Expectations were running high for the second day of FORMAT Festival in Bentonville, Arkansas. The first day had gone so well that it seemed like the bar for Saturday was almost set too high. I arrived at the festival grounds a little later than I had on Friday; the weather was cloudy and a bit cooler than the heat of yesterday — basically perfect festival weather.
I got there in time to catch Palace performing a very chill set at the North of Oz Stage that was almost too psychedelic for how early in the day it was. Nonetheless, they started the day off very pleasantly and eased everybody into the many hours of music they had ahead.
For the rest of the morning, it was back and forth between the North and South of Oz Stages.
The Comet is Coming regaled the crowd with some beautiful, yet angry saxophone solos at South of Oz. Then, it was back to the North of Oz to see Christone “Kingfish” Ingram shred the guitar harder than anyone in the crowd had ever seen.
Finally, I was able to take a break and step away from the spectacle taking place on the main stages. As I was walking, I noticed quite a few people slipping into the port-a-pottie disguised doors to the intimate and trippy Next Door Stage. After passing through the doors and around a hallway of provocative art, I was met with a large domed area in the center, packed full of people. Everyone was staring straight up at the dome above them, mesmerized by the images that were being projected onto it. One person stood out in the crowded room — a cowboy by the name of Alan Power. Right when I walked in, Power was apologizing for the crowd for “going Kanye on them” and proceeding to engage in an auto-tuned ballad, while the projections above him twisted and transformed.
After that bizarre, yet magical experience, it was back to the South of Oz to catch Seun Ku (the youngest son of legendary Afrobeat godfather Fela Kuti) and his band (previously his father’s), Egypt 80. The only thing that matched Seun’s energy onstage was the the gusto of the band and the smiles on the faces of his backup dancers.
Next, I walked across the entire festival grounds to Smokey’s, the stage in the woods where I had ended Night One. The vibe of Smokey’s was completely different during the day. The haze that hung around in the woods seemed much less mysterious in the sun’s light. On the stage, Chali 2na and Cut Chemist were tag-teaming a daylight banger, engaging the crowd. Looking around the forest venue, you could not see a single person who didn’t have a smile on their face.
After wandering back to the main stages to catch the end of Moses Sumney (what a difference between that extravagant “big stage” set and his small one in The Cube the day before!!), I got to see Elle King belt her unique blend of country, soul, rock and blues.
Finally, it was time for the most epic late night stretch of all time.
The Flaming Lips into Beach House into Rüfüs Du Sol. The Flaming Lips started things off with a literal bang. They played a set that was chock-full of theatrical moments, including (but, not limited to) massive confetti canons showering the crowd with paper, two-story-tall inflatable rainbows and robots and Wayne Coyne’s classic performance from within a giant bubble. I think the best part of the show was the very end though: as the band concluded their set, The Flaming Lips were joined by Nick Cave and his dancers, clad in the fabled “Sound Suits”, which was a spectacle that we only caught a glimpse of the day before. As Coyne spun a large light around on a rope, the dancers moved and swayed with the music, their costumes highlighting every move they made. It was truly an awesome end to legendary set.
After the mayhem of The Flaming Lips, the crowd all shifted over to the South of Oz Stage for my personal favorite band of the weekend, Beach House. The band wowed the crowd in typical fashion, dragging everyone into a dreamlike state with their lofty and relaxing power jams. They also had an amazing light show, which was almost like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel… for 50 minutes straight.
As Beach House ended and the crowd snapped out of their collective trance, they once again shifted to the North of Oz Stage for the final main stage performance of the night, Rüfüs Du Sol. In stark contrast to Beach House, Rüfüs’ set was an all-out audio and visual assault of the audience’s frontal lobes. Blinding lights accompanied Rüfüs Du Sol’s trademark jungle beats, as the crowd lost themselves in the pounding. In between flashes of the strobes, you could see the crowd moving like a sea of human bodies, surging up and down in time with the music.
What an epic way to end Day Two!
Many of the festival attendees called it quits after Rüfüs, including myself. However, it should be noted that the smaller stages (Drag Me to the Disco, The Cube and Smokey’s) all catered to the hardcore party animals by playing music that continued until 3am. The inaugural year of FORMAT Festival was now two-for-two on days without a hitch, with only one remaining to make it a perfect record. Day Three coverage coming soon!
Photography and review by Sean Rider