Sep 26, 2022 - Things to Do

First FORMAT Festival in the books

"The Cube" by curator Nicola Vassell served as a music venue. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

I hopped on a shuttle bus Friday and Saturday that plopped me into the inaugural FORMAT Festival, an ambitious three-day music, art and technology event in our backyard.

The scene: Eclectic and funky for sure.

  • Two main stages, "North of Oz" and "South of Oz," took turns with live acts and performance setups unfolding simultaneously, so festival-goers didn't miss a beat.
  • The event included 50 artists and several station-like venues such as the pop-up disco barn, Smokey's — an "adult playground" with playful pastels and a stage built to look like the opening of a cat's mouth — a large-scale video installation, a dome for intimate indoor concerts and a "Bizarre Bazaar" with familiar local vendors like Onyx Coffee.
I walked through faux portable potties into the "Next Door" venue designed by Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe to see The Phlegms. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios
"Xanadu" by Icelandic artist Shoplifter. These were fun to touch and looked especially cool lit up at night. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

What they're saying: "Our hope is that every single individual can kind of curate their own experience. On one given night or one given day, 100 people can have 100 different experiences because there are little things going on and little secrets and surprises and moments," co-curator Roya Sachs said Friday afternoon during a guided tour of the art installations.

A lap around the festival at 9pm Saturday demonstrated the vast collection of activities, sights and sounds. While some flocked to see the band, The Flaming Lips, others were at one of several smaller concerts and dance parties.

  • I didn't camp out overnight, have my photo taken at NWA artist Kat Wilson's selfie throne, pay a visit to the sex therapist or get an appraisal of my appearance at the Bizarre Bazaar, but those activities will be part of some attendees' memory of FORMAT.
  • Most of all, I'll remember seeing Elle King in concert.

Background: C3 Presents, the event company behind Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits, and arts-focused organization Triadic hosted NWA's new event.

  • Some of the Walton family helped launch FORMAT, first announced in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, The Momentary and Steuart and Tom Walton's Oz Brands are all official festival partners. The event took place at the 250-acre Sugar Creek Airstrip property in Bentonville, used by Fly Oz for training with a lounge for Oz Flying Club members.
"New Horizon" by Doug Aitken. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios
"Smokey's" by assume vivid astro focus. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios
Pop-up dance party. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios
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