"I'm totally sober; I hope you've been drinking," said Tennis vocalist Alaina Moore Saturday afternoon. "This is a beer festival, after all."
That a musician, speaking from one of two stages at Saturday's Paste Untapped Festival near Panther Island Pavilion, felt secondary to the teeming tents filled with craft-brewed beer illustrates the event's bifurcated nature. (Not to mention the painfully slow-moving line to get in, which featured just one (!) person checking IDs. Really?)
Is it a beer tasting on steroids that just happens to feature a handful of bands performing? Or is it a concert with exceptionally well-chosen concessions?
After a postcard-perfect afternoon and evening on the banks of the Trinity River just outside downtown Fort Worth, it's tough to make that final call. The sold-out event, which drew a couple thousand thirsty souls to an expanse of asphalt tucked under an overpass, did seem tipped more towards a super-sized tasting than an out-and-out music festival.
Attendees could simply enjoy the music, or for a few dollars more, get a two-ounce shot glass that could be filled with a staggering variety of craft-brewed beers from local and national breweries. Wandering through the crowds lined up to get samples was a bit like getting lost in the world's largest outdoor bar. (A handful of food trucks, like Easy Slider and Geppetto's Pizza, were also on hand to help patrons soak up the suds with solid food.)
And so it was that the Paste Untapped Festival (Fort Worth's was the first of four planned for 2013; the next installment will take place in Dallas on Sept. 7) devoted more space to the refreshments than the ostensible main attraction: the live music. The line-up was almost evenly split between local acts (Skeleton Coast, Somebody's Darling, the Orbans, Sarah Jaffe) and national performers (Justin Townes Earle, Tennis and Deer Tick), but with the unifying thread being a more "indie" sensibility (however one chooses to interpret that vague adjective).
By far the day's best showing was from the troubadour Justin Townes Earle, whose hour-long set, which began as the sun started to set, perfectly matched the darkening of the day. He showcased material from an album in progress (tentatively titled Single Mothers) and joked he'd bet Jason Isbell as to which one of them would ever write a record free from "mommy and daddy issues" (Earle indicated that this was likely a losing proposition for both men). His songs were the ideal match for sipping samples of beer, and simply enjoying the fleeting Texas spring.
Music or beer? In the end, Paste Untapped Festival tried to have it both ways, but it seemed that whichever one you favored, it was hard to leave the grounds feeling unsatisfied.