within a porta-potty in trendy festival fashion. 

On the outskirts of the museum, I was pleasantly surprised to find a full-sized movie theater showcasing multiple films throughout the weekend. I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Jeremy Deller & Nick Abraham’s 2006 documentary ‘Our Hobby is Depeche Mode’. What a trip… 

Not only was the general atmosphere of the festival extremely welcoming and manageable, but the music, arguably the most important aspect, carried its weight beyond expectation. My socks got knocked off the moment King Cabbage Brass Band kicked off the day with a march to the main stage and there was no chance they were returning to my body until I left the festival grounds 8 hours later. The lineup is best described as diverse enough to keep you on your toes but honed enough to make you feel like you never missed a beat. The flawless transition from set to set was likely aided by the fact you are never more than a 2-minute walk from any of the 5 stages. Surprisingly enough, sound bleed was never a factor. Each stage carries a very unique presence; never failing to keep things fresh. My personal sonic highlights of the day were Tash Sultana, Modeling, Leon Bridges, and Digitalism. 

Tash Sultana by James Montero

When you enter FORMAT, you enter a not-so-distant reality, unlike many festivals. From porta-potties that make me question the cleanliness of my own bathroom at home to some of the most easily navigable crowds imaginable to the live music scene, the comforts of day-to-day life are easily retained. There was not a single show where I could not have gracefully grasped the rail with ease. It was made very evident that venue size/capacity, sanitation, promotion of the locale were top of mind when planning this year’s festival. Although I am sure Format will outgrow these new grounds sooner than later with continued success, rest assured, there is still plenty of room to spare for the growth that next year will bring. I think it’s safe to say- Format 2023 was the perfect dose for a fella like me.

– Party

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