French indie pop band Phoenix headline FORMAT Festival Day One

BENTONVILLE – You can hear the pulsating beats of music long before you get to Sugar Creek Airstrip, no matter how you get there – by shuttle, bike or on foot.

Last night saw the opening of the FORMAT Festival, the brand new three-day experience of music, art and technology which features around 80 musical acts and 20 art installations and people arrived from all over to see the performances of the Friday Night from Nile Rodgers & Chic, The War on Drugs, Phoenix, Fatboy Slim and many more.

The inability to drive your car to the location automatically makes this a more common experience. Sitting next to others, you can easily meet people you don’t know on the 10-minute shuttle from the David Glass Technology Center, or have jovial conversations as you and a group of friends walk in.

Once inside you are struck by a zoo of light, sound and color. Festival-goers are dressed in all sorts of brightly colored and patterned things: shiny fabrics, fluorescent swimsuits, an illuminated rainbow cape, a taxi driver’s hat. Others have elaborately painted faces, arms wrapped in glow sticks or wagon sticks, rockets, and more kitsch paraphernalia.

When visitors enter the festival grounds, they are confronted with a riddle. What should they take and how will they transport it? Much like attending a Razorback game, there are restrictions for bags – only clear or very small bags with no pockets or fanny packs – and there are restrictions for the items they contain.

Artist Kat Wilson found the solution when she made wearable ‘Titty Bags’ in what she calls a ‘ridiculous, non-binary art project’ she did with a friend and local crochet artist Tina Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer, she noticed after a few instances, had a habit of leaving one breast exposed in key photographic moments and so they collaborated on the pattern and the creation of a pair of wearable breasts as a fun expression of Party Art, Wilson’s term for participatory art. .

“Everyone who wears them is part of the project,” Wilson said by phone Friday, likening it to an NFT, a unique token to withdraw from the event. The bags are also priced as art, priced at $125. The pair made around 50 and will sell them throughout the three-day festival. As an added benefit, Wilson says it makes pickpocketing more difficult.

Six stages are on the festival grounds. North of Oz and South of Oz are the biggest and most traditional of them all, where the biggest names play their sets. DJ sets, local musicians and others took to smaller stages and non-traditional spaces at Drag Me To the Disco, The Cube, Smokey’s – set further in the woods – and Next Door.

The options are many. If you stick around until the end of a set, you can see it two ways: either you’re late for something else you want to see, or you’re never without a performance to watch.

The War on Drugs performed on the South of Oz stage at FORMAT on Friday to a packed crowd that stretched far beyond the general public area. A large expanse of open ground sits in the center of the pitch, marked by a series of posts with illuminated signs reading “We rise lifting others” and “Dance first, think later”. Much like the old AMP location, spectators can bring their blankets onto the pitch and settle in to listen to music. You can hear it very well over there beyond the large crowd, although you can’t see as clearly. Large screens on either side of the main stages broadcast the bands live as they perform.

Standing in the middle of the field, you can see the edges of so many unique things that make up FORMAT – lights from the iconic reflective hot air balloon; huge rainbow columns covered in hair, part of Icelandic artist Shoplifter’s “Xanadu” installation; and the great fiber work of Pia Camil.

Dutch artist Boris Acket’s “Waaiweken” (translated as Windworks) which measures 164ft by 26ft – his largest Windworks to date – sits towards the far edge of the festival grounds, just before the hot air balloon.

French indie pop band Phoenix took to the North of Oz stage just after 9pm last night with an ASL performer and played many of their well-known hits – Girlfriend, Lisztomania, Armistice – as well as tracks from their forthcoming album Alpha Zulu .

“We’ve never been to Arkansas, not even close,” singer Thomas Pablo Croquet said between songs. Croquet expressed concern about Phoenix being asked to follow well-known artists he respects, such as Nile Rodgers and Chic, and thanked everyone for welcoming him here.

Visuals played a huge role in Phoenix’s set, with a series of screen-like frames/borders surrounding the band. From the central view of the audience, the jumpsuit was a virtual backdrop that went from a pastoral with columns to patterns like polka dots and stripes and finally to a video clip of burning a jersey garment with ” PHOENIX” on his back.

During an instrumental track by the band, a pack of drones took flight next to the North of Oz stage. The swarm of hundreds of autonomously flying drones, by pioneering drone artist Studio Drift, was based on a biological algorithm derived from more than 10 years of research into the flight behavior of starlings.


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