North Texas Daily

Oaktopia firmly rooted, continually branching out

Oaktopia firmly rooted, continually branching out

Edward Sharpe

Oaktopia firmly rooted, continually branching out
August 05
15:39 2016

Kyle Martin | Staff Writer

@Kyle_Martin35

In November 2013, Oaktopia made its freshman appearance in Denton, one of North Texas’s liveliest hubs for locally bred music. The set-list was modest in comparison to the big names on the 2015 ticket, but Denton was ready.

Matt Battaglia, as cofounder of the festival, said he did some minor bookings before, but never put on an event as large as Oaktopia.

“We wanted to try to represent as many different scenes of Denton as possible,” Battaglia said. “And not just music – local entrepreneurs, artisans, artists, street performers. Pretty much anybody creating in Denton, we wanted to bring together. And I love big concerts, so I’ve always wanted to bring big artists to our town.”

The festival, named Oaktopia after Denton’s Oak Street, was completely fundraised and sponsored. Preparation for the fest took place in August, a short three months before. In those three months, Battaglia and crew managed to string together musical acts, venues, sponsors, fences, gas generators, a main stage provided by Bud Light – nearly everything needed for a music festival, and more.

“That’s pretty much it,” Battaglia said, smiling at a stool in Denton’s homely Jupiter House coffee shop. “It was kind of a spur of the moment thing.”

Bands on the stages included headliners Del the Funky Homosapien and Astronautalis, as well as other local acts, such as The Boombachs. Local business owners and artists were in attendance to display products, art pieces, prints and more. Downtown Denton was alive with music and people were electrified.

A flagship festival

Fast-forward to 2015, and one can notice how the festival grew. The event turned into a spectacle that involved 18 live music spots spread around Denton, roughly 60 to 80 musical acts and a bustling hive of local vendors and artists.

Battaglia is currently living in Denton, and always has been. He spent a short time at UNT, but now works full-time to build the festival into everything it can be, in the city he was born and raised in. The 26-year-old entrepreneur now exhausts himself organizing the festival, meeting once a week with Oaktopia’s executive board to make sure plans are in order and progress is being made.

“I went for a semester [at UNT], but then we started Oaktopia and I was like, ‘Man, I’m gonna see how this goes,’” Battaglia said. “Here we are, four years later.”

Funding for the show is tricky, but Battaglia and the Oaktopia crew find ways to get things taken care of. Oaktopia may offer things like free tickets for helping to set up, or for media coverage.

“We just basically barter for services,” Narciso Tovar, public relations spokesperson for Battaglia and Oaktopia, said.   

Apart from bartering, the festival is effectively run by a militia of volunteers. 

“We’re definitely upping the game on experience, but we’re also really trying to bring in different facets that we just haven’t brought forward,” Tovar said. “The other thing that we’re really striving toward is a video game night.”

Though not yet confirmed, Tovar said the Oaktopia team is planning to get the project on its feet. They are hoping to bring a video game tournament to the festival for one of the nights that would be raging from early in the morning into the late hours of night. 

“We definitely want to keep improving the overall experience for the actual festival-goer,” Tovar said. “And because of that, we want to make every year be like, ‘Holy crap, that was just awesome.’”

Eric Pulido is new to the festival, and boarded as someone who looked to help the festival develop.

“I got involved last year as an advisor and national booking agent after the guys expressed a desire to become more eclectic and grow,” Pulido said. “I thought they had a real drive and passion for Denton and the arts, and I enjoyed the opportunity of adding to the team.”

As a booking agent, he, along with the dedicated Oaktopia staff, deal with other agents and artists to book the acts that people will want to come out to see. And oftentimes, a certain measure of luck is involved.

“We hope, pray, then ask if they will play the fest,” Pulido said. “And like most things, it always costs more than you think.”

Always growing

Oaktopia, a privately funded endeavor, seeks to maintain the large-scale appeal by continuing to bring big-name acts to the festival. 

“It’s very expensive to throw something like this,” Battaglia said. “People don’t quite realize some of the extra costs, such as fencing, generators, Port-A-Potties, stages, marketing, hospitality – it’s a lot.”

Battaglia said he and Oaktopia are more organized and confident now than they were since the festival’s birth. Oaktopia now has strong structure that is backed by a board of directors, a financial team, a legal team and a public relations team, as well as a solid fan base of devout Denton dwellers.

Oaktopia had its humble beginnings, but Battaglia said he wants it to become even more.

“Every year we take steps up to try to reach our goal of being a destination festival that people travel to,” Battaglia said.

This year, Battaglia said the festival will have expansions, more local engagement and what he calls “alternative programming.” Things like a fashion show and a video-game tournament along with a barbeque cook off are in the plans. 

“This year you’ll be shocked at how much better and bigger it is,” Battaglia said. “And then we’re hoping that someday it’s a festival that all of D-FW is proud to have. To create those memories for people every year and they’ll just want to come back over and over.”

Featured Image: Edward Sharpe performs at Oaktopia 2015. Ranjani Groth | Contributing Photographer

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